ACA Level 1, 2 Kayak Instructor Certification Workshop

posted Jun 2, 2012, 9:50 AM by Richard Sevenich   [ updated Jun 2, 2012, 8:55 PM ]
I recently completed an ACA (American Canoe Association) Level 1, 2 Kayak Instructor Certification Workshop offered in North Idaho. The on-water portions were conducted at Sandpoint's City Beach on Lake Pend Oreille (Days 1 and 2) and on the Pend Oreille River (Day 3) at Dover Bay just west of Sandpoint. The workshop was sponsored by Breakwater Expeditions. One of that company's founders, John Winton, is ACA certified and assisted the ACA Instructor, who was Chris Mitchell from Bellingham. The ACA provides sound, comprehensive curricula for a broad spectrum of courses. Nevertheless, the lead instructor makes or breaks a course. Chris Mitchell, fortunately for us students, was superb.




Day 1:

The Level 1 material covered safety and logistical concerns and then focused on strokes and maneuvers appropriate for us to (eventually) teach to beginning kayakers. Because the goal was to prepare competent instructors, we not only learned the strokes and maneuvers, but also how to teach/critique them. This was by far the best exposure to this material I had ever received. Level 1 material would not include more advanced techniques such as high braces, cross bow draws, rolling, etc. Once we were on the water we demonstrated our 'mastery' of the various strokes and maneuvers for the video camera. The day ended with a debriefing where we all critiqued the video performances. We were also assigned topics for which we were to prepare a 10 minute presentation for the next day.

Day 2:

The aforementioned presentations were sprinkled throughout the day. I went first and talked about 'nautical charts'. I am quite enthusiastic about navigation and trip planning. Of course, charts are quite central to these. Learning how to use charts would be of too broad a scope for a short presentation - there are whole books on this. So my presentation goals were to indicate
  • what a chart was and the sorts of information it conveys
  • what sorts of tasks a chart facilitates
  • that a chart can turn a sight seeing trip into an adventure
and do this within the alloted 10 minutes. I believe I succeeded in getting the audience somewhat enthusiastic about charts, but my time management utterly failed in keeping the material within 10 minutes (19 minutes, in fact). I also learned a great deal about various non-lecture approaches to teaching from the others' presentations.

The day wasn't just spent on presentations. On the water, we practiced our basic strokes while also covering the Level 2 material. In particular, we focused on assisted rescues (e.g. the T-rescue) and self rescues (e.g. the paddlefloat rescue). My T-rescue went smoothly, whereas my paddlefloat rescue did not. For the latter I was using an unfamiliar and very broad-bladed paddle which didn't work well for the style of paddlefloat rescue I prefer. Ultimately, I successfully self-rescued and vowed not to bring that paddle the next day. But I also decided to work out some alternate techniques so that paddle design differences would not be an issue.

Day 3:

On this final day we were directed to perform a variety of teaching demonstrations, mostly on the water. I demonstrated teaching several topics including
  • warmup exercises
  • forward stroke
  • T-rescue
  • paddlefloat rescue
These went reasonably well, e.g. no problem with the paddlefloat rescue. Other students performed their selection of teaching demonstrations, not all identical. As we did this the ACA instructor and his assistant took notes for evaluation. At the end of the day, they debriefed us individually.

My debriefing went more or less as expected. I was aware of my shortcomings and what I needed to work on because the instructor had communicated this along the way. I passed for teaching both levels 1 and 2, but will not be officially certified until I obtain current CPR and First Aid certifications. Finding a First Aid course may be problematic, but CPR certification is not hard to obtain. I heard how some of the other students did and most (but not all) had a similar outcome.

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