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Educational Sessions
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The paddlesports world comes together to provide a wealth of knowledge for the ACA National Paddlesports Conference each year. From coast to coast and north to south, a wide range of experts will be in attendance sharing their knowledge.



Some of the presentations offered in Bend, Oregon in 2013:



Rusty Cooper - Academic Style Rubrics in Assessment Courses

As an outdoor educator for many years, I have often run across the proverbial "stumbling block” of assessment in various outdoor skills for participants, as well as in training future outdoor educators and leaders.  What I mean by this, is that so many times, we set criterion for those we are teaching without giving clearly defined expectations of acceptable criterion.  For example, in an ACA instructor certification workshop, we ask candidates to "Demonstrate knowledge of teaching theory”, or to effectively "demonstrate the forward stroke with good form”.  But how many times have students come into our classes wondering—"what does this mean?” The outdoor education and outdoor recreation fields are growing by leaps and bounds.  In order for  American Canoe Association Instructors, Trainers, and Educators to stay relevant in a field that has such powerful momentum and speed, we must come in line with what the industry expects of us as professionals.  As a newly appointed Level 4 Kayak Instructor Trainer, I was striving for a tool that I could send to my instructor candidates as a method of "front-loading” the experience to prevent those often ambiguous questions they come into the course with.  After some deliberation and reflection upon my own studies in Outdoor Education, the best answer I could come up with was to develop an academic style rubric for the candidates.

Rusty Cooper, M. Ed. is an ACA Level 4 River Kayak Instructor Trainer, Level 5 River Kayak Instructor and Coordinator of Auburn Outdoors at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama.


Ben LawryBen Lawry - Biomechanics of Paddling

Move beyond just putting your paddle in the water and pulling on it, to having your body work in a fluid, graceful, and efficient manner. This class focuses on body efficiency vs. paddle efficiency.

Ben has been paddling for over 35 years, and teaching/guiding for over 20. He has taught paddling on five continents and competed on three. Presently he works as head instructor and owner of Kayak Camp with his wife, Elizabeth. Ben presented at both the US WW symposium and the National ACA Conference in 2010. He has led trips and traveled extensively in South America, South Africa, Europe and North America. Ben splits his time now teaching paddling and working with stores. His teaching also takes him to symposiums, shows and paddling rendezvous all over the United States. As a brand ambassador, he is involved with kayak design in sea, light touring and racing kayaks. All of which has led to an in-depth knowledge of instruction/guiding practices and procedures, strong commitment to quality service, as well as excellent organizational and problem solving skills. He enjoys competing in sprint, sea kayak, slalom, rodeo, marathon canoe and kayak, outrigger, surf ski and wildwater events.


Tim MattsonTim Mattson - 2 presentations

Greenland Style Paddling - A Journey to the Roots of Kayaking

The Inuit people of Greenland kayaked to hunt and hunted to eat.  Consequently, they had to paddle … even in gale force winds and rough seas … and became some of the finest paddlers in history.  In this presentation, we will explore the history of kayaking in the Arctic with emphasis on the Inuit of Greenland.  In addition to the history of this rugged culture, we will describe the equipment and the paddling technique associated with Greenland-style paddling.  Studying Greenland style kayaking is fascinating.  There are all those unusual rolls, of course, but the basic strokes and their emphasis on using the whole paddle, ergonomics, and fluid smooth motions are valuable as well.  And by studying these techniques and applying them to our own paddling, we become better kayakers.

Kayak Navigation for Normal People

As kayakers, we like to travel out to sea, reach exciting locations, and then make it back again. The art of navigation helps you plan such journeys and then manage them underway so you always know where you are. Many of us love to make navigation as complicated as possible; it makes us feel superior. In this talk, however, I will show you that it doesn't need to be so complicated. Any kayaker with a bit of practice can master the core techniques of kayak navigation. When done right (i.e. without a GPS brain-crutch) it is fun and adds a whole new element to play with as we kayak.

Tim Mattson is a "born again” paddler, sea kayak instructor (ACA level 5), and an instructor trainer (ACA level 3). He has paddled in exciting places around the world including Australia, Scandinavia, Baja, Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. To support his kayaking obsession, Tim works as a professional scientist (Ph.D. theoretical Chemistry) with a background in molecular physics and computer science. He has published four books, over 75 scientific articles, and is a highly sought after speaker at scientific conferences.

