Advice needed on Certification.

OK. I searched the archives and found nothing to appease my pondering mind.

I am considering becoming a guide for flat water canoe and kayaking as a partime business to supplement my income. Technically, what is required of me to become certified in order appease liability issues and insurance companies. I tried looking this up at the various associations but nothing really answered my questions. Any guides or biz owners out there to offer advice? Anyone?

Most of the guides I know…
…are certainly certifiable.

In my opinion use ACA link is

– Last Updated: Feb-14-07 12:09 PM EST –

Click on the Instruction tab you can look at the various certifications that are offered. You can then go to the Calendar tab and see if and when any of the courses are being offered.

Where are you located?
Many states require you to become a licensed guide if you do this for hire (e.g. Maine, New York).

A lot of places will take a Certified Maine Guide designation over a lot of other certs — supposedly it’s one of the toughest ones to get.

ACA is the standard in the US if you’re paddling.

I’ve found the ACA insurance plan great for instruction as long as you’re teaching one of their classes. If you’re just going to guide people and not teach a course, then, as far as I know and someone correct me if I’m wrong, the ACA insurance won’t cut it.

If you have insurance, then an ACA certification in the area you’ll be guide should work fine. Although, I know at least one guide who has no certification and she’s been guiding a couple of year for someone else. I’m sure his insurance covers her.

If you need insurance, you might want to check out the Worldwide Outfitter & Guides Association.

the registered maine guide…
certification…i have such mixed feelings on this.

the RMG class i took was presented by that big, big retailer in southern maine and taught to the stadards of the test. which is to say, not much.

there were lots of folks in that class who had NEVER used a chart and compass and who had NO practical experience in a kayak. the instructors were pretty good but in a few cases wrong.

there were 2 in pool sessions…many of the participants had NEVER performed a rescue, self or otherwise and were all in all rather a mess in a boat. the instructors had never seen a few different rescue techniques for re-entering the boat.

there was 1 day on-water…again, not an impressive group of paddlers.

most were there to get the cert so that they could work for that big outfitter and almost half of them passed.

if you read and test well you have a very good chance. the hardest part of the exam was the missing paddler scenario the 3 reviewing senior guides give you and if you have a brain in your head and any on water experience you will explain to them whey the scenario is as unlikely as it is and then proceed to do your best to now find the lost paddler. you don’t always and that isn’t necessarilly a fail…sometimes you might not. just be prepared to defend your decisions.

so…if you’re looking to guide in maine, you HAVE TO BE A REGISTERED MAINE GUIDE in order to legally guide.

in all, the reg. maine guide thing is good, it’s still one of the only states that has even a minimal requirement; the problem is that the state hasn’t got the $, time or bodies to make the test ideal. it certainly isn’t all i would look for if i were sending my niece, nephew or wife out with someone.

as for additional cert’s - the bcu level 4 is changing to encompass leadership / guidey type skills and then the 5 star is essentially cert to lead a group of qualified paddlers in full british conditions…pretty much nothing you’d ever do with a paying group on purpose. serously, that’s just ugly and not much fun unless you like that sort of thing.

the aca has open water and advanced open water qualifications, i think? i’m not too familiar with them.

both the bcu and aca have pretty good web-sites.

as to what cert’s to get…the aca offers insurance in the US. it’s a benefit the bcu does not offer.

make sure you are satisfying the requirements (weather, location, # in group, etc.) under that policy.

additionally i would consider a very large umbrella policy and have your policies, waivers, disclaimers and everything else reviewed by an atty familiar in outdoor sport liability. hell, i’d recommend a discussion with one before you did a thing.

the level of care expected jumps right up through the roof when you are taking peoples money in exhange for the experience…make as sure as you can that there are as few misconceptions and be as clear as you possibly can with clientele.

…from the sounds of things you are hanging your own shingle and not working for an extant business.

hope that helps and good luck.

