The ACA is proud to partner with Kokatat for the ACA Instructor of the Month recognition program.
Submit a nomination here.
March 2014 - Raphael Kuner
Raphael is one of the ACA's most active Instructor Trainers and one of the most influential ACA representatives in Europe. Born in the middle of the Black Forest in Germany in the summer of '69, it took Raphael 20 years to find his passion in paddlesports. But once he started paddling, he never looked back. Raff (as his friends call him) began seeking ACA certification in 2002 when formalized paddling education was not widely available in Europe. He was determined to find the highest quality canoeing instruction available, and in his own words, "I found the ACA and the rest is history!" On his first trip to Canada almost 15 years ago, Raff had the opportunity to spend 10 days in Algonquin National Park. Imagine a clear September afternoon, not a cloud in the sky, new and exciting scenery, just you and your canoe--Raff was amazed. He said, "As an instructor, my life changed when I ventured outside of Europe to meet all the fantastic paddlers and instructors in North America. I remember my first trip to North Carolina for a canoeing certification course at the Tuckaseegee and French Broad Rivers. Two full weeks of paddling and fun. During the course we spent some time at the French Broad River Festival, seeing the strength of the local paddling community full of excitement, friendship, and incredible paddlers--it was great!" Raff's favorite event was attending his first ACA Paddlesports Conference in 2012 in Charleston, SC. "That was another step for me as an Instructor and Instructor Trainer. The ACA was no longer an organization without a face, it became an organization of friends and great paddlers. It motivated me to keep doing what I love--teaching paddlesports--no matter if I sit, kneel, or stand upright."
February 2014 - Don White
Don started paddling over 20 years ago but didn't get serious until his wife and partner, Fern, arrived on the scene. Together they began paddling the northeast rivers, lakes, and coast line from Connecticut to Maine. Don's first introduction to instruction was assisting Fern in teaching traditional style paddling and rolling to eager students all over the northeast. A move to the mountain biking hills of western North Carolina meant a dry spell from ocean kayaking, but the "kayak fever" never really left. Don and his wife began their periodic migrations from western North Carolina to Charleston where they were welcomed like family by Sea Kayak Carolina. With their help and guidance, Don and Fern updated their skills and, at the same time, learned to love the little slice of heaven known as Charleston. They now live permanently in the Charleston area and continue to share their passion for kayaking and for this kayaking paradise to any and all who visit. They are devoted to coaching and instructing, both as a team and as individuals with their own specific areas of interest and expertise. The most challenging and rewarding course that Don and Fern offer, as a team, is a 2 and a 1/2 day ACA instructor IDW/ICE preparation series. This program was developed to help potential instructor candidates prepare for the more formal development workshops and evaluation courses. They look forward to swelling the ranks of the ACA with skilled kayakers and top notch instructors as they continue to improve themselves in both skill and technique. Don has been very lucky to have learned from some of the best instructors the ACA has to offer, and this has helped shape his philosophy of kayak instruction. He believes the best teachers never stop learning, and every student can teach you something if you listen.
January 2014 - Hunter Yarborough
Hunter is an ACA certified whitewater canoe and whitewater kayaking instructor. He can be seen paddling and instructing all over Western North Carolina, his favorite place to paddle. Class I-V, natural or dam released, wide open rivers or narrow creeks, Hunter has thoroughly explored the variety that the southeast has to offer. His hometown run is the North Fork of the French Broad River, just outside Brevard, N.C. Hunter still aspires to travel to the pacific Northwest: "I want to see the classics out there, and there is no better way to see it than by kayak and canoe!" Hunter was recently involved in a community-wide project of rebuilding a popular local play spot known as Eternity Hole. He learned a lot about the construction of a quality play hole, but he was even more impressed by the way the community came together to attempt such a project. "New school and old school boaters joined in to rebuild something that is important to all the local paddlers in my community," he said. "That was a great experience." The ACA would like to say congratulations to Hunter!
December 2013 - Dan Cox
Dan has been paddling for the past 15 years, and began ‘messing about in canoes’ when he was young. After being inspired by video footage of rafts on the Zambezi River, and after watching whitewater paddling in the Olympics, Dan was hooked on kayaking. After high school, Dan was not satisfied with the ‘normal’ day jobs commonly available and decided the pursue becoming an ACA certified Kayak instructor so he could share his paddling passion with others.