 Ty Tuff - "Let’s be better at Developing Artificial Rescue Scenarios"

Many of our go-to rescue scenarios are actually terrible teaching tools.  Unknowingly, most of us design artificial scenarios for our classes based on scenarios we’ve personally experience rather than focusing on the student’s needs.  Instead of following this antiquated model, let’s develop and spread a new one.  Come join me and we’ll collectively develop a series of awesome scenarios together. In this classroom workshop we will work together to build scenarios that carry a wide appeal and focus heavily on student learning.  I encourage you to bring something to take notes so you can go home and share with everyone. You do not need extensive rescue knowledge or experience to have fun and learn something in this class.    

Ty Tuff is a scientist with a passion for whitewater.  He's paid his way through graduate school, in part, as an Instructor Trainer for both whitewater kayaking and advanced swiftwater rescue courses since 2003. His lessons focus on contemporary, data-driven techniques that target students with a variety of learning styles while embracing modern equipment and boating techniques.  In combining the practices of modern teaching science with aggressive skill development he send students away as well-rounded instructors with a well-developed ability to both practice and teach their discipline at a very high level.  For Ty, "whitewater” primarily means "creeking” so he tends to specialize in small group safety and low-volume maneuvering.   This usually results in a strong focus on individual and small group dynamics rather than large groups or professional rescue crews.


Marcel Bieg -2 Presentations


Adventure Education, Paddlesports and Everyday Life: Making the Connection

Many misconceptions surround the industry of Adventure Education. Most revolve around the belief that Adventure Education is nothing more than the teaching of hard skills based in an outdoor adventure setting. This baseline misconception often leads to many assumptions surrounding the legitimacy of adventure education and the practitioners therein. This presentation will look at and discuss the theories of adventure education specifically focusing on demystifying the true purpose of adventure education. The presentation will offer tools to assist instructors in making the transference between what is taught during class and the student’s everyday life. Specific, nonspecific and metaphoric transfer principles will be presented to assist in this experience to life connection. As instructors of adventure education our goal is not to show people how to recreate; but instead to strengthen the tools to living more full, healthy and happy lives. This is the true purpose of adventure education.

Foundations of Play-Boating: A tool for dry-land to flat-water transfer

The purpose of this presentation is to provide ACA Instructors an instructional method to bring play-boating onto dry land in order to establish a solid foundation therein. This will be accomplished through a step-by-step pedagogy of skills; stretching, strength and balance routines that promote personal safety, physical awareness and overall confidence.  Once students have mastered the dry-land portion, flat-water concepts will be introduced. The skill sequences used on dry land will be transferred into the flat-water setting to foster an understanding of play-boating for students, providing them with a learning tool to take back to their personal training ground.


Marcel Bieg earned his Bachelor of Arts in Wilderness Studies from Alaska Pacific University in 1996. He received his Masters of Science in Experiential Education from Minnesota State University, Mankato in 2006. Marcel is currently the Director of the Outdoor Leadership, Education and Recreation Program at San Juan College in Farmington, New Mexico. Marcel has made a career in the experiential education field, beginning as a Raft Guide and Kayak instructor in 1994. Mr. Bieg has earned several Instructor certifications through nationally and internationally recognized organizations including the American Mountain Guide Association, the Association of Avalanche Research and Education, Leave No Trace and the Association of Challenge Course Technologies. In Paddle Sports, Marcel has worked with the American Canoe Association since 2003 and is a certified instructor Trainer in Whitewater Kayak and Whitewater Raft. Marcel is actively pursuing Instructor Trainer status in both Coastal and Kayak and Swift Water Rescue.



 Raphael Kuner - Modern Skills for an Old School Tool!

Using flip-charts and whiteboards while teaching is very common. But to be honest,  most of us never thought about about how to use them in a modern and proper way. Most of the illustrations and drawings are more confusing than helpful. A flip-chart is easy to use and there is no plug or projector which seemingly always have technical problems. Using a flip chart or whiteboard, you can be highly flexible, you can be spontaneous and you can prepare yourself. Whiteboards are durable, waterproof and magnetic. Raphael will show you, how to use different types of boards, markers, magnetic tools and much more. He will explain how to make a drawing clear and understandable, and how to interact with your board AND your audience. Be a flip-chart-wizard - the board is your stage!

