The ACA is proud to partner with Kokatat for the ACA Instructor of the Month recognition program.
Submit a nomination here.
May 2015 - Matt Hite
Born and raised around the water, Matt Hite's draw to becoming an ACA SUP instructor came to as surprise as he grew up in a family of long time ocean lifeguards and educators. Matt is an avid paddler, surfer, Level 3 SUP Surf Instructor, and also a level 2 SUP Instructor Trainer. He started paddling stand up paddleboards in 2008 and quickly became an instructor as the commercialized sport made its entrance into Florida. With a strong desire to be on the water whenever possible, Matt was immediately hooked as SUP filled the gap when there were no waves to surf.
As soon as certifications were established, he took his love of the sport of SUP to the next level and became an ACA SUP instructor. Matt currently directs weekly classes and leads a growing club of over 1000 SUP enthusiasts in Jacksonville, FL. He also enjoys volunteering his time with several non-profits and coaching a Special Olympics SUP team. He is also a manager and head instructor at Black Creek Outfitters. Matt considers himself a true Florida waterman and is committed to sharing the excitement, safety, and knowledge of the ocean and riding its waves.
“I always love teaching and seeing my students light up, whether they’re learning something new, or just having fun. One of my favorite paddling moments was recently when I was given the opportunity to experience the US Virgin Islands with one of my sponsors, BIC SUP. The experience allowed me to see its pristine beauty through touring, racing, snorkeling, and surfing, all from a SUP.” --Matt
April 2015 - Larry Gioia
I have always had a interest for being active, teaching, life-long learning, and community building - paddling has proven to be the perfect outlet for all of these interests!
About six years ago, I became a volunteer Trip Leader with Venture Outdoors (VO) - a Pittsburgh-based non-profit who’s mission is to connect everyone to the great outdoors. It was here that I began to take an active role in supporting, organizing, and leading various group kayak outings around Pittsburgh - night time fireworks paddles, eco tours, full moon paddles, and longer endurance paddles. One thing led to another and I was asked to assist with VO’s ‘Intro to Kayaking’ and ‘Trip Leader Kayak Training’ programs. It was around this time that I began to seek out additional kayak training to continue my own paddling and teaching skills. The closest paddling school at the time was Exkursion Outfitters and that’s where I met ACA coastal instructors, George Ondish and Jesse Twichell.
I took a few different courses from George and Jesse over the years - sea kayak touring, advanced strokes, open water navigation, and advanced rescues. Me in my clunky rotomold recreational kayak, fumbling around with a 5lb paddle - the dynamic duo, George and Jesse, with their composite sea kayaks, carbon fiber bent-shafted paddles - they made their boats dance on the water. I had to know how to do that too!
Each course I took with George and Jesse further solidified my own interest in becoming an instructor and sharing my passion for kayaking. I went on to complete my L1-3 coastal training/certification with Tom Nickels of River Wind Kayak, Russell Farrow of Sweetwater Kayaks, Phil Hadley, Gene Totz, and Terry Hobbs. As though that wasn’t enough, John Carmody, just happened to be in town and tagged along for my ICE (no pressure!)
I went on to complete my Adaptive Endorsement with John MacDonald, Joe Moore, and Elaine Mravetz in Ohio a year later. I am currently in the process of completing my Level 2 and Adaptive Paddling IT certifications.
Thanks to all of those mentioned here (any the countless others who I met along the way), for being such great instructors, mentors, and ambassadors for the ACA and our sport!
March 2015 - C.C. Williams
Charles "C.C." Williams, a native of Fort Mill, South Carolina is passionate about teaching and learning through the outdoors. A paddler and ACA instructor since 2005, he has spent the past three years teaching and guiding students of all levels as they discover the waterways of South Carolina. He is currently an Active Learning & Living (A.L.L.) Outdoors coordinator for the City of Rock Hill Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department, Level 4: Swiftwater Rescue Instructor, Level 3: River Kayak Instructor, and Level 2: Essentials of River Kayaking Instructor Trainer Candidate. Williams continues to renew and broaden his ACA instructor certifications because they help him to "provide the best possible learning experience for students to develop new skills and overcome challenges."
