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ACA Update on COVID-19 – May 1, 2020

Friday, May 1, 2020   (11 Comments)
Posted by: Kelsey Bracewell
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ACA Update on COVID-19


May 1, 2020


For ACA members, spring is generally a busy season.  Members are on the water, enjoying warmer temperatures.  Instructors are certified and  updated as they prepare for summer teaching. This year, our elite athletes were training hard, hoping to compete in the Tokyo Olympics and other international competitions. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has changed all of our schedules and plans. Instead of paddling, many ACA members, like many others in the paddling community, are at home practicing social distancing.


ACA’s response to the COVID-19 crisis has been based on our longstanding policy of “education, not regulation.” As an organization, ACA must make decisions about ACA sponsored events. For our members, we want to share accurate information that helps members make well-informed decisions. To that end, we’ve recommended that our members follow guidance from medical professionals and public health experts from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and local health departments. We’ve further sought out guidance specific to paddling from medical professionals and recently formed a medical advisory panel to help guide ACA’s Board of Directors. Researchers continue to learn how to best respond to this crisis but it’s clear the situation remains volatile and uncertain.


Based on what we know now, what the CDC recommends, and on the guidance provided by medical professionals, we will continue to cancel or postpone ACA sponsored events such as team trials until at least June 15th. Public health guidelines vary across the country, but there are clear general guidelines we can follow if we choose to paddle.


  • If you’re sick, stay home and contact your doctor for care
  • If you’re exposed to someone with COVID-19, follow your doctor’s guidance on the proper duration for a quarantine
  • Avoid groups of more than ten people
  • Maintain at least six feet of separation between people at all times.  That may make shuttle and transportation, rafting, and tandem paddling challenging.  Flat water paddling, park and play, and attainments are good options. Walking or bike shuttles are also options
  • Maintain strict hygiene – wash your hands frequently, don’t share food or water containers, and frequently clean surfaces you touch
  • Minimize travel time and distance, and be sure to follow state and local rules for quarantine and isolation if you do travel
  • Paddle well below your skill level to reduce the risk of injury and need for rescue
  • Respect the communities in which we paddle – be sure to not do anything that might stress local healthcare resources. Make sure we’ll be welcome when this crisis resolves


For instructors, and especially instructors teaching for pay, this is a particularly challenging time. ACA leadership is working on a list of practices to help guide instructors as they eventually return to face-to-face teaching.


Some things can easily be taught while maintaining distance. A number of instructors are working on ways to teach through different technology platforms.ACA strongly supports these efforts to provide boating education during these challenging times. However, on water skills training always has the potential to need hands-on rescue, increasing the risk of disease transmission between course participants.


COVID-19 has created changes in our daily life. More changes are likely.  However, it can’t change something most people reading this believe – paddling is fun, and paddling is an important, even vital, part of our lives.  ACA’s leadership team will do everything we can to support fun, safe paddling for the entire ACA family (and if you’re reading this, then you’re a part of that family), and the overall paddling community.


COVID & Responsible Paddling Infographic (PDF / Image File)



ACA Officestaff says...
Posted Wednesday, May 13, 2020
Ian, Benjamin, & North and South Rivers Watershed, the ACA's leadership is continuing to work on more detailed guidelines about safe and responsible paddling during this pandemic. Guidelines of this type take time to properly research, document, seek medical expert consultation, and refinement - and we thank you for your patience as we do our due diligence to provide the absolute best and accurate information possible.
North and South Rivers Watershed Asso. says...
Posted Wednesday, May 13, 2020
Could you offer some guidance on our Paddle America Club insurance coverage, as my non-profit organization shifts our annual on-water paddle fundraiser to one where individuals may paddle the race course at their convenience (over a two month period) and submit their times to enter the competition. All of our current planning is being done to align with CDC and state recommendations. However, liability remains unclear and I have several insurance-related questions regarding this new approach. I have consulted with the Sadler Sports & Recreation Insurance link, but it doesn't address our PAC coverage. Your input will help determine whether or not we'll be able to offer the modified event this year. Thank you!
Benjamin Herman says...
Posted Monday, May 11, 2020
Ian, that's been one of my biggest concerns as well! Even if we reduce the paddling to well below our skill levels, how do we manage that situation when it comes to a basics/beginner class or clinic, if we decide to offer those during these trying times. What is everyone else thoughts on offering intro/beginner clinics and classes (Keeping socially distant)?
Ian Berger says...
Posted Saturday, May 9, 2020
I was wondering if proper safety could even be done if social distancing was a must. If someone is in distress in the water, could you safely assist him/her?
ACA Officestaff says...
Posted Thursday, May 7, 2020
Debra & Benjamin, Our leadership is diligently working on further recommendations and guidelines. We understand that paddlers want to get back to the water as soon as their local health authorities deem it appropriate, and we're doing our absolute best to provide meaningful and accurate information for your use. Thank you for your patience as we work carefully to provide the best possible guidelines for paddlers & paddlesport programs.
Benjamin Herman says...
Posted Thursday, May 7, 2020
I am working to create some general paddle program protocols for COVID-19 for my workplace when we are able to get back into the swing of things. What are some recommended ways to clean hard surfaces such as SUP boards, kayaks, and paddles between offered classes/clinics? Other than the few general guidelines posted above, are there any more that are specifically towards hosting a paddle program?
Debra Fleming says...
Posted Tuesday, May 5, 2020
Well... how would you consider transporting customers in vans? or would you? I am totally befuddled by the ability to operatein this environment. Any and all suggestions are welcome. Thanks ...stuck in the muck in NJ
Carrigan L. Schlemmer says...
Posted Friday, May 1, 2020
Seth, great question! Yes, you are able to request an extension on your certification. Please read this update - From that page, you can access the extension request form. Thanks!
Seth Walton says...
Posted Friday, May 1, 2020
So, my L2 SK ACA Instructor Cert expires at the end of this update is very likely to be cancelled. Is ACA considering alternate update arrangements/methods or extending expiration dates? Thanks!
Kelsey Bracewell says...
Posted Thursday, April 30, 2020
Sean Higgins, the USCG has provided some guidelines for cleaning life jackets. Check it out, here:
Sean Higgins says...
Posted Thursday, April 30, 2020
We hope to resume guided kayak/SUP programs as soon as safely possible. I am hoping to find guidelines for cleaning shared life jackets, as they can't be laundered. They are not something specifically called out on CDC cleaning guidelines.

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Founded in 1880, The American Canoe Association (ACA) is a national nonprofit organization serving the broader paddling public by providing education related to all aspects of paddling, stewardship support to help protect paddling environments, and sanctioning of programs and events to promote paddlesport competition, exploration, and recreation.

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