University Kayak Club
@ the University of Washington

Trip Rating Scale

The following is a trip rating scale used by the Washington Kayak Club's sea kayaking section to communicate the anticipated demands of a trip.

Most club trips will not exceed the SK-IV classification on this scale. It is certain that there will be no club trips that would rate SK-VI. Ratings may be adjusted up or down by adding a + or - to the rating to indicate an intermediate difficulty level.

Please know your abilities if you sign up for a trip rated SK-III or higher. If you have any question about your capabilities, discuss them with an official UKC trip coordinator.

To determine how fast your comfortable pace is, you can time yourself over the measured nautical mile course on the Evergreen Point floating bridge. It is indicated by round red-and-white markers near the ends of the floating part of the bridge on the south side. A green-and-white marker in the middle marks the half-mile point; it is near the draw-span. On the north side are two rectangular green-and-white marks separated by 2000 meters, a distance about 8% longer than the 1852 meters of the nautical mile. Unless you are looking for rough conditions, you should pick whichever side of the bridge is most protected. The conditions on the exposed side of the bridge can be unexpectedly rough due to wave reflection from the bridge. Caution is advised when the wind is blowing.

Sea Kayaking Trip Rating Scale
(Fetch is the unobstructed distance over which wind can build waves.)
In areas protected from waves in case of wind. Fetch less than 10 nautical miles (nm). Crossings less than O.5 nm except in very protected areas. Crossings up to 2 nm; fetch longer than 10 nm. Crossings up to 5 nautical miles. Crossings more than 5 nm, but less than 3 hours at the speed listed for the trip. Trips combining long fetch with difficult or impossible landing for most of a day.
Hydraulics Insignificant currents. Maximum predicted current up to one knot (kt). Maximum predicted current upt to two kt. Currents may be greater than 2 kt, but less than the slowest paddler's top speed. Currents may be faster than the group can paddle against. Exposure to hazards at other levels taken to extremes.
Route Day trips near shore. Either the route is protected or has easy escape routes. May involve crossing eddy lines and tide rips. May cross strong eddy lines, tide rips, and upwellings. May include launching and landing in surf. Exposure to hazards at other levels taken to extremes.
Acceptable Conditions. Calm Generally try to avoid choppy water and wind above 10 knots. Generally will not go in whitecaps but be prepared for paddling in waves large enough to wash over the deck, and be comfortable in winds of at least 10 knots. May include steep waves and swells. Be comfortable paddling in 15 knot winds. For groups prepared to set out in rough weather, whitecaps and fast currents. May only be negotiable with favorable conditions. Kayak rescues may not be possible.
Required Skills and Experience.
(Note that the required skills are cumulative across this row).
Previous trip experience for trips longer than 5 nautical miles. Must have practiced assisted sea kayak rescue techniques. Conditions may require bracing skills. Previous assisted and self-rescue practice. Conditions may require anticipatory leaning, reflexive bracing, using the paddle to stern rudder, and the ability to read moving water. Familiarity with charts and navigation is required. Trip members must have tested their skill in rough conditions, know their limits, and be self-reliang in the even of separation from the group. Eskimo roll highly recommended or required. Extensive experience including kayak surfing and rolling are required.

Paddling speed: Trip announcements will include an estimate of the planned paddling speed for the trip. Slow = 1-2 knots; Medium = 2-3.5 knots; Fast = over 3.5 knots.

Paddling Distance: Trip announcements will include an estimate of the paddling distance, in nautical miles. Trips of over 5 nm in length require previous trip experience or permission of the trip coordinator. Participants are expected to be able to paddle the anticipated distance at the planned paddling speed.