Dan’s favorite place to paddle is the coast of Maine because it has endless spots to explore. In 2010, Dan completed one of his life-long dreams of paddling from Canada to Key West—the entire east coast! One other memorable moment for Dan was paddling in Cape Lookout, North Carolina with his then future wife, Bethany. It was the middle of the night, and the water was alight with bio luminescence . They took several hours to paddle across the sound to absorb the incredible beauty of the water. Dan is most proud of the individuals that he has had the opportunity to teach; he is always glad to see their excitement and skills develop, knowing that they will carry the sport with them forever. The ACA would like to say congratulations to Dan!
November 2013 - Ivan Bartha
Growing up in Michigan, Ivan
started on the water pretty early. Some of his first canoe trips were
with a summer camp he attended. Those formative years he spent at summer camp
still influence his current career. Today, Ivan enjoys being on the water
regardless of what or where he is paddling. He paddled a good portion
of his life without any formal instruction, but read every book & magazine
he could get his hands on. It was not until he went to school at Northern
Michigan University that Ivan took his first ACA course with Dr. Jean Kinnear
in 1993. While Ivan likes a good adventure as much as anyone, his favorite
paddling is in the Midwest because of the spectrum of paddling available.
Since becoming an ACA instructor, Ivan has taken advantage of many
opportunities to help new paddlers get a good start, promote paddlesports, and
help keep people safe out on the water. Ivan says, "In reality, I have
been lucky as a professional outdoor educator which is largely due to the
people who have taken the time to help me be a better paddler and instructor.
There is no way I can take any credit without thanking the IT's &
ITE's who have taken me on as a student, assistant or co-instructor.”
Most recently, being involved with Team River Runner Minneapolis has been
an opportunity for Ivan to continue to serve and work with the service members
who want to get back out on the water. "It has been a great ride and I am
eternally grateful for all the opportunities the ACA has provided me over the
October 2013 - Vernon Graham
The ACA is proud to announce the October
Kokatat Instructor of the Month, Vernon Graham from Boiling Springs, PA. Vernon began his
paddling journey with a canoe trip to the Boundary Waters in 1971, and
seriously began paddling whitewater canoes and kayaks in the early 1990s. A
self-described boat-aholic, he owns everything from sea kayaks and tripping
canoes, to whitewater kayaks and canoes. Vernon's favorite boat is the Ocoee,
as it has the best balance of turning, tracking, speed, stability, and ease of
rolling of any boat that he has owned. Alongside his work with the Canoe
Club of Greater Harrisburg (an ACA PAC), Vernon is an ACA certified instructor
in both whitewater canoeing and kayaking. He attributes much of his success to
his local friends and fellow paddlers who have provided him with the
environment, encouragement, and support to constantly improve his skills. Vernon’s
favorite trips have been canoeing the Grand Canyon (twice), two trips to Costa
Rica with Costa Rica Rios, and a 2013 summer trip down the Middle Fork of the
Salmon River. "I think my favorite moments are when I’ve managed to pull
off a canoe roll in the middle of places I really, really didn’t want to
swim--like the Upper Youghiogheny, and the Upper Pacuare," said Vernon. Vernon has had the opportunity to instruct for a local summer camp
program for visually impaired children and he recently began teaching a crash course in
whitewater kayaking to the Boiling Springs High School Outdoor Club.
September 2013 - Ty Atwater
The ACA is proud to announce the September Instructor of the Month—Ty Atwater from Corvalis, Oregon. Ty is an ACA Swiftwater Rescue and Whitewater Rafting Instructor— and was introduced to river rafting by his father, at the early age of 5. Ty loves rafting, especially pulling on oars. The last couple of years he has spent considerable time in canoes in the Boundary Waters of MN, and learning to kayak the local creeks of the Northwest. He has gained an appreciation of non inflatable craft, but rafting still is number one in his heart. One of Ty’s favorite runs in on the John Day in Oregon, the Clarno to Cottonwood section. It’s remote, the weather is usually warm and dry (a rarity for Oregon!) and the scenery is breath taking. A close second is the Breitenbush river in the Oregon cascades, equally awesome scenery with some great kayaking to boot. Ty is quoted as saying, "Once I started guiding for my college outdoor program I was hooked on teaching and sharing my love of water sports. After a short stint as a fisheries tech in Washington state I knew I had to get back to working with college students. I took and ACA swift water rescue and Raft guide instructor course and the rest is history.” We asked Ty about one of his favorite paddling memories, and he said, "I once bet a friend that he couldn’t body surf in a hole for ten seconds, of course he was successful and we had to pay up on the bet of a gallon of sherbet ice cream. We had no way to keep it frozen and ended up eating it all in the parking lot of the store split 6 ways. To this day I can’t eat Orange Sherbet.”
August 2013 -Heather Herbeck
The August Kokatat Instructor of the Month is Heather Herbeck, from White Salmon, Washington. Originally hailing from the Midwest, Heather credits this area with her early interest and development in whitewater paddling. Heather has been paddling for 12 years, and has been an ACA instructor for 8. According to Heather, "A lot of people don’t realize how much amazing class III-V whitewater exists along the North and South Shores of Lake Superior. I’ve always been drawn to waterfalls and slides, and this area offers a lot of this. But, one of the main reasons I choose the Midwest as one of my favorite destinations is the people. The Midwest brews some of the most humble, passionate and fun paddlers in their truest form. The people make my paddling experience just as much as the quality of whitewater I’m paddling.” Near and dear to her heart is the organization ‘First Descents,’ which provides outdoor experiences to cancer survivors; Heather has been a part of First Descents for over five years. She also proud to be a part of the group ’Flux;’ Flux is a group of women who participate in various extreme sports, with the goal in mind to empower and inspire women to "push their limits”. Heather started this group along with Mariann Saether in 2011. The Flux group of women come from a variety of backgrounds, but have the common denominator of pushing themselves and showcasing themselves in a positive way to influence women and girls to ‘use the outdoors as their playground.’
July 2013 - Nancy Uschold
Nancy has always loved the water. She first visited the shores of Lake Superior
working at Bay Cliff Health Camp in Big Bay, MI in 1988. On a day off, she hiked along Pictured Rocks
and saw sea kayaks playing in the water below the cliffs. She knew immediately that was where she wanted to be! In 1993, when she settled in Marquette, MI, the first
thing she did was buy a sea kayak. Coincidentally,
that was the same year that her camp director met Janet Zeller, then president of
the ACA and one of the founders of the Adaptive Paddling Workshop and author of
Canoeing and Kayaking for Persons with Disabilities. The camp for which Nancy worked, Bay Cliff, is a therapy camp for children and
adults with disabilities. Her background as a physical therapist
and her new found passion for kayaking started merging immediately. Nancy's favorite places to paddle are just about anywhere on the Canadian North Shore
of Lake Superior. It is a magical mix of
towering rock cliffs and spectacular cobble, pebble and sand beaches; of rugged
exposed coast and intimate coves. The
water is clear and cold with great visibility.
Much of the coast is protected and open to the public, but very remote
and not easily accessible – meaning little boat traffic and lots of
immersion in the natural world. The cold
of Lake Superior has preserved some arctic plants in this area of Boreal forests
and allowed a caribou herd to flourish.
It is also rich in history with unexplained ancient artifacts,
pictographs and more recent remnants of the fishing and logging industries
along the coast.
Nancy started her ACA certification process with adaptive paddling and coastal kayaking certifications: she found that teaching made her a better paddler,
and being a better paddler made her a better instructor. It became a self-perpetuating cycle!
June 2013 - Steve Busch
The ACA is pleased to announce our June Kokatat Instructor of the Month—Steve Busch from Binghampton, New York!
Steve has been involved in paddling since the 1970’s– and was first certified as an ACA instructor in 1987. He was influenced early on in his paddling career by legendary paddler, Tom Foster. Steve’s favorite river run is New York’s Fish Creek, which has over 10 miles of class III play. Steve is a retired Physical Education teacher and aquatics director, and with the help of ACA, grew his school’s paddling program to include kayaking rolling, canoe instruction, and introductory whitewater trips to nearby rivers. Steve still teaches kayaking, canoeing, and SUP as an adjunct professor at Binghampton University and ZOAR Outdoor Programs.
May 2013 - Ron Smith
Ron has been a paddling enthusiast for over thirty years
growing up in the Great Lakes Region.
