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.
- All members shall uphold the Constitution and comply with the policies, By-Laws, Code of Ethics, and Operating Standards of the SKGABC.
- All members agree to abide by all pertinent local, provincial and federal laws and regulations, including Transport Canada Vessel Regulations for Guided Excursions.
- All members who are employers 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 members who are employers must 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, including Low Impact best practices, 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.
SKGABC 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 Operating Standards) and may require alternate guide to client ratios or maximum group sizes.
Set by the most difficult part of the trip. See Classification Maps for details.
- Class 1: 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.
- Level 1 Guide: Certified to lead day trips independently in Class 1 waters. Certified to lead day trips in Class 2 waters when in direct communication to on-site/base manager*. Must log 10 days of experience with a more experienced guide before leading day trips independently.
- 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 as per a Level 3 guide plus may deliver any course, and examine Level 1 and Assistant Overnight guides.
- Examiner: Certified as per a Level 3 Guide and Guide Trainer plus may examine any level 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.
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.
- Emergency shelter for the group (e.g. a tarp)
- Three flares per guide, readily accessible with access to at least two types, (parachute, multi-star, hand-held, 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.
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).
SKGABC Complaint Process
If a member is alleged to have displayed unethical, illegal, unprofessional, unsafe, or unfair practice, in violation of the SKGABC Operating Standards, By-Laws, or Code of Ethics, a written complaint may be made to the SKGABC. Complaints may be authored by SKGABC members, employers, or members of the public.
Complaints 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 receiving the complaint must present their case in written form to a jury of appeal consisting of three experienced SKGABC members in good standing, as appointed by the SKGABC Board of Directors.
a. If the member does not respond, the SKGABC Board of Directors may discipline, suspend, or expel the member, by Board resolution, based on their judgement.
The member’s response will be considered by the jury of appeal.
The jury of appeal will make a recommendation to the Board of Directors regarding the discipline, suspension, or expulsion of the member; or the dismissal of the complaint.
a. The Board of Directors has authority to discipline, suspend, or expel the member from the SKGABC, based on the alleged offence and on the recommendation of the jury of appeal. In cases where the jury recommends suspension or expulsion, this may be enacted immediately by the Board of Directors.
b. In cases where the jury recommends disciplinary methods or suspension, the member may be required to complete an educational, re-training, reflective, or restorative justice process as a condition of their continued SKGABC membership.
i. If the member’s response is acceptable, the complaint may be withdrawn, and/or a note may be stored with the Member’s SKGABC file.
ii. If the response is not acceptable, a Letter of Warning will be sent including conduct expectations, with a copy sent to the aggrieved party.
- A repeat offence may result in a second Letter of Warning following a repeat of the disciplinary process.
- A third offence following the disciplinary process may result in the expulsion of the member from the SKGABC.
COVID-19 policy for SKGABC Guiding and Events
The SKGABC has adopted the following two documents to guide members in guiding and training during the COVID-19 pandemic:
1. COVID-19 policies & procedures for SKGABC Events (for Exchanges & Exams)
2. The Sea Kayaking COVID-19 Best Practices Manual (for all professional sea kayaking)