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Ocean Canoeing

Paddling the Shoreline DeCourcey Isl 
Canoeing on the ocean has a rich history in BC, starting with First Nations use of dugout canoes and the more recent use of modern tripping canoes. Both sheltered and open, exposed waters can be navigated by canoe if people have appropriate skills. Amazingly, people have circumnavigated Vancouver Island and even longer, more exposed journeys in canoes. Most people stick to the common trips such as the Broken Islands, Gulf Islands, Sechelt Inlet. With over 25,000 km of coastline, BC is the place to start exploring the ocean environment!

RCABC Ocean Canoeing courses are similar in structure and content to sea kayaking courses but are more specific to the needs of canoeists. See the Transport Canada Brochure "Sea Kayaking Safety Guide" for more information that applies directly to ocean canoeing.




The RCABC Ocean Canoeing course prepares canoeists for the demands of the ocean environment. It is taught on sheltered coastal waters and includes exposure to typical environmental conditions such as wind, rain, waves, tides, etc. Ocean canoeing courses are often taught to:

  • Canoeists wanting to do overnight wilderness trips in a coastal environment instead of an inland, freshwater experience
  • People who enjoy the versatility of the canoe over kayaks (tandem, solo, large carrying capacity, etc.)
  • Experienced canoeists that have a canoe, and don't want to buy or store sea kayaks to enjoy the ocean
  • People who find the variety of sitting stances in the canoe more comfortable
  • Camps, schools or other organizations near the coast with canoes
  • People that don't like the 'enclosed' feeling of a skirted kayak

Whatever the reason for your interest, ocean canoeing is a dynamic and rewarding endeavour with endless exploration potential.

PREREQUISITE – RCABC Lakewater Level 2 (basic solo) or equivalent

DURATION – 12 hours of theory, one full day on the water, preferably taught as an overnight trip.

Outline of RCABC Basic Ocean Canoeing - Level III

The Basic Ocean Canoeing course content reflects the challenges you will encounter in an ocean environment. The content can be divided into the following categories:

  • Weather, tides, waves and surf launching and landing
  • Navigation charts, course plotting and compass use
  • Loading and trimming a canoe to handle wind and waves
  • Safety gear and regulations
  • Environmental concerns and Leave No Trace ethics
  • Trip planning and leadership

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The RCABC Advanced Ocean Canoeing course is designed to introduce students to moving tidal waters and ocean canoeing conditions with more exposure. This course contains some of the information taught in RCABC moving water (river canoeing) courses because of the similarities between rivers and moving tidal waters. The course is intended for:

  • Canoeists wanting to do trips in tidal, moving waters
  • Canoe club trip leaders
  • Camps, schools or other organization leaders operating near moving waters
  • Canoeists interested in becoming RCABC Ocean Canoeing Instructors
  • Ocean canoeing guides


DURATION - 12 hours of theory, one overnight trip

Outline of RCABC Advanced Ocean Canoeing - Level IV

Advancing to canoeing in tidal waters requires new skills and an even greater respect for safety. The effects of tidal changes, currents, hydraulics and weather will impact your trip and learning to predict and prepare for these conditions is crucial. An overview of the content includes:

  • Review of Ocean Canoeing Level III topics such as navigation, regulations, safety, etc
  • Upgrading of Ocean Canoeing Level III skills such as surf launch and landing
  • Crossing eddy lines and current differentials
  • Rescue techniques
  • Advanced tidal predictions and course planning
  • Tidal hydraulics, wind and waves
  • Survival theory
  • Leadership and communication
  • Environmental Ethics

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The RCABC Ocean Canoeing Instructor course requires extensive experience and a commitment to canoeing in an ocean environment. It focuses on the ability to teach RCABC Level III and IV Ocean Canoeing courses, therefore a deep understanding of the material with solid ocean canoeing skills are required. This instructor certification could be for:

  • Individuals wanting to develop their ocean canoeing skills to a high level for personal interest
  • RCABC Big Canoe leaders or instructors paddling on the ocean
  • Leaders of school, outdoor program or community group trips
  • Ocean canoeing guides
  • RCABC instructors needing a 3rd instructor certificate to become master instructors


  • Lakewater Instructor for minimum of 1 year
  • Ocean Canoeing IV for minimum of 1 year
  • Moving Water Level 1 or 2
  • At least 21 days Ocean paddling experience including 5 consecutive days of ocean canoe camping and experience in at least 3 different channels during variable currents exceeding 5 knots

DURATION – As needed to complete the course

For a complete outline of the Ocean Canoeing Instructor course, become an RCABC member to gain access to the RCABC Instructor Manual, or contact the RCABC executive. Content includes evaluation of the candidate's ability to instruct all of the topics in Ocean Canoeing Levels III and IV.

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