After becoming an ACA Instructor, Ron formed Black Parrot Paddling, LLC
and along with his wife, Suzanne, who is also an ACA instructor has taught canoeing,
kayaking and SUP to hundreds of clients over the past 18 years. Ron has served in the past on the board of
the Great Lakes Sea Kayak Club and as Safety Officer for the Great Lakes Sea
Kayak Symposium held yearly on the shores of Lake Superior. He serves as Senior Paddlesport Director
overseeing the canoeing, kayaking and SUP programs for YMCA Storer Camps in
Southeast Michigan. He is presently a
working member of the ACA Coastal Kayak Committee. An avid sea kayak and SUP racer, Ron can be
found competing in various races from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast. Splitting his time between southeast Michigan
and Gulf Shores, Alabama, Ron is working to establish a cadre of ACA
instructors along Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama Gulf Coasts in order to
provide quality instruction resources for the growing Gulf area paddling
community. Ron is a Level 5: Advanced
Open Water Coastal Kayak Instructor, Level 4: Open Water Coastal Kayak
Instructor Trainer, Level 2: Essentials of Canoe Touring Solo and Tandem
Instructor Trainer and Level 2: Essentials of SUP Touring Instructor. Ron also holds the ACA Adaptive Paddling
April 2013 - Martha Muckleroy
Martha has been paddling for over twenty years and she teaches paddlesports at Texas A&M University. While in her late 20’s, she took a road trip from Texas to Western North Carolina, where she fell in love with the Nantahala River and other nearby rivers. Her favorite places to paddle are the Nantahala, Chattooga, Ocoee, the Boundary Waters, San Juan Islands, and Alaska. Martha has been influenced by Chris Port, Anne Sontheimer and Jimmy Holcombe from the Nantahala Outdoor Center and attributes her success to the support and encouragement that the river community has provided her over the years. Martha is a teacher by trade and is always happy to share beautiful rivers and places with new students and old friends.
Martha is from College Station, Texas and is an ACA certified Level 4: Whitewater Canoeing - Solo & Tandem Instructor, Level 5: Advanced Swiftwater Rescue Instructor, and a Level 4: Whitewater Kayaking Instructor.
March 2013 - Chuck Conley
Chuck Conley lives in Virginia Beach and is involved in many
aspects of paddling. Competitive paddling is his passion, and he races
surf skis, kayaks and outrigger canoes. Recently Chuck was elected as
President of the Mid-Atlantic Paddler’s Association, the competitive paddling
club in Southeast Virginia. He sells Stellar surf skis and kayaks,
and he is an American Canoe Association Level 4 Coastal Kayak instructor
as well as a Level 3 Surf Kayak instructor and Level 2 Surf Kayak Instructor
Trainer. Chuck has been an eco-tour guide and guide trainer for almost
twenty years. He is also the organizer for the Hampton Roads Kayak
Meet-up Group. In 2011 Chuck started Team River
Runner-Virginia Beach, a non-profit organization that takes wounded warriors
and their family members paddling. It has become his passion and he feels
it is some of the most important work he has ever done. TRR-VB has
recently become a Paralympic Sport Club which will help it reach an even larger
population of adaptive paddlers. Chuck is married to Annette, his
favorite shuttle bunny, and has two great kids for paddling partners.
February 2013 - Jose Gonzalez
Gonzalez, is am ACA Level 2: Essentials of SUP Instructor Trainer and an Introduction to Kayaking instructor. He has been teaching and managing outdoor programs for over
20 years. He has competed in multiple SUP races including the HanoHano
and Battle of the Paddle race. He considers himself a recreational
athlete mostly doing functional training and fitness in the outdoors in order
to qualify for the Molokai 2 Oahu race.
January 2013 - Terry Hobbs
Terry is a Level 3: Coastal Kayaking Instructor with the adaptive paddling and camping endorsements. He owns Severn Kayaking, LLC in Safety Harbor, Florida. Here he enjoys the Tampa Bay area and the diversity of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of Florida, teaching paddling and camping to newcomers in paddlesports and improving techniques for paddlers of all skill levels. He strives to remind them never to lose respect for the sea. He also works with veterans who have suffered loss of limbs and has started a quarterly program with the City of Safety Harbor establishing a place for people of all abilities to come and have fun on the water. He also volunteers with the City of St. Petersburg assisting with their Adaptive Paddling Program. Terry said people drive over fifty miles to paddle a kayak during these programs. His favorite comment from one of his students who lost an arm in Vietnam is, "I never in my life dreamed I could paddle across Tampa Bay!" Terry truly believes kayaking is a wonderful sport to pass on to anyone who wants to experience and develop seamanship skills.
