ACA Instructor Training

Thinking about pursuing the ACA Instructor cert for whitewater kayaking. looking for feedback from those who have done it. pros/cons.

What do you want to get out of it?
What are you looking to get out of it? Do you need it to teach for a shop? You looking to make your own company?

I am an ACA level 3 sea kayaking instructor. I took the IDW (instructor development workshop) a long time ago as a learning experience. Figured it would help my paddling, but the majority of the focus is on teaching, so it had some benefits there, but not as much as I had hoped. At that time, I was not teaching nor had any plans to teach.

Since then, I had started teaching and guiding. Most of the kayak shops here look for having the IDW as a requirement for teaching, so I was set.

Last summer, I had the opportunity to take the Instructor Certification Exam, and passed level 3 (and have some deficiencies that when fulfilled, should allow me to do level 4 without having to redo the whole ICE). Mostly doing it for myself, as the shops I work for don’t require it or give me anything extra for having it. That is too bad, as ACA requires me to pay a bit extra to maintain certification.

There are one or two shops around here who pay certified instructors more than non-certified.

Its a great learning opportunity
Sign up and view it as a learning opportunity where you get a bunch of feedback during the process and at the end. It won’t hurt to do it, although it does cost money.

I have not
Although I considered doing so when I was more actively involved with instruction with spring paddling schools held by whitewater clubs, and would have done so if someone was picking up the fees.

I have quite a few friends who are still ACA certified whitewater kayak instructors, and a couple of whitewater canoe instructors, who continue to jump through the hoops to maintain their certifications. With one possible exception, I don’t think I know anyone who has made a profit becoming certified and I suspect most have paid at least a portion of the cost out of pocket.

Maintaining certification requires not only on-water recertification examinations but documentation sent to the ACA that the instructor has been involved in a certain number of hours teaching every few years. Given that recertification exams involve a fee and travel expenses, the cost can be significant.

From what I have gleaned from my friends, becoming an ACA instructor is certainly a worthwhile learning experience, especially if one is involved frequently in informal instruction. Sometimes extraordinarily skilled paddlers are not very good teachers. I would say that if you want to do it for the learning experience, because you have to in order to be employed by an instructional facility, for altruistic reasons so as to become a better teacher in informal settings, or even just to say that you did it, the trouble and expense is worth it. But unless you live in a very select area and are able to devote many hours to paddling, I would not count on making enough money as a result of certification to recoup your costs.

i should add that it isn’t to make money. it would be more to have the insurance, gain some skills in teaching progression, and have a bit more “clout” if i try to approach the powers that be to set up a youth paddling program through the community ed program of the school i teach at. i’ve taught kids how to roll and gotten them out on the local river in the past, and can’t think of a good reason why there isn’t a more formal program for kids in this area. we live next to an excellent class II-III river that runs all summer long. and very few locals use it.

good reasons
It sounds to me as if you have good reasons to pursue ACA instructor certification. The ACA is oft criticized for being too rigid in its curricula and too slow to adopt new methodology and drop out of date dogma, and I think some of this is justified. But overall I think the ACA does a reasonable job.

Although it is not a certification course, per se, I did take the ACA river trip leader instructional course a few years back. This was because I was volunteering as a trip leader, or assistant trip leader for a program that ran day trips on a local creek. Some of the participants had absolutely no boating experience so these trips often involved an element of quick instruction.

I thought the course did a pretty good job of covering all those aspects involved in being a competent trip leader including teaching method, communication skills, the “put-in talk”, safety issues, and rescue and emergency procedures. You probably already know a lot of this stuff, but a course like this does allow a person to organize their presentation to students or trip participants.

A nearby river with a long season is a great asset. Certified instructors are listed on the ACA website and you may find that you can make a few dollars offering private instruction. It would be worth checking into whether or not the river is managed by any agency that requires a permit for commercial instruction. This seems to have become an issue with agencies such as the National Forest Service which manages many rivers in the southeast. They are starting to require even canoe clubs that only have a spring paddling clinic to apply for a commercial permit to engage in any instruction where money changes hands.

The reasons you describe are exactly the reasons for training to get an ACA instructor certification. (Some folks take the IDW because they just want to improve their skills, or get a certification to access their progression of personal skills. But those folks would be better served by asking for a Personal Skills Assessment, or Trip Leader Assessment.)

If you want to get the most out of instructor training, I’d recommend taking the IDW separate from the ICE, and find a few volunteer students who want to learn from you for a month or two while you prepare for your ICE. I think you’ll learn a lot more from the whole process this way. Have fun!

Nate L4 Sea

Good for your purposes
I maintain Level 4 solo and tandem whitewater canoe certifications, but only because it’s necessary to teach the occasional class at the university where I work. I did a week long, combined development workshop/certification exam. It was physically and mentally exhausting, but pretty much the only option when you live 3+ hours from useful whitewater.

The particular course I took was very well done and focused, as it should, on how to teach paddling skills rather than on developing those skills.

For your purposes, as long as the trainer is a good one, probably the main ‘con’ is cost, since it looks like you’ll have to foot the bill yourself.

USCG On-Water Paddlesport Training
If anyone is looking into getting ACA certified you might want to visit the ACA webiste. The USCG (Coast Guard) has been given a grant to provide ACA certification training at a very discounted price. Normally the ACA Intro to Kayking class is about $250, plus you still have to pay the ACA instructor fees. Through the USCG grant you pay $25 and it cover the class and the ACA fees. They are having these classes all over the US so you might check and see if there are any classes being held in your local area.

I hope that this information helps you other paddlers out.

Sounds like me
I’m in a very similar position to you: a school teacher running a paddling program in an extracurricular outdoor club. I’m Canadian, so my certs are through Paddle Canada, but the reasoning is still exactly the same and everything you say above is completely valid and true (especially the insurance, which allays the fears of concerned administrators and board members). Plus, the ACA will give you a curriculum to run the kids through, which keeps your life structured and gives the kids incentive, as they see themselves moving up through various levels.

Could you provide the link?
I just went to the ACA web site and all I could find was mention of this program for 2013 in Florida, without solid supporting info as to how anyone would actually apply and get approved.

USCG Website

here is the website for the ACA instructor class

ACA/USCG grants
recently went through the USCG grant class in Florida, and it was for governmental agencies only. Not intended for private paddlers, or so we were led to believe. Maybe so in other states.