ACA certification

who here in P-land has gotten their canoe instructor

certification? what are your thoughts on it?


Do you like to teach?
I do and have been at the FreeStyle level for 15 years.

Kind of depends on what you want to do with your paddling; I like to help others become better paddlers than I am.

In some ways the adage that those who can’t do, teach but you do have to be able to model, though ultimately hopefully the student becomes better than the teacher!

ACA instructor certification
has qualified me to instruct paddling classes (canoe, kayak and SUP) for Prince William County Parks in Virginia. There is a great motivation to learn in an instructor class, and it is the best way to refine skills and objectively measure your progress.

I like teaching
or mentoring may be a better description. I gave a synopsis of paddling to some YMCA staff today and realize that I need to improve my presentation. I found it impossible to teach/cover everything in the

2 hour time slot they gave me.

ACA instructor course

– Last Updated: Jun-06-13 9:57 PM EST –

is more about teaching methods than paddling technique. If you're thinking about it, buy the manual from them and peruse it.

I have found no opportuntities to use my certificate in the two years I've had it. That is mostly because it is narrow (solo canoe, flatwater/whitewater, level II). The opportunities probably increase as you add to your qualifications, but even then the field seems crowded. I think you'll find more work as a kayak instructor than canoe instructor.

Ya gotta love it, cause it won't make ya rich.


I learned a lot both in skills and
in presentation in my ACA Canoe I and II Instr classes a while back. Never quite finished the certs but use the learning continuously helping/“mentoring” new paddlers (yak, noe, and sup) through Scouts, and our Meetup and river advocacy groups.

I had to gain, and maintain (as part of my job), Instructor certification in Basic Water Safety, Canoeing, and Advanced Swiftwater Rescue. I always enjoyed attending the training, and later the updates.

BUT to be honest, I did not enjoy instructing very much. When I retired, I let all my certificatons expire.

The best instructors I ever had were Nantahala Outdoor Center staff.


What is your goal?
I originally took ACA certification because I wanted to improve my paddling skills. That was years ago. It did manage to do that. Because the certification stresses teaching methods as well as skill sets, I discovered from that experience I really love teaching.

In my situation for teaching and the involved travel expenses and maintenance requirements, I rarely break even financially. But I love it, and teach whenever the opportunity presents itself

My current ACA certs are in River Canoe & FreeStyle Canoe, and I actually attend IDW’s and ICE’s whenever I can, as I enjoy the atmosphere of the intense teaching environment.

If you are just looking to improve paddling skills, the ACA now offers skill set courses (less the teaching method aspect).

If you need it for work, it’s fine
I picked up a level 4 WW solo/tandem certification a couple of years ago because the program I help out with got a new director who saw value in everyone having credentials from the ACA. The class was well taught and challenging, but I if I ever stop teaching with the university, I will let my cert expire. It’s not worth the ongoing expense, IMO, if you’re just a private boater.

If your boating skills aren’t solid at the level ABOVE what you want the instructor certification in, you’ll be in for a very exhausting experience. The instructor certification workshops assume you already have the skills, and you’re expected to be able to demonstrate the various moves perfectly. The focus is on learning how to teach, not learning how to paddle. Any skill improvement you get will be a side effect, not a primary purpose.

Comparing it to certification, licensure
for professions like nursing, psychology, etc., there are certainly positives, but the process can induce a degree of homogenization.

I wouldn’t automatically trust ACA certified instruction, nor would I automatically reject private instruction by independents.

Caveat emptor.