Raphael Kuner is a multi-discipline Instructor and Instructor Trainer from Germany. He runs one of the two European ACA pro-schools and is the current vice-chair of ACA Division Europe. He is an passionate user of flip-charts and whiteboards.


 Julie Chick & Tillamook Estuaries Partnership - Tillamook County Water Trail Project

The Tillamook County Water Trail (TCWT), led by the Tillamook Estuaries Partnership (TEP), a 501 (c) (3), is a countywide water trail system. Tillamook County borders the Pacific Ocean on the north coast of Oregon and has abundant rivers, sloughs, and bays optimal for non-motorized recreational water use. The TEP has created a webpage and guidebooks, including maps, tailored specifically to paddlers, rafters, drift boaters, etc. As a non-contiguous trail, the TCWT represents each of the five unique estuary systems and their navigable waterways.


Jose Gonzales - SUP Racing for the Recreational Athlete

This workshop is for the novice to experienced paddler looking to do his/her first SUP ocean race.  Participants will learn about the different types of ocean racing opportunities in the USA and internationally; followed by the different types of courses, race strategy and logistics.  The workshop will end with a fitness-centered overview on necessary training for the recreational athlete. 

Jose Gonzalez, is a SUP L2 Instructor trainer and a Sea Kayaking L1 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. 


Mariann McKenzie - Oregon State Marine Board, 2011-2016 Strategic Plan

The Oregon State Marine Board serves Oregon’s boaters by efficiently using boater fees to support safety and stewardship on Oregon’s waterways through quality boater education and effective enforcement while partnering with public landowners to provide safe waterway access through appropriate boating facilities. In the fall of 2010, OSMB initiated a strategic planning process, which was completed in 2011. It included recommendations, goals and strategies for the agency to pursue over the next five years.  The Marine Board has statutory responsibility for all recreational boating in Oregon, but agency revenues are derived almost exclusively from motorized boaters.  This inequality was identified as needing to be addressed.  Motorized boaters felt that non-motorized boaters were not paying for services; and non-motorized boaters identified that they didn’t have a "seat at the table.”   Non-motorized boaters increasingly use or seek access facilities, law enforcement services, and frequently petition the Board for regulations that protect or enhance their activity. Given the growth of non-motorized boating, the disparity, from both perspectives, needed to be addressed by the agency. The scope of the project is to define the needs, expectations, available resources and an appropriate level of participation in future management of non-motorized boating. 

 MariAnn has been with the Oregon State Marine Board since March 2006 in the Boating Safety Section.  She is the Boater Education Coordinator, but has several hats including Jr. Boater Coordinator, the School Program Coordinator, the "Let’s Go Boating” Grant Program Coordinator and currently, the Project Manager for the Non-Motorized Project linked to the Marine Board’s Strategic Plan.   She came to the Marine Board from the Arizona Game and Fish Department, where she worked as a Wildlife Technician for five years, the Boating Education Coordinator for a year and a half, the Boating Facilities Program Manager for three and a half years and as the Executive Staff Assistant to the Branch Chief of Support Services for one year. Before going to college, she attended the National Park Service Law Enforcement Training at Silva, North Carolina.  She then went on to work as a seasonal Boat Patrol Law Enforcement Officer for the Glen Canyon National Recreational Area, National Park Service; stationed out of Dangling Rope Marina. She was also a certified Emergency Medical Technician and worked several boating accidents. She graduated from Northern Arizona University with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Biology, with an emphasis in Fish and Wildlife Management.   She grew up boating and learning how to water ski on Lake Powell, Arizona.  She’s been a water-rat for her whole life from swimming from a very young age to competitively in high school, boating, and taking water skiing classes in college.


