By doing the requirements for the Kayaking merit badge, Scouts learn to safely glide across the water. They familiarize themselves with kayaking equipment and techniques. Then they put their paddling knowledge to use by demonstrating their skills on the water.
Note that this is different than the Kayaking BSA award, but there is some overlap between the two.
Kayaking merit badge is an elective merit badge.
Kayaking Merit Badge Resources
See the current requirements from the Kayaking merit badge pamphlet below.
Help with Answers for the Kayaking Merit Badge Requirements
Find specific helps for some of the Kayaking merit badge requirements listed below. Some of these resources will just give the answers. Others will provide engaging ways for older Scouts to introduce these concepts to new Scouts.
Kayaking Merit Badge Requirement 1: Safety
- Explain to your counselor the hazards you are most likely to encounter while participating in kayaking activities, including weather and water-related hazards, and what you should do to anticipate, help prevent, mitigate, and respond to these hazards.
- Review prevention, symptoms, and first-aid treatment for the following injuries or illnesses that can occur while kayaking: blisters, cold-water shock and hypothermia, heat-related illnesses, dehydration, sunburn, sprains, and strains.
- Review the BSA Safety Afloat policy. Explain to your counselor how this applies to kayaking.
Requirement 1 Helps and Answers
- Bad weather
- Heavy waves or fast currents
- Cold water shock
- Heat exhaustion or heat stroke
- Sprains and strains
The Weather Hazards online course from BSA will help you be prepared for all types of weather. This is especially important if you will be fishing from a boat.
See how to treat those blisters.
Cold Water Shock
Cold water shock happens when a paddler falls into very cold water. This makes it difficult to breathe. If this happens, concentrate on breathing regularly and try not to panic. The only treatment is to get the paddler out of the water as quickly as possible. To prevent it, dress appropriately for the weather and try to stay dry.
Learn how to avoid and treat hypothermia.
You can prevent heat problems, using these tips:
- Avoid hard exercise during the hottest part of the day.
- If you’re not in shape, slow down and let your body adjust.
- Make sure you acclimate to the environment and get in shape before the event.
- Dress in layers and wear clothing that breathes and wicks moisture away from you.
- Eat snacks that contain a little salt.
- Drink water and keep drinking it.
If you or someone else has heat exhaustion, treat symptoms in the following ways.
- Get out of the heat quickly and into a cool place, or at least shade.
- Lie down and elevate your legs to get blood flowing to your heart.
- Take off any tight or extra clothing.
- Apply cool towels to your skin or take a cool bath. This will help regulate and lower your internal body temperature.
- Drink fluids, such as water or a sports drink. Do not guzzle them, but take sips. Do not drink fluids with caffeine or alcohol.
- Avoid being in the sun between 10am and 4pm
- Wear a broad-brimmed hat, a long sleeved shirt, long pants, and UV blocking sunglasses
- Use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30
- Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours or if you are sweating or swimming
Sprains and Strains
Remember R.I.C.E. therapy
- Rest – Avoid movements which cause pain.
- Immobilize – Stabilize the injured area with a splint, sling, or bandage.
- Cold – Apply ice packs to reduce pain and swelling. Wrap crushed ice or a cold pack in a thin towel and apply for no more than 20 minutes at a time. Wait at least 40 minutes before reapplying.
- Elevate – If practical, raise the injured area above the level of the heart to reduce swelling.
Seek medical attention if the pain persists.
Before embarking on a boating activity with your scouts, make sure everyone is aware of the Safety Afloat guidelines.
Kayaking Merit Badge Requirement 2: Swim Test
Before doing requirements 3 through 8, successfully complete the BSA swimmer test: Jump feetfirst into water over the head in depth. Level off and swim 75 yards in a strong manner using one or more of the following strokes: sidestroke, breaststroke, trudgen, or crawl; then swim 25 yards using an easy, resting backstroke. The 100 yards must be completed in one swim without stops and must include at least one sharp turn. After completing the swim, rest by floating.
The BSA swim test is used to determine ability level so that participants can swim in an area which is appropriate for them.
Safe Swim Defense provides the steps which a BSA unit must take to safely participate in an activity which involves swimming.
Kayaking Merit Badge Requirement 3: Safety Equipment
- Review the characteristics of life jackets most appropriate for kayaking and understand why one must always be worn while paddling. Then demonstrate how to select and fit a life jacket for kayaking.
- Review the importance of safety equipment such as a signal device, extra paddle, sponge, bilge pump, flotation bags, and throw bag.
The most popular style used for paddling is a Type III PFD. This is a vest style PFD.
When wearing a life jacket, zippers should be zipped, buckles should be buckled, and it should be fitted correctly so that when you lift it by the shoulder straps, the straps do not go above the ears and the front does not reach the chin.