Reason I brought up the guide thingy.
I agree with your post about BCU and/or ACA (and the rest). The reson I brought up the guide thing is because it is legally required in New York. Granted, the test may not be too challenging - many pass with a little work. Also, there is a significant fee, $100 minimum (NY) for five years, but if you guide without a license and get caught the fines can be pretty hefty.


Rick do they still offer that course?
If so who would I contact. That might be something I would like to have just to have it.



yes they do…

– Last Updated: Feb-14-07 11:13 PM EST –

you can call ODS via the bean site.

i would more highly recommend Pete Casson out of RI though. Pete is the paddling director (or some such title) for EMS and i think that he is offering a similar prep course for the test through EMS - he was talking about it awhile back certainly. i believe the scuttle was that it would be offered via the portland location.

in addition to being a registered maine guide pete holds lofty coaching certs in both the bcu and the aca. he is a very solid paddler.

Pete can most likely be reached by contacting EMS and asking about their paddling program and courses.

short of that, i would call bob myron. bob WAS involved with the bean program and has branched out to his own thing....from the looks of the site, he has a far more comprehensive training than was perhaps allowed him under the bean

hey john -

i think it was $80/3 years for maine? i don’t remember…as long as you renew prior to expiration you don’t have to re-test.

hope things haven’t started collapsing where you are under the snow loads in NY! we had a bit today in MA but parts of NY have been HAMMERED!

Contact for Peter Casson via
the NSPN Commerical Forum

I will second Rick’s recommendation of Peter. I found him to be an excellent coach/instructor.

Safe paddling,


ACA Programs
Based on the description you gave (i.e., flatwater canoeing and kayaking), I’d recommend you look into an ACA certification course.

For flatwater, the ACA offers Intro to Canoe/Kayak courses in which training and certification can be completed in a weekend. This is their lowest level of certification, aimed at programs which provide basic instruction, such as camps.

If you are looking for moving water or coastal kayaking, the requirements increase in proportion…e.g., Open Water Sea Kayaking requires a 3-day training followed by a 3-day assessment.

The ACA also has a new Day Trip Leader Assessment. This is an award for those leading coastal day trips.

I’m an ACA IT (instructor trainer) and run a kayak school on the Great Lakes. You can search the ACA’s website for the location of certification workshops near you.

I think about 24" …
so can’t complain too much. Some areas got 40" - yikes! Of course the snowblower acted up - wouldn’t throw the snow far enough - so it took me 5 hours to clear the driveway. My fingers are all very sore because of the 5 hour death grip on the deadman control, I’m not packed, my utility trailer is full of snow and I need to get three boats loaded on it by Friday night and all our gear loaded in the trailer so we can head out to Sweetwater early Saturday - that’s why I can’t complain too much! Looks like it hit 70 degrees there today. I may be able to get my hatch covers on!

Great question…
This is a subject I have always wondered about and could be a subject for leading club paddling trips without compensation.

Club leaders will ask you to lead a trip in your area and not much is asked or refered to when a person plans even a day paddle. When it comes to open water it becomes even riskier. If you sign on, how do you know the person leading the group is qualified? What are the competencies of the members of the group? How are strengths measured and what questions should be asked up front before anyone sets a paddle in the water?

I attended the sea kayak symposium at Grand Marais a couple of years ago and went out with a group of advanced paddlers for a paddle up the Pictured Rocks. Everyone paddled well, but none of these questions in my mind were asked or answered before we departed. The next day in classes some of the same people met for rescues and we spent the day playing in the water and learning as well as having fun. By the end of the day I had a much greater confidence in these people as well as myself.

See you in Florida for skills week. This is the second step for me in this process.

while there…
ask about a “common adventure” model as regards to limiting risk/liability within a club setting.

it specifically does not pertain to the professionals you’re with but there will probably be folks that have experience with it as it pertains to club paddles.

sure there are others but would recommend preston cline as a individual with considerable experience/knowledge in the field…google away.

Thanks for the info, guys

Same here, Thanks for the info!!!