ACA - The ACA is membership-based and is the largest non-profit
paddling organization in the U.S., with some 45,000 members.
Among many services provided by the ACA, perhaps its most
important function is the operation and maintenance the largest
paddling instructor certification program in the United States.
The ACA certifies instructors in canoeing, river kayaking,
coastal kayaking, rafting and swift water rescue. More than
3,000 certified instructors teach 100,000+ students in ACA
approved programs each year. See www.acanet.org
for more information.
ACA Programs are organized by the craft being used as well
as the levels of difficulty in which the paddling occurs.
ACA offers programs in a wide array of disciplines:
Flat Water Canoeing - basic, freestyle, and canoe camping
River Canoeing - basic, whitewater, and advanced whitewater
River Kayaking - basic, whitewater, advanced whitewater
Coastal Kayaking - basic, open water, Eskimo rolling, tidal
currents, & expedition Trip Leader
River Rescue - basic river safety, advanced swift water rescue
Rafting (oar and paddle) - basic, whitewater
You can achieve the desired skill level by taking courses
appropriate to your skill level (easier for beginners, harder
for more skilled) and then practicing and training in your
own paddling circles before considering paddling more difficult
water. "Practicing difficult skills in easy conditions"
is a common motto of ACA instructors. This is a great way
to ratchet down the fear/intensity and dial up the fun and
still build confidence and skills that will work in harder
water. Oh yeah, and in case you were wondering, people having
fun learn better and retain more. All participants in ACA
approved programs can receive an event participation card,
showing that you attended the course.
Instructor Training. If you decide to become an ACA instructor,
you must take an Instructor Development Workshop (IDW) in
your discipline (open canoe river kayak, coastal kayak, etc.)
and pass the subsequent Instructor Certification Exam (ICE)
in that discipline. To be accepted to take an IDW, your skills
should be at the right level. This way, when you come to the
training course, you're ready to learn to teach, not learn
to paddle. You can learn to paddle at the right level by taking
ACA courses, developing good habits, and then paddling your
brains out after developing great techniques. Paddlers with
advanced skills are able to pursue training and certification
for teaching in advanced conditions. An instructor training
course is 2-4 days of leaning how to teach, model, analyze
performance, identify and cater to specific learning styles,
developing and testing lecture materials, fine tuning all
of the above, your personal paddling skills and much more
- almost all of it on the water. Great fun! The ACA instructor
training and examining for river paddling skills has a structure
loosely based on the International Scale of River Difficulty,
see acanet.org for ACA course information. The Coastal Kayaking
program's scale of instructor rating follows a parallel scale
of increasing risk and exposure. It would be safe to say that
you should be totally comfortable paddling in the conditions
in which you expect to teach.
Instructor Exam. If you've been working with other ACA certified
professionals (the best way to know what the standards are),
it can be a small-ish leap to the instructor certification
exam. It's safe to say that you'll always leave the instructor
training course with "homework" that will help you
identify weaknesses in your instructor tool box. Often there
is a minimum of 1 month between the training and the exam,
but sometimes this "development" period is longer.
On exam day(s) you get to practice and demonstrate all the
things an instructor does with your peers. Although the instructor
trainer and the rest of the wanna-be instructors witness and
evaluate your performance., the instructor-trainer makes the
final call. There tends to be an atmosphere of support, learning
and positive thinking in all the ACA programs I've been in,
ten or so since 1995. If you're not at the right level in
your skills or teaching, remedial work or critical feedback
can help you achieve success. It’s a huge commitment
and great fun.
Teaching, the best learning tool. In the learning theory
spectrum, almost all of what you teach, you learn. So, learning
how to teach paddling may be the most powerful way to learn
paddling. Check www.acanet.org
for ACA programs/instructors in your area.
ACA Certification Benefits. If you are an ACA instructor,
teach within your prescribed skill and instructor level, and
properly register your course with the ACA (it can be done
on-line) you can take advantage of the ACA's instructional
course insurance. This, my friends, is no small potatoes.
You also have access to all sorts of educational materials
on paddling and paddling instruction, and have a wise and
helpful national staff to help you to promote paddling in
Contact us for information re: ACA courses and Instructor