This story was originally published in the May-June 2017 issue of Scouting magazine.
Summer is the perfect time for Scouts to earn the BSA’s special aquatics awards. Each of these awards, which focus on specific aquatic activities, is represented by a colorful patch worn on the swim trunks.
What aquatics awards are available?
Scouts can earn six awards: Boardsailing BSA, BSA Stand Up Paddleboarding Award, Kayaking BSA, Mile Swim BSA, Scuba BSA, Snorkeling BSA and the Whitewater Rafting Award.
What is the purpose of these awards?
Mile Swim BSA, as the name implies, challenges Scouts to accomplish a significant physical feat. The other six awards are designed to introduce Scouts to specific aquatic pursuits.
Who can earn these awards?
Boy Scouts, Varsity Scouts, Venturers, Sea Scouts, Explorers and adult leaders in those programs.
What are the requirements?
They vary, but generally include completing the BSA swimmer test, reviewing safety rules and precautions, learning skills specific to the sport and practicing. For Mile Swim BSA, Scouts must complete four hours of training over at least four days before swimming a mile.
Do the awards require a certain amount of practice time?
No, not aside from the Mile Swim BSA training. The goal is to introduce Scouts to specific activities, not to ensure mastery of skills.
Who can sign off?
Requirements vary and are described on the award applications. For example, Mile Swim BSA requires a currently qualified certified aquatics instructor or the equivalent, while Scuba BSA requires a counselor who holds an instructor rating with any current member of the World Recreational Scuba Training Council.
What other rules apply?
As with all BSA aquatics activities, you must follow the Safe Swim Defense guidelines (Mile Swim BSA, Snorkeling BSA and Scuba BSA) or the Safety Afloat guidelines (Boardsailing BSA, BSA Stand Up Paddleboarding Award, Kayaking BSA and Whitewater Rafting).
What’s the connection between Scuba BSA and the Scuba Diving merit badge?
Scuba BSA offers an introductory scuba experience, while the merit badge delves deeper and leads to scuba certification. There’s a similar relationship between Kayaking BSA and the Kayaking merit badge.
Are the activity awards prerequisites for the matching merit badges?
No. However, at the discretion of the merit badge counselor, certain portions of an activity award could be applied to the associated merit badge.
What recognition items do Scouts receive?
A colorful patch that’s worn on the left side of swim trunks represents each award. (The right side is reserved for the BSA Lifeguard patch.)