ACA Instructor Certification

I live in Western WI and am getting quite heavily involved in kayaking. I would like to share this interest and growing expertise with people in my area. Is it worthwhile to pursue certification through this organization? Or is it just a meaningless but expensive plaque to put on the wall? I really don’t know much about this, and would appreciate insight.



Do it.
But do it in the context of a group of paddlers already doing instruction. Seeing other people teaching skills is invaluable, both + and -. That group can also give you a perspective on your ability to model basic skills. I find teaching and helping others a very rewarding activity and a great way to continue to learn myself.

Don’t Get Me Started…
…my last ACA cert course was the worse three days of my entire paddling career!

I’ve had dental visits that were more fun and rewarding.

I just couldn’t get over how they managed to suck all of the joy out of an activity I adore.

In spite of my 15 years experience as a guide/instructor I was deamed a mediocre paddler, with poor posture, a dirty mouth,and a lack of “Style”…of all of the things I’ve ever been acused of lacking “STYLE” has never been one of them. When questioned further I did get them to admit that what they meant was that I lacked “Their Style”. They leave little room for experiential learning or developing individual techniques.

Many of the best guides I know have no certifications. Some outfitters make a big deal out of it while others judge you on your customer raport and on water skills.

My recomendation is get a part time job with an outfitter and get paid to get some “real world” experience.

I did’nt get a plaque. .

My nickle is that it’s worth it. Every reason I give for doing it could be debated so I won’t go into it, but I found it to be good for me personally.

Best of luck in whatever you choose.

Certification thread pt IXV

– Last Updated: Jul-13-05 7:28 AM EST –

I think you have to decide for yourself what your reasons are to do certification.

Aside from that, my personal experience is that the ACA is more expensive than the BCU. The instructors are more available for the ACA, but also a little more zealous in spreading the "gospel" as it were.

I would find an ACA instructor who is going to do the assessment, ICW IDW what have you, talk to them about the syllabus and also about where you are at with your skills. And then decide if you really want to spend the dough.

The other posters comments about having a hard time with an ACA assessment may not be your experience if you find someone good to work with.

I did BCU assessments, so I can't comment overall on the ACA. My experience was completely the polar opposite of the above post. I had fun, and was more a victim of my own nerves than the tyrannical rantings of some paddling Nero or fuhrer.

My personal experience…

– Last Updated: Jul-13-05 10:23 AM EST –

Instructor certifications were a necessity for my job; ACA training/recertification was the most readily available, so that's the organization we used.

For many years I was an Instructor in Water Safety, Lifeguarding, Canoeing, and Advanced Swiftwater Rescue. Without any doubt, I became more knowledgeable/safety concious because of participation in those classes. Without any doubt, the skill level/motivation/technique of my Instructor Trainers varied. I never regretted taking any ACA course.
Most of the complaints I have "personally" heard regarding problems with ACA courses came from individuals who could not demonstrate the skills necessary to become certified as an instructor, had been forced to attend the classes by their employer, or went into the course with a know it all attitude.
I think the benefits gained from enrolling in an ACA course typically outweighs the minimal cost. If you take a course, and find out you are dissatisfied, don't take another.


P.S. ACA never gave me a plaque! If someone enrolls in any class for a plaque, I'd consider that the wrong reason to get involved.

Wisconsin IT
Chances are in Wisconsin your IT would be Sam C. at If you had questions you could always flip out an email

Training is good. How much depends
on what you want to do with it. A number of folks in our club are certified for canoeing. We have a few basic level kayak certs. I take the club lessons and it’s a great help and tune up. A lot of reasons for certification are related to insurance and liability for group activity and instruction. There is an ongoing debate about whether certification adds a liability burden to a person who ‘gives instruction’ as a volunteer. Some say the ACA cert gives you some protection, some say it doesn’t matter if someone wants to sue. As a certified horsemanship instructor for many years, I think it’s basically “open mouth, insert lawyer”. Basically, if you give direction and a person wants to sue, the court will hear it. Certification doesn’t seem to be a deterrent to suits, but if the organization will stand behind you and vouch for your ability and record it can be helpful.

So, is it worth it? Training is good. ACA tries to turn out instructors with uniform standards so that there is consistency no matter where you get your ACA instruction. I appreciate that. Most of our instructors go beyond the ACA skills and can show us other techniques, but they make sure the basic skills are the primary focus. If this sounds like something you want to invest time and money in, then go for the cert.

The hubby and I have introduced people to paddling and are not certified. We have basic skills (canoe)and try to hook people up with our club and ACA lessons. Sierra Club also has a lesson program. We can be helpful to our beginner friends, but mostly we act as ambassadors and let other folks do the formal instruction.

Wanna Teach?

– Last Updated: Jul-13-05 4:02 PM EST –

get certified, ACA or BCU. If for nothing else, the certificate states that a body has granted you recognition for some standard of knowledge. An experienced paddler may be able to discern you skill level from paddling with you. But skilled paddlers may not necessarily comprise the majority of folks taking a class from you. The majority will be newbies and novices. That certificate will give them some assurances you know the subject matter, even if they don't know your teaching ability.


ACA Instruction
Well said Sing.


Thanks for the help
I think I’m going to proceed. Sounds like the positive elements prevail from these posts. We have both ACA and BCU schools in the Apostle Islands region. I will probably select the one which fits my schedule the best. I don’t think either one actually presents a plaque; just a metaphor.