Data from the Outdoor Foundation1 shows that each year roughly 20 million Americans participate in canoeing and kayaking activities. And in 2013, nearly 70,000 Scouts earned the Canoeing or Kayaking merit badges, placing these among the most popular badges not on the required list for Eagle Scout.2 Many more Scouts are being exposed to canoeing and kayaking as part of summer camp, troop activities, or high adventure programs.
Both the Canoeing and Kayaking merit badges are conducted on calm, protected waters where winds, waves, and currents are seldom an issue. Some Scouts are happy to stay on those waters, but others are looking for more challenging conditions. The Whitewater merit badge is designed for them.
Scouts pursuing the Whitewater badge move out of calm waters into an environment where currents and waves are major factors. Here, Scouts learn and apply paddling skills in rapids rated up to Class II, which require maneuvering in waves of up to one or two feet.
In 2014, members of the BSA Aquatics Task Force worked with a wide range of highly experienced paddling instructors from the American Canoe Association to update requirements for the Whitewater merit badge. The work group included several professional paddling instructors who also had strong ties to Scouting as Scoutmasters, Eagle Scouts, or BSA summer camp staff members.
The task force and work group recommended several procedural changes. For example, the Scout Gate test was replaced by demonstrating the skills previously learned to earn the prerequisite Canoeing or Kayaking merit badge. Similarly, the required first aid skills were revised to bring the Whitewater merit badge in line with other outdoor skill badges.
Other changes include the addition of new strokes commonly used in whitewater paddling, and additional focus on individual rescue skills, both as a rescuer and a victim. The updated requirements also include changes in terminology to that currently used by the American Canoe Association (ACA) and in the American Whitewater Safety Code.3 The result is a merit badge that more closely matches programs taught by top-rated whitewater instructors from the ACA and leading whitewater schools.
Note 2: Scouting Magazine
Note 3. American Whitewater
Author: Boy Scouts of America | Advancement News January/February 2015