It Is Encouraging:
I am aware of more than a few students in our area who seek out a certified instructor to take them out to work on strokes and/or rough conditions. These are folks who have good basic skills and who, in many instances, have taken formal basic sea kayak instruction. Seems they want to get better at it. I take heart from knowing that amongst the oft publicized stories of "kayakers" needing to be rescued and found to be lacking in skills and equipment that there are those who want to get it right.
In my personal experience with some of these folks (there are 3 active level 4 instructors here in our area,,,one an IT) I have found them to be serious about their sport and most open to suggestions. Not surprisingly, they pick up things quickly and want to immediately get out to try them. Instructing such folks, especially those wanting to go out on to "big" water, raises my concern about the safety of the instructor.
Personally, I like to see their hanging draw stroke as I feel it can be a life saver when going after the bow of an over turned boat. I like to see it near shore and then in progressively rougher conditions. I watch to see if a picture-perfect hanging draw with good edging becomes a so-so dip of the paddle when waves exceed 3 feet. If it does, we have something to work on before going on the other side of the wall. And, while all this is going on, I assess how relaxed (or not) they remain and whether or not they start having a death grip on the paddle. It doesn't take too long to get a feel for how safe I am going to be out there with them.
I then introduce them to the gap where some of the bad stuff rolls into our anchorage area. I sit and watch as they cross this area parallel to the waves and then re enter it and turn 360 degrees. Doesn't sound like much on paper but, in a 25 knot wind with big stuff rolling in, this exercise can take 30 minutes or more. Depending on how it goes, we may spend the entire lesson in these conditions or, if skills warrant, we head out into it. This is where my concern over my safety comes in.
These lessons can involve an instructor ending up needing a rescue from someone unable to get to their bow in what are new and more challenging conditions. Therefor, before heading out with someone unaccustomed to the big waves, I assess their rescue skills and get a feel for how calm (or not) they are likely to behave when things get hairy out there.
The payoff is that by time we get off the water I have the joy of seeing their improvement and knowing there is another paddler with whom I can count on out there when the going gets rough. Is this not a great sport?