February 2015 - Mike Zeppegno
"I love the work and seeing the progression of our students. Experiencing their enjoyment and confidence on the water is very rewarding. Marna Powell, one of my earlier instructors, taught me the concept of 'pay it forward' which encompasses the idea of passing on what we have learned to other paddlers. As an active member of the PAC, Explore North Coast Kayak Club (ENC), I have been presented with many great opportunities to instruct and share my paddling passion. Through the joint marketing efforts of ENC and local university, Humbolt State, our community will have a new entry point for an introduction to local paddle sports. I am hopeful that these efforts will also result in increased membership for the ENC paddle club, and greater support for paddling in my region."
January 2015 - April Zilg
April Zilg is an avid paddler, an ACA Level 2: Essentials of SUP Instructor, and an ACA SUP Yoga Instructor. What started as a recreational hobby in 2009, became so much more when she got into racing. Today April is a top paddler on the east coast, placing first in several championships and in the top ten in the Carolina Cup and the Battle of the Paddle. When she’s not competing, she’s giving lessons, teaching clinics, guiding SUP yoga or SUP surfing. She teaches in Wrightsville Beach with Carolina Paddleboard Co. where she helped start the Carolina Jr Waterman's team, a program to help kids become better, safer watermen. April is a Hobie team rider and a regular contributor to Distressedmullet.com and "Local Sessions" surf magazine. April looks forward to continuing to grow as a paddler and spread the love of the sport.
ACA: April, it sounds like you have had a wide variety of SUP experiences! Can you tell us about one of your most memorable trips?
Zilg: Traveling throughout India in 2012, and paddling with so many different people will always be one of my top favorite trips. I gave lessons, we went on excursions to remote islands, through backwaters, and I lived with the Surfing (now also SUPing) Swamis for a few months. We packed up inflatables and traveled through the Himalayas to paddle rapids, rivers, and the highest altitude lakes in the country; my companions and I currently hold the record for highest altitude SUPed at 16,020 feet.
ACA: Thanks April, and congratulations on being January 2015’s Kokatat Instructor of the month!
December 2014 - Mike Looman
Mike first entered the paddlesports world by working at Wenonah Canoe Inc., in 2003. Shortly thereafter, he took a trip to the Apostle Islands on Lake Superior, and was hooked on paddling for life. He has since expanded his knowledge and experience with a variety of paddlesport disciplines: Mike is an ACA Coastal Kayaking and SUP instructor. A deeper understanding of kayaking and SUP instructional tools has made Mike’s passion for paddling even stronger, and he has said, “Watching people improve their comfort level and enhance their skills, that is my greatest reward.”
Mike has started his own paddlesport instructional company called Midwest Paddlesport, and with the influence and guidance from some of the industry’s best, is motivated to continue passing on paddling skills and knowledge for generations to come. In 2014 alone, Mike had the opportunity to teach and paddle on Lake Superior and Lake Michigan, the waters beneath the Golden Gate Bridge, the Florida Keys, and the waters of South Carolina. You can usually find Mike paddling or teaching on the Mississippi River near his hometown in Minnesota. Mike plans to continue to share his passion for paddlesports by organizing instructional events and working with local universities and organizations.
November 2014 - Anna Levesque
November Kokatat Instructor of the Month, Anna Levesque, is not only a gifted kayak and SUP instructor trainer, but she is also a big player in the ever growing SUP Yoga world. We had the opportunity to chat with Anna last week, to talk about her latest ventures and inspiring story.
ACA: Anna, you have had the opportunity to paddle hundreds of different rivers, in 12 different countries, win multiple international competitive titles, and start multiple unique paddling businesses. How does the ACA help contribute to your continued success in the paddling world?
Anna: I've been paddling for over 20 years and teaching for over 10 years, and in that time I've witnessed the power of good paddling instruction and the damage of poor paddling instruction. I feel that the ACA holds their Instructors and Instructor Trainers to the highest standards and that is good for students and good for the sustainability of paddlesports.
ACA: You are one of the frontrunners promoting the ACA SUP Yoga Program (we are so excited about this new curriculum), Tell us a little about your SUP Yoga experiences thus far.
