Category Archives: Kayaking

From hair boating to play boating

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.

Play Kayaking’s Lost Move: The Pirouette

Todays play boats are unrecognizable compared to the early days. There are so many different shapes and sizes now, you can literally choose your boats’ specifications based on which wave or hole your surfing that day.

When I started kayaking 30 years ago, I was 13 years old and there weren’t many choices. In fact, my first boat was a handmade fiberglass boat specifically designed for a child. In retrospect, this boat was way ahead of its time; it was short, stubby and had a decent amount of rocker…but I digress.

My first real boat was a black Perception Dancer. This boat was revolutionary in its time, it was considered short even though it was around 13 feet long!

Of course you couldn’t do most of the tricks you can do in todays play boats, but one of the tricks you could do with these long cylindrical boats was the pirouette.

The pirouette along with back-surfing and hole spinning was the pinnacle in play-boating prowess. It was also the most fun of any of the moves.

Since todays shorter boats aren’t conducive for performing a pirouette most kayakers have no idea what the hell I’m talking about, let me explain the technique:

The object was to find a decent pour-over that was strong enough to put these high volume boats into an ender. of course if you’re relatively new to kayaking you may not know what an ender is either, but I think you can figure it out.

Here’s some help, just in case: The nose of the boat is buried into the oncoming water, the nose knifes deep and the tail raises up putting you in a vertical position. If you do that in todays play boats you will immediately end-over and probably perform a loop.

However, the older boats were so long they wouldn’t end-over, they would shoot into the vertical position and basically bob downstream while the kayaker tried to maintain the upright position by leaning back or forward. This was the classic ender and the beginning of the pirouette move. Continue reading Play Kayaking’s Lost Move: The Pirouette

Gold Ray Dam Removal Affects Local Kayaking

The 104 year old Gold Ray dam was removed this summer. It was deemed a huge impediment to migrating Salmon and Steelhead on the Rogue River, and was considered a dilapidated and dangerous structure.

It was removed and now the river runs free. In my opinion this is all good, however there was one major downside to the dams destruction.

Kayaking Spot…Gone

The dam and concrete fish ladder created one of the best kayaking play wave/holes in the region. I would go so far as to say the wave was one of the best i’d ever surfed. Any whitewater kayaking trick you can think of could be done at this wave…blunts, ends, splits, loops, whatever your pleasure you could do it here.

Because it was formed by slabs of flat concrete it’s shape was very unique. It had a hole portion, you could throw multiple ends in, a super fast wave portion you could throw aerial blunts in and a nice big eddy beside it for easy access.

Surfing with the Salmon

Since the wave was directly below the fish ladder, surfing in the Spring always brought the unusual experience of surfing with the Salmon. Literally, surfing with the Salmon. Many times i’d be parked on the wave and have a Salmon come crashing over my shoulder in his struggle upstream. There were always dark backs and dorsals beside you as you chucked ends and hit blunts. Continue reading Gold Ray Dam Removal Affects Local Kayaking