December 2012 - Steve Jones
is a Level 4: Open Water Coastal Kayak Instructor Trainer, Level 5: Advanced
Open Water Coastal Kayak Instructor and Level 3: Essentials of Surf Kayaking
Instructor. He is the lead paddle sports instructor for Cascade Canoe and Kayak
Centers and is the Assistant Coach of the Cascade Canoe/Kayak Racing Team, a Youth
Olympic Development program. Steve enjoys the dynamic diversity the Puget Sound
offers. From Surfing to rock gardens and
from 8 knot currents to beautiful glassy flat water, there is nothing better
than being able to share this wonderful playground with paddlers of all skill
levels. There is something in paddle sports for everyone!
November 2012 - Susan Patterson
Susan is an ACA Level 2: Essentials of Kayak Touring Instructor who loves her P&H Scorpio LV. Her favorite things to do while paddling are expeditions, exploring and surfing. One of her favorite paddling trips was the circumnavigation of Cumberland Island in Georgia. She learned to kayak and was certified by the ACA Pro School Geneva Kayak. She enjoys being an ACA instructor because it allows her share what she has learned with new paddlers so they can feel confident, safe and skilled on their kayaking adventures.
October 2012 - Ande Oliver
Ande works with the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission (CCPRC) as the Outdoor Recreation Coordinator for Youth Programs. Starting as a camp counselor in 2003 and becoming the Youth Coordinator/Camp Director in 2007, he has a passion for working with kids in dynamic environments in order to help build confidence and encourage positive and appropriate decision making. As an ACA Instructor since 2004, he has been able to bring his same joy and passion of paddlesports to thousands of children and young adults in the Charleston area through safe practices and exciting programs. Notably, he, along with several colleagues from CCPRC and the ACA, provided the opportunity of a lifetime for numerous children from rural and underserved areas of Charleston County to learn how to canoe and take a 6 mile cruise down the beautiful tannin rich Edisto River (the longest free flowing blackwater river in North America). The teenagers' maiden voyage was a tremendous experience for all involved! Ande is incredibly gracious and honored to be chosen as the Kokatat Instructor of the Month and admits this award is a true testament for the dedication of his paddling mentors from CCPRC and the ACA!
September 2012 - Beth Weigandt
Beth is an ACA Level 4: Whitewater Canoeing Instructor Trainer, a Level 2: Essentials of River Kayaking Instructor and servers as the secretary on both the Introduction to Paddling Committee and River Canoe Committee. ACA staffer Kelsey Bracewell caught up with Beth in between courses and had the following conversation: How long have you been in paddlesports? I have been paddling, teaching, and leading trips on the water for 24 years. I was intrigued by the sport when I was a camp counselor, hearing about all the fun and excitement the week-long adventure paddlers had on the river. That program pulled me in and I haven't looked back! What is your favorite paddlesports? River Canoeing is definitely my passion. Traveling down river and navigating rapids is my favorite way to spend a day (or 2 or 3). I am expanding my horizons by recently adding river kayak instructing and looking forward to exploring the SUP discipline to paddle when I spend time on the coast.
August 2012 - Becky Harger
Becky has loved the water all her life and began participating in water sports as a youngster in Louisiana. After retiring from a successful career in Land Developing, she moved to Pensacola Beach. A new passion was born when she was introduced to Stand Up Paddling by her friend and mentor, Yancy Spencer III, who was one of the pioneers for Gulf Coast Paddle Boarding. After stand up paddling for 4 years,she decided to attend the ACA SUP certification course. At 60 years old Becky became the first ACA certified Stand Up Paddle instructor in the Florida Panhandle. Since then she has formed Water Warrior, LLC and has passed on her passion to more than 200 students from all over the world, this summer alone. She is very proud of her certification and the knowledge that her students have been introduced to this sport with fun and SAFETY in mind.