Randy Carlson - Using Skills Routines to Improve Demonstration and Assessment

Efficient paddling has many free flowing movements. Much of the ACA curriculum is focused on teaching these skills but how can we improve the overall flow of a developing paddler? One way is by matching a continuous flatwater skills routine with the curriculum. By doing so we can focus on refining more subtle paddling skills during courses and instructor certification workshops. These paddling skills go with the transitions from one maneuver to the next and managing the right blend of spin momentum and forward momentum. Examples of these routines will be diagrammed on paper and handed out followed by observation of video taped performances and small group discussions to develop stronger demonstration and assessment strategies moving forward.

Randy Carlson is the Adventure Sports Coordinator for the University of Minnesota Duluth, Recreational Sports Outdoor Program (UMD-RSOP).  This position is designed to get UMD students and the public directly involved with whitewater paddling, surfing, SUP, snow kiting, and longboard skateboarding.  He has done extensive work with instructor development throughout his career and has been involved with ACA instruction and slalom race production since 1984.  He now works as an Instructor Trainer Educator in the whitewater canoe, whitewater kayak and SUP disciplines.    Randy has served as a Co-Chair of the ACA’s Coastal Kayak Committee and has written a significant amount of the current curricula with an exciting new emphasis on SUP.  He is a well-known figure within the paddlesports community for his exceptionally versatile skills and wealth of knowledge related to skills instruction, outdoor program development, adventure travel and surfing on Lake Superior.


Pat Kohlin - Sharing Adventure Education Models with Paddling Instructors

Along the journey to becoming competent paddlers somehow we gained our skills and knowledge from various persons we encountered.  Many of them made the learning fun and rewarding. How did they do that?  Answers to that question can be found in the "ACA Canoe-Kayak-SUP-Raft-Rescue Instructor’s Manual”.  It has a unit entitled  "Teaching and Learning Styles”, and at 14 pages, it is by far the largest section in the manual.  Key points from this section will be highlighted using models, landmark studies and pivotal persons in the adventure education field. Whether you are a seasoned paddling instructor or you just recently decided to share what you learned with others, you are sure to come away with a few ideas to spice up your teaching.    

Pat Kohlin is the Sea Kayak and Marketing Coordinator for the University of Minnesota Duluth, Recreational Sports Outdoor Program (UMD-RSOP). He collaborates with an Outdoor Program staff of four to provide college students opportunities to develop as outdoor educators. Pat is an ACA Level 3 Sea Kayak Instructor Trainer and Level 2 SUP Instructor.   


Sam Drevo - 2 Presentations

Philanthropic and Community Development Paddling Pursuits in Oregon

Come meet ACA Whitewater Kayak Instructor Trainer Sam Drevo and watch his multimedia presentation about his river related philanthropic, and community development paddling pursuits in Oregon.  The focus of his presentation will be about the development and history of We Love Clean Rivers (WLCR).  WLCR is a 501(c)3 he co-founded in 2007 to promote boat based river cleanups, and over the past decade has been responsible for engaging over 2,000 people cleaning over 40,000 lbs of trash out of the Clackamas River.   Team River Runner PDX, is another organization that Sam helped develop that focuses on using paddling as a means of healing and therapy for disabled military veterans. Team River Runner PDX was started in Portland in 2007, and has produced several large paddling events that have made a lasting impact in the lives of disabled veterans.  All of these organizations have missions emphasizing paddling as at their core, and are always looking for more talent like YOU!

Slalom Survivor / Go Pro Clinic

Slalom survivor / GoPro clinic: come test your skills with X-US Team kayaker, and ACA instructor trainer Sam Drevo.  This fun event will challenge you with a fun, and exciting skills course designed to focus in on technical paddling skills.  Class II paddling skills are a per-requisite for this workshop.


Leave No Trace –Patrick and TJ Beezley

Enjoying the Outdoors Responsibly  Join the Leave No Trace Traveling Trainers for an interactive presentation and discussion that will focus on the elements of the Leave No Trace minimum impact program.  This session will highlight the Leave No Trace outdoor skills and ethics program, which is applicable to all outdoor enthusiasts and all environments. This national program is administered by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, whose mission is to teach people how to enjoy the outdoors responsibly.  In addition to learning the HOWS and WHYS behind the importance of practicing Leave No Trace, participants will be provided with information on how to easily and effectively integrate Leave No Trace into their daily lives and programs.

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