Other Safety Equipment
- Whistle for emergency signaling
- Spare paddle in case your original paddle is lost or damaged
- First aid kit in case of injury
- Sponge to keep the inside of the kayak (and therefore yourself) dry
- Bilge pump to quickly remove a lot of water from a kayak
- Waterproof bag to keep your things dry
- Throw bag for rescue situations
- Map and compass for navigation
- Water and food to stay hydrated and keep your energy level up
Kayaking Merit Badge Requirement 4: Kayaks
- Name and point out the major parts of a kayak.
- Review the differences in the design between recreational, whitewater, and sea or touring kayaks. Include how length, width, stability, and rocker are involved in the design of each type.
- Explain the care, maintenance, and storage of a kayak.
Requirement 4 Helps and Answers
Start with the basics here. Learn about the parts of kayak and how they impact stability.
Length, Width, and Volume
- Length – Longer boats are faster and will go straight (track) easier. Longer kayaks will also accommodate larger paddlers and more gear.
- Width – Narrow boats also track better, but they tend to feel more tippy.
- Volume – This is the amount of space in a kayak. Capacity, which is related to volume, is a measure of how much weight a kayak can carry without getting swamped.
A kayak rocker is one of the design elements that affect the dynamics of the kayak in the water. The rocker is simply the curved part in the bottom of the kayak hull that connects the bow with the stern.
Learn about kayak stability and how the hull design impacts primary stability and secondary stability.
The choices available to potential kayakers and canoers can be a little bewildering. Learn some of the more common types of paddle boats and their advantages and disadvantages.
This article includes information for how to store, clean, wax, inspect, and maintain a kayak.
Kayaking Merit Badge Requirement 5: Kayak Paddles
Discuss the following:
- How to use a kayak paddle.
- Parts of a paddle.
- The care and maintenance of a paddle.
Requirement 5 Helps and Answers
- materials and price
- blade and shaft
- The blade is the wide flat part
- The power face is the smooth side of the blade which presses against the water
- The back face is the side of the blade opposite the power face
- The tip is the far end of the blade
- The shaft is the long section of the paddle between the blades
- The throat is where the blade meets the shaft
- The grip is where you place your hands
After each use:
- Separate your paddle halves.
- Rinse each half with clean, fresh water; be sure to rinse the ferrule as well.
- Examine the internal parts of the shaft frequently to make sure they are clear of water and debris.
- When not in use, store your kayak paddle halves apart in a clean, dry, indoor place whenever possible.
This article also includes information on cleaning your kayak paddles. Read more.
Kayaking Merit Badge Requirement 6: Safety Skills
Using a properly equipped kayak with an open cockpit, a sit-on-top, or an inflatable kayak, do the following:
- Safely capsize and perform a wet exit.
- Reenter the kayak with assistance from a buddy boat.
- Demonstrate a kayak-over-kayak rescue.
- Demonstrate the HELP position.
- Capsize the kayak, swim it and the paddle to shore, and empty water from the kayak with assistance, if needed.
Requirement 6 Helps and Answers
When your kayak flips and you have no choice but to take a swim, there are a few steps to make sure you get out of your boat safely. This video shows how to remove your spray skirt and push yourself out of your kayak.
Bringing a friend on your paddle trip isn’t just more fun, it also makes getting back in your kayak a heck of a lot easier. This video covers how to work with your partner to drain and right your kayak and keep it stable so you can climb back in.
Kayaking Merit Badge Requirement 7: Strokes
As a solo paddler, use a properly equipped kayak to demonstrate the following:
- Forward stroke
- Reverse stroke
- Forward sweep
- Reverse sweep
- Draw stroke
- Stern draw
Requirement 7 Helps and Answers
See the technique for an efficient, comfortable and powerful forward stroke.
See the proper technique for the reverse stroke.
The forward sweep allows you to make a big forward circle or to correct your forward motion.
Learn how to turn your kayak in a circle in reverse.
See how to do a draw stroke, which is the best way to move your kayak laterally through the water.
The stern draw can be used to turn your kayak.
Kayaking Merit Badge Requirement 8: Skills Demonstration
As a solo paddler, use a properly equipped kayak to demonstrate the following:
- Paddle a straight line for 15 to 20 boat lengths using appropriate strokes while maintaining trim and balance of the kayak.
- Spin or pivot from a stationary position 180 degrees (half circle) to the right and left within two boat lengths.
- Move abeam to the right 10 feet and to the left 10 feet.
- Stop the boat in one boat length.
- While maintaining forward motion, turn the kayak 90 degrees to the right and left.
- Move the kayak backward three to four boat lengths using appropriate and effective reverse strokes.
- Paddle the kayak in a buoyed figure 8 course around markers three to four boat lengths apart.
Requirement 8 Helps and Answers
- Use the power torso rotation
- Choose an appropriate location for your skill level
- Have a plan in case you capsize
The Paddle Sports program feature helps Scouts learn how to safely enjoy non-motorized trips on the water. Scouts learn about canoeing, kayaking, or stand up paddleboarding.