Anna: Last year I launched a new program called Mind Body Paddle here in Asheville. I teach weekly SUP Yoga classes at the confluence of Hominy Creek and the French Broad, and it is wonderful! Practicing yoga on the SUP boards enhances balance, strength, and focus. It is a very peaceful, mindful, active way to be outside and connect with nature. I have an anchor system so that the SUPs don't drift for the yoga portion of class; participants also have the opportunity to improve their SUP paddling skills before and after class. I was excited to participate in the ACA's first SUP Yoga Endorsement training this summer with other amazing SUP and Yoga instructors, and I think that SUP Yoga will continue to grow. If you haven't tried it I highly recommend finding a local class!
October 2014 - Marvine Cole
Marvine was first introduced to canoeing at Girl Scout camp in Alabama; she was instantly captivated by swamping an aluminum canoe, getting back in, and hand paddling back to shore. Her introduction to whitewater came in high school on the Potomac River in Maryland, when she and her three sisters took American Red Cross paddling classes from Tom Shean. She paddled only occasionally after that experience, but took up whitewater canoeing in 1997 after failed attempts to get comfortable in a kayak. For her, getting back in the canoe felt like coming home. Two years later, she became an ACA Certified Whitewater Canoe Instructor, and later certified as a Level 5 Advanced Whitewater Solo Canoe Instructor (one of the only two female L5 Advanced Whitewater Canoe instructors in the country). A former president of the Georgia Canoeing Association (an ACA PAC), Marvine now teaches for the club. “I love teaching. By sharing my knowledge, skills and enthusiasm, I hope to give my students that sense of adventure and wonder that I feel when I’m on the river.” Despite her love of whitewater paddling, Marvine has paddled her share of flatwater. She and her sisters raced four times in the Texas Water Safari, a 260-mile day and night race from San Marcos to the coast. “I love the calming rhythm of flatwater paddling. And I love a challenge, whether it’s a tough rapid or a long and arduous race.”
September 2014 - James 'Jim' Sullivan
Hailing from Longmeadow, MA, Jim Sullivan began paddling canoes with his father at an early age. He fell in love with kayaking at the age of 12 at Wilderness Experiences Unlimited; he eagerly waited until he was old enough to become an ACA certified instructor. He has been working with ZOAR Outdoor, and has built an impressive paddling resume, as well as obtained several ACA certifications including: Whitewater Kayaking and River Canoeing IT, Swiftwater Rescue, and SUP Instructor. Jim has recently had the opportunity to work with First Descents, an organization that allows people with cancer to enjoy recreational activities, in an effort to outlive their diagnosis. Jim says, “It is amazing to see the impact that kayaking has on their lives. Every one of their smiles seems so important, so full of life. The memories and bonds that these students form become so powerful; it is truly great to be a part of this paddling program."
August 2014 - Marcel Bieg
When asked what his ACA experiences mean to him, Marcel provided these wise words: "I owe so much to paddlesports: my character, passions, personality, relationships, and even my life. I have always believed in a balanced life, so if I owe something or someone - I make good on my promises. I accomplish this by repaying my teachers by continuing their teachings, I honor my past mentors by becoming a mentor, and I am always trying to convey the joy I have felt (from paddling) with others who could enrich their lives through these activities. This is why I am so dedicated to experiential education and paddlesports instruction. I want not only to provide people the opportunity to learn to paddle, but ultimately learn to grow as an individual and as part of their community. The best way for me to do this, and to ensure success for these individuals, is learning how to be the best educator I can be." Thanks, Marcel! And Congrats!
July 2014 - Omar Ramos
Omar Ramos is an ACA SUP and Coastal Kayak Instructor from Gurabo, Puerto Rico. Omar was introduced to paddling at the young age of 7 through the Boy Scouts of America. He has been hooked on paddling ever since, meeting and paddling with his mentors: Gil Hidalgo, Jose Gonzalez, and Keith Keller (also esteemed ACA Instructors). Omar started a company called Paddle Paradise Puerto Rico, whereby he provides quality paddling educational programs for the people of Puerto Rico. He has made it his mission to spread his passion for paddlesports as well as provide healthy, fun, and safe paddling experiences. Omar recently had the opportunity to host one of the ACA's USCG On Water Paddlesports Instruction Workshops, and he is once again energized to continue sharing the ACA's mission of making the world a better place to paddle!
June 2014 - Ethan Talley
Ethan Talley of Easley, South Carolina, is an ACA Level 4: Whitewater Kayaking Instructor who uses paddling as a means to explore the natural world. Ethan particularly enjoys paddling one of the Southeast's most notable whitewater rivers, the Chatooga River, a national wild and scenic waterway that serves as the boundary between Georgia and South Carolina. Ethan was a member of the first exploratory party to venture into the Twelvemile Creek Gorge near Norris, South Carolina. This particular section of the Twelvemile was revealed in 2013 through the removal of two old, derelict dams. Ethan was also among the first paddlers to legally explore Section 0 of the Chattooga--a section of river that has been inaccessible for many years due to a long legal access battle. According to Ethan, there are many creeks in Pickens and Greenville Counties (SC) that have rarely been paddled and still remain a mystery to locals. "What makes these areas so unique is the lack of literature and knowledge of navigability on each little creek," Ethan said. "One can't help but feel a sense of personal connection to the whitewater that has barely been explored. I love the exhilarating feeling that I get when experiencing something completely new." No stranger to challenges, Ethan certainly has his hands full between obtaining his Outdoor Leadership Degree at North Greenville University, utilizing his ACA Whitewater Kayaking and Swiftwater Rescue training, and increasing his own paddling skills. Ethan's paddling accomplishments are a great example of exploration, fun, and learning--you never know when your biggest paddling adventure could be right in your own backyard!
May 2014 - Ryan Keyes
Between raft guiding, kayaking, and working as a Recreational Therapist at the Grand Junction VA Medical Hospital in Fruita, Colorado, ACA Instructor of the Month Ryan Keyes is always on the go. We were lucky enough to score an exclusive interview with Ryan, an ACA-certified river kayaking instructor, in which he reveals his source of happiness on the river.
ACA: How did you get into paddlesports?
Keyes: I began kayaking in college, where I was studying to become a Recreational Therapist, with an emphasis on outdoor recreation for individuals with disabilities.
ACA: What drew you to becoming an ACA instructor?
Keyes: Working as a Recreational Therapist, with the Grand Junction VA Medical Center, I had an opportunity to start a local Team River Runner chapter in Grand Junction, which focuses on providing therapeutic paddling sports to disabled veterans. As a Recreation Therapist, I understand the importance of certification and a standardized practice of care. Obtaining an ACA Whitewater Kayaking Instructor certification has given me the knowledge and confidence to train volunteers and teach veterans the lifelong sport of kayaking.
ACA: Will you tell us about one of your favorite paddling moments?
Keyes: My favorite paddling moment was on the 2013 TRR Salmon River Clinic. The 6-day/81-mile kayaking trip consisted of 13 disabled veterans from across the country paddling the Main Salmon River in Idaho. It was amazing to see a group of complete strangers transform into a cohesive team, navigate the river as a team, and overcome personal barriers to have a true wilderness experience. I am truly blessed to be a part of such a meaningful program. It brings so much joy and purpose to my life.
ACA: Thank you, Ryan, for bringing your gifts to the community!
April 2014 - Grier Fricks
Grier began her paddling career as a raft guide at the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC), guiding commercial raft trips on the French Broad River. Since that time, she has relocated to Kane'ohe Bay, Hawaii, where she works at Holokai Kayak & Snorkel. She is the Education Coordinator for a program called Kama'aina Kids, which provides educational opportunities for children to learn about water safety; she also works with Spirit of America to provide kayaking, canoeing, and sailing opportunities for students at local Kahalu'u elementary school. Grier's favorite place to paddle is Kane'ohe Bay, the largest bay in the state of Hawaii. She recently completed one of her most memorable paddling trips--she started from the north end of Kailua Bay, paddled to the island of Moku Manu, and returned through Kane'ohe Bay. When asked why she decided to pursue ACA certification, she said, "The ACA reputation speaks for itself, and I am proud to be a part of it!" Thank you, Grier, for making the world a better place to paddle!
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.