Mission Statement

To establish, promote and maintain high standards of sea kayaking safety, conduct, and representation through an alliance of professionals.

Note on Operating Standards

The below minimum standards are based on best practices of experience professional sea kayak guides, a higher level of care may be required when conditions or clientele warrant. The SKGABC makes no guarantee that meeting these standards will ensure a safe trip. Companies and guides share the responsibility of operating their trips according to the statute laws and regulations of the land, and where required by the standards of professional associations of which they are members. Standards are not a substitution for federal and/or provincial laws, experience or due diligence. It is therefore imperative that guides have a clear understanding and agreement of responsibilities with the company they are guiding for.

Guide to Client Ratios and Group Size Limits

Trip Classification Doubles Only* Singles Only Singles & Doubles** Maximum Group Size
Class 1 and 2 1:6 or 2:7-12 1:4 or 2:5-8 1:5 or 2:6-10 14
Class 3 1:5 or 2:6-10 1:4 or 2:5-8 1:5 or 2:6-10 12
Class 4 1:4 or 2:8 1:2 or 2:4 1:3 or 2:6 10

All guides used for ratio purposes are required to be an appropriately certified SKGABC Guide or a guide with equivalent certification recognized by the SKGABC to lead or assist in the appropriate trip classifications.

*All guests must use double kayak at all times, guides may be in single kayaks. If a guest is ever in a single kayak then “Singles & Doubles” ratios and group size limits apply.

**A minimum of 1 double kayak for trips of 5 or less guests and a minimum of 2 double kayaks with 6 to 10. If fewer double kayaks are used then the “Singles Only” ratio and group size limits apply.

Note: Operators should be aware of other operating standards that are required by government agencies (i.e. Parks Canada) and may require alternate guide to client ratios or maximum group sizes.

Trip Classifications

Set by the most difficult part of the trip. See Classification Maps for details.

  • Class1: Gentle tours in non-challenging protected waters with limited wind effect, little or no current, easy landings, and ready access to land based assistance.
  • Class 2: Tours in lightly populated areas with short crossings, moderate potential wind effects, gentle to moderate non-turbulent currents, easy to moderate landings and light surf beaches.
  • Class 3: Exposed water, sparsely populated areas with more committing crossings, moderate to strong currents with turbulence, moderate to strong wind effects, ocean swells, difficult landings, surf-beaches.
  • Class 4: Long committing crossings, uninhabited, rugged and exposed coast, strong turbulent currents, strong wind effects, large swells, difficult landings, exposed surf beaches.

Guide Certification

  • Level 1 Guide: Certified to lead day trips in Class 1 waters. Certified to lead day trips in Class 2 waters when in direct communication to on-site/base manager.*
  • Assistant Overnight Guide: As per Level 1 guide plus assist a Level Two or Three guide on overnight trips in Class 1, 2, and 3 waters. An AOG in direct communication with a Mothership Vessel may independently lead day trips in Class 2 waters only after logging 30 days assisting with another guide.**
  • Level 2 Guide: Certified to lead in Class 1 and 2 waters and assist in Class 1, 2, and 3 waters. Assist any course.
  • Level 3 Guide: Certified to lead in Class 1,2,3 waters and assist any course.
  • Class 4 Waters Endorsement Certified to lead in Class 1,2,3 and 4 waters and assist any course. Guide Trainer: Certified to lead in Class 1,2,3 waters, deliver any course, examine Level 1 and Assistant Overnight guides.
  • Examiner: Certified to lead in Class 1, 2, and 3 waters, assist any course, and examine any guide.

*On-site/base refers to any staging area that has direct land based access to medical help.

**Mothership Vessels, by their very nature, have the ability to venture further from conventional assistance and therefore warrant a higher level of experience on the part of the guide.

Operating Procedures

  • All members agree to abide by all SKGABC standards, policies, by-laws and constitution.
  • All members agree to abide by all pertinent local, provincial and federal laws and regulations.
  • All member companies agree to employ guides who are certified to lead in waters appropriate to the trip classifications.
  • All trips must have a comprehensive emergency and evacuation plan.
  • All member companies need to ensure that each trip and/or trip area has a written contingency plan for the guide to refer to in the event of unforeseen circumstances other than an emergency.
  • All members agree to the responsible use of our wilderness resources, and will strive to leave areas visited in the same or better condition than when they arrived.
  • All members agree to ensure that clients travel together within easy vocal and visual communication range of the guides, and that clear communication protocols are established with all clients prior to travel.
  • No guide shall be penalized for adhering strictly to SKGABC standards.

Safety Equipment

It is the responsibility of companies to provide kayaks and equipment in good working order and appropriate fit that meet the requirements of intended use plus meet Canadian Coast Guard Small Vessel Regulations. Visit Transport Canada’s website for up to date regulations. In addition to any equipment required by law, the following are standard equipment for all trips:

  • Government approved PFD per person must be worn.
  • A minimum of one full spare kayak paddle per guide.
  • Each person to carry a sound signaling device (e.g. whistle).
  • Bailing device per cockpit (e.g. pump).
  • Spray skirt for each cockpit in a closed kayak.
  • Towline per guide (readily accessible).
  • A complete and appropriate first aid kit (consider emergency response time, first aid training, and anticipated conditions).
  • Emergency communication equipment (VHF, HF, cellular phone, satellite phone, waterproofed and easily accessible). It is the responsibility of the company and the trip guides to ensure that this equipment is appropriate and fully operational along the intended route. Spare battery pack(s) for communication equipment.
  • Capacity to receive marine weather info.
  • 3 flares per guide, readily accessible with access to at least two types, (parachute, smoke, multi-star, etc).
  • Sufficient buoyancy to allow boats to be re-entered and paddled when awash.
  • A comprehensive kayak and equipment repair kit.
  • Each guide to carry navigational equipment suitable for dealing with sudden loss of visibility.


Complaints regarding the failure of members to adhere to SKGABC standards will be addressed as follows:

  • Only written and signed complaints will be considered and recorded.
  • A copy of the complaint will be sent to the member involved for response.
  • The member’s response will be considered by a jury of appeal appointed by the Executive as per the By-laws of the SKGABC.
  • If the response is acceptable no further action will be taken and the complaint will be withdrawn. If the member is determined to be non-compliant, a Letter of Warning will be sent requesting change of practice, with a copy to the aggrieved party.
  • A repeat offense will result in a second Letter of Warning following a repeat of the first 4 steps.
  • A third offense will result in the expulsion of the member from the SKGABC.

Water Classification Maps

Note: On all water classification charts if a water classification boundary is crossed then the Classification is upgraded to the next level (i.e. if you paddle across the Strait of Georgia it would be considered Class III, not Class II).

Complete up to date water classification charts