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FAQ - ACA Instructor Certification
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Q: What is the value of ACA Instructor Certification?

A: For almost 40 years, the ACA has been the leader in paddlesports education.  The ACA's National Paddlesports Instruction Program is widely considered the "Gold Standard" in the U.S. and abroad.  The reasons to pursue certification are vastly different for each Instructor Candidate; however, what every person takes away from the certification workshop is remarkably similar. First, there is simply the experience gained and knowledge shared by fellow candidates throughout the class. A lot of participants say they just want to be a "spongeā€ and absorb teaching ideas, paddling information and skill feedback. Second, through the certification process you will learn a specific and proven set of paddlesports best practices.  The Instructor Trainers will demonstrate and teach a central model to which you can add your own creativity and personality.  With a dedicated Safety Education & Instruction Department and the oversight of the Safety Education & Instruction Council, the ACA has systems in place to appropriately maintain, review, and improve the National Paddlesports Instruction Program.  


Q: In what paddlesport disciplines does the ACA offer Instructor Certification?

A: Instructor Certification Workshops (ICWs) are offered in a variety of craft and venues including:

  • River Canoeing
  • Canoe Touring
  • River Kayaking
  • Coastal Kayaking
  • Surf Kayaking
  • Sit-On-Top Kayaking
  • Rafting
  • Stand Up Paddleboarding
  • Safety & Rescue
  • Prone Paddling
  • Surfski
Q: Are the certification workshops small enough so that I can get adequate personal attention?

A: Certification workshops usually consist of four to ten Instructor Candidates. You'll be given the opportunity to teach and to practice within a group environment yet still benefit from proven student-to-teacher ratios for safety and teaching effectiveness.


Q: What do I have to do to become an ACA Certified Instructor?

A: In order to become an ACA Instructor, you must take both the Instructor Development Workshop (IDW) and the Instructor Certification Exam (ICE) from an Instructor Trainer (IT). These courses can be separate, or held as a joint Instructor Certification Workshop (ICW).  Prior to taking a certification course, all Instructor Candidates must have a current ACA membership. If a level of instructor certification is earned, the new Instructor must then pay the SEIC dues before the certification is issued and valid.  There are no specific ACA course prerequisites for taking an Instructor Certification Workshop (unless otherwise specified on the Instructor Criteria documents); however, participation does not mean certification.   


Q: What are the specific requirements to become a certified ACA Instructor?

A: Instructor criteria for all certification levels and disciplines are available here


Q: Does the ACA require Instructors to maintain any additional certifications?
A: All ACA Instructors are required to obtain and maintain First Aid and CPR certifications appropriate for the age of the course participants and the location / venue of the course.


Q: How can I find an Instructor Certification Workshop in my area?
A: You can search the ACA's online Event Calendar or contact any Instructor Trainer directly under the Find Instruction tab on this website.


Q: How can I be sure I am getting a good Instructor Trainer?
A: All ACA Instructor Trainers have been through a rigorous vetting process which includes being mentored by an Instructor Trainer Educator, a lengthy application, and approval by the SEIC Standards Committee. For more information, please visit:


Q: What is the difference between an Instructor, an Instructor Trainer, and an Instructor Trainer Educator?

A: An Instructor is certified to teach skills courses and assessment courses in their discipline and up to their certified level.  An Instructor Trainer can teach skills courses, assessments, instructor certification workshops, endorsements and instructor updates in their respective disciplines and up to their certified levels.  An Instructor Trainer Educator can teach the same repertoire as an Instructor Trainer but they have taken the additional responsibility of 'mentoring' new Instructor Trainers for the betterment of paddlesports.


Q: What is an Endorsement?
A: A certified ACA Instructor can become endorsed to teach additional, specialized courses. The following endorsements to an instructor's certification are available:

  • Adaptive Paddling
  • Kayak Rolling
  • Kayaking Traditional Skills
  • River Kayaking Day Trip Leader Assessment
  • Coastal Kayaking Trip Leader Assessment
  • River Canoe Day Trip Leading Assessment
  • Canoe Rolling
  • Camping: River Canoe, Touring Canoe, River Kayak, Coastal Kayak 
  • SUP Yoga

Q: What is an Assessment?
A: In addition to skills courses, a certified ACA Instructor can also teach assessment courses up to the level of their certification.  In an assessment course, participants must successfully complete a checklist of skills in order to receive a certificate from the ACA National Office.  


Q: What do all of the Acronyms stand for?

A: The acronyms throughout the literature and website stand for:

  • IDW - Instructor Development Workshop
  • ICE - Instructor Certification Exam
  • ICW - Instructor Certification Workshop (IDW + ICE)
  • I - Instructor
  • IT - Instructor Trainer
  • ITE - Instructor Trainer Educator
  • SEI - Safety Education & Instruction Department (staff)
  • SEIC - Safety Education & Instruction Council

For additional information about ACA instructor certification, please contact the Safety Education & Instruction Department.

ACA Mission

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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