By Amber Marra
Our kayak instructors are some pretty talented people. From teaching the basics to a brand new aspiring boater who’s getting out on the water for the first time to someone who is keen on honing their skills and wants to take it to the next level – these guys and gals are pros who love what they do.
But where do the pros get some of that awesomeness from? It’s not like the boof fairy shows up overnight, casts a “kayak teacher of the year” spell and flies back to the magical land of river professionals. These folks work hard for the pleasure of teaching people to kayak. They consider it a calling and approach it as a professional job.
That’s where our ACA Kayak Instructor Course comes in. Wet Planet is proud to announce hosting its first ACA Kayak Instructor Course, and additionally, that the Wet Planet Kayak School is now recognized as an ACA Pro Kayak School.
Starting on May 27, this five-day course is where kayak instructors earn their spurs, and when it comes to safety and instruction in paddle sports, an ACA-or American Canoe Association-certification is what pros strive for.
This year for the first time, Wet Planet is excited to welcome J.R. Weir as our instructor trainer. Weir is the lead instructor and guide at Sundance Kayak School on the Rogue River in Oregon. He’s also super pumped to lead an instructor course alongside assistant Wet Planet instructor Heather Herbeck. Sundance Kayak School and Wet Planet go way back, and help each other out each summer. Wet Planet kayak instructors have been helping Sundance out with its Kayak program on the Rogue River for the last 5 years.
Not just anyone can walk into an ACA Instructor Course. Participants must be at least 18, maintain first aid and CPR certifications, plan on finishing the entire five-day course and intend on becoming a member of the ACA and Safety, Education and Instruction Committee.
Aside from being the “gold standard” for instruction in paddle sports, Weir says being ACA certified is great for kayakers who want to impress potential employers, or even just work for themselves. There are also a lot of awesome perks.
“It basically gives clients and employers an idea of the level of quality that an instructor maintains,” Weir said. “The other thing is, you get to use ACA liability insurance for classes that you teach and you can teach classes basically on your own.”
Obviously, the ACA certification does not include other required certifications or permits which are different from state to state, such as First Aid certifications, Forest Service Permits or Bureau of Land Management Permits depending on the bodies of water used for the ACA class.
The course is broken up into two portions, the first being the Instructor Development Workshop where potential instructors not only learn how to properly break down basic kayaking skills on and off the water, but also how to present to a group and progress through an affective lesson while keeping things fun and comfortable for students.
The second part of the course consists of the Instructor Certification Exam, in which potential instructors have to demonstrate the ability to teach a beginner kayak class to Weir.
The key, according to Weir, is developing a solid beginner’s progression, having good time management skills and, above all, staying positive and having a great time with the class.
“You have to start really simple and keep people in their comfort zone and having fun. Giving good experiences, productive learning sessions and just maintaining the fun factor are all important because those are the key to success,” Weir said. “You really have to kind of inspire them and gem them hooked.”
Note: The ACA Kayaking Course on May 27th is almost fully booked. Please check with us for future courses. We will be hosting these each spring!
Amber Marra is a reservation specialist living the dream at Wet Planet.
Washington Whitewater Kayaking, ACA, American Canoe Association