How to become a Kayak Instructor

Not to sound like an old man, but back in my day…

Let me start over, I started whitewater kayaking when I was 13 and became an instructor when I was 17, it was 1985. The only pre-requisite was to be a good kayaker and be able to teach kayaking to older people without sounding like a cocky 17-year-old punk.

Well, that’s an oversimplification. First I had to AB, (assistant boatman) for a couple of summers with the old instructors and learn how to teach from their examples.

Through trial and error over many years these kayak instructors had come up with what is today the foundation of the American Canoe Association’s (ACA) method of kayak instruction.

Todays Kayak Instructors

These days, if you want to become a kayak instructor you have to go through a certification process. I never went through the certification, I was grandfathered into the process. However these days, if you want to be a whitewater kayak instructor you must go through an ACA program.

If you want to pass the certification you still  need to be an exceptional kayaker with solid skills. No amount of classes will help with that, you have to get out there and paddle, paddle, paddle.

I didn’t find The ACA website very helpful as far as finding ways to get certified. They don’t have a comprehensive list of options, particularly if you live in the pacific northwest.

The website is the place to sign up for the required ACA and SEIC (safety education and instruction council) memberships. You need to be a member of both these entities to receive your kayak instructor certification.

The membership to both will cost you 65 bucks, I think there’s a discount if you’re under 23. Again this registration is required no matter what entity you use for the actual instruction.

Where to Go

If you’re from the northwest it’s difficult to figure out where to take these courses through the ACA website. After an exhaustive search, there aren’t too many choices. It will behoove you to sign up early for these fast filling courses. Here’s the few I know of in the northwest.

Deriemer Adventure Kayaking is located in Coloma California on the south fork of the American river. Mary Deriemer is the ACA instructor and is excellent in every way. I can personally attest to her skill in both kayaking and teaching…she’s also a super fun and positive person.

Her certification course is 2 days and costs 175$ at this writing. This does not include the ACA and SEIC membership dues. There are only 2 courses offered in 2011 so sign up soon.

She also offers a development course which is 3 days and costs 335$. There is also an advanced course which is 2 days and costs 295$.

eNRG Kayaking is located in Portland Oregon. I have no first hand knowledge of this program, but I do know the owner, Sam Drevo has been a name in kayaking circles for many years.

His program is 40 hours of instruction (either five, eight-hour days, or four, ten-hour days) and costs 500 dollars. This is around 100$ a day for instruction which seems pretty standard. I asked him about his pricing and training course, this was his honest and forthcoming response:

“When deciding who to take this course from you ought to consider the IT’s (instructor’s) experience.  I can tell you that this is the most comprehensive kayak course I teach.  I was coached by the Olympic coaches, and on the US team for almost 10 years as a Junior, and a senior in the disciplines of slalom, wildwater, freestyle, extreme and ocean surfing competition.  I am a Rescue 3 instructor, a WFR, and I’ve been trained as a lifeguard instructor with Red Cross.  I have taught thousands of people to kayak, and certified hundreds of instructors.  I run a great course, and it is worth every penny.”

Osprey kayaking  is located in Shasta California, however the website hasn’t been updated since 2008, and the owner never returned any of my calls so I don’t know if this is a viable option or not. I’m giving you the link in case you want to give them another try.

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