Friday, May 22, 2015

TRUSTing Your Paddling Crew

Blog post by Kelsey Bracewell, our very own ACA Safety Education & Instruction Coordinator. Kelsey is an ACA Level 4: Whitewater Kayaking instructor who has spent many years paddling and teaching on the rivers of the southeast.

'Ladies on the Lower Gauley' event in Summersville, WV.
Paddling clubs/groups are a great way to get connected to other local paddling enthusiasts, to enhance skills and experience by way of other paddlers or instructors, to form deeper connections with the waterways nearby, and to build friendships that can transcend into other areas of life.

Just like other communities that form around outdoor living and sports, paddling groups are an experience all their own; traditions, habits, superstitions, frequenting favorite local spots, and secret club handshakes become common practice of those “in the know.” It is quite a special honor to be accepted into a close knit group of paddlers, and it can be an immense learning and growth experience once dialed in to the knowledge and skills that are exchanged in active paddling groups.

Especially for paddlers who recreate in high intensity venues such as the ocean surf zone, open coastal environments, whitewater rivers, and remote wilderness locations, building and maintaining trust between paddling group members is crucial. In the case of an emergency or extreme situation, the trust and skills of each group member often are put to the test.

Kelsey paddling on the Potomac River, VA with other ACA Instructors Mike Aronoff, Davia Wilson, & Stefan Greene.
Here is a brief T-R-U-S-T acronym representation of things to remember when choosing your TRUSTed paddling crew:

Time: How long have you known and interacted with the members of this group of paddlers? Before entering into a high intensity trip, it is important to have a solid foundation built between group members – and quality relationships take time to establish. Make sure that you are comfortable with each person in the group and have an understanding of how they perform under stress.

Respect: Nothing has more potential to ruin a trip than interpersonal conflict. Even if particular group members have disagreements or “don’t like one another,” it is important to have a mutual shared respect for the talents and contributions of each member of the trip team.

Understanding: The members of ‘inner circle’ clubs often spend enough time together that they begin to understand the way each other think, and the motivations that lead to certain actions. For example, in the case of paddling a challenging whitewater rapid, tight-knit paddling crews have an understanding of each team members’ comfort levels, general paddling style, and have some degree of insight into the types of decisions and routes that other members are likely to take. In the case where communication is difficult but effective performance is required, it is important to have an understanding of the inclinations and preferences of each group member.

Kelsey enjoys leading the ACA Office Staff on paddles down our local Rappahannock River. 
Skills: Before embarking on a challenging or high-risk paddling trip, it is essential to vet the skills and experience of each participating member of the crew. An inexperienced group member may hold the group back from fully enjoying the complexities of the chosen paddling environment, but may also be in need of rescue or assistance that can create an emergency situation. For the chosen venue, be sure that all group members are personally prepared to successfully navigate the conditions.

Turns: Just as in any other life situation, sometimes changes must be made. Often times, to achieve a desirable goal, a 180 degree turn must be initiated. If a particular group member is causing excessive disruptions, if an upcoming trip does not look or feel well organized and safe, or any of the above trust components are not present, it might be time to reevaluate your participation in this crew and/or this particular trip. Confrontation or making hard choices is a very challenging aspect of group membership, but it may make the difference between a successful trip and a misadventure.

Mistakes happen, and near-misses create learning opportunities – the key is to learn from those mistakes and continue to incorporate the lessons learned into your paddling endeavors moving forward. If possible, learn from the mistakes of others in your paddling crew; TRUST each other and continue to build each other up in terms of knowledge, skills, experience, and fun paddling memories.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Looking for Paddlesports Instruction?

Our free Paddle Ready app lets you easily search for ACA instructors in your area! Whether you want to give stand up paddleboarding a try, learn how to roll your kayak, or learn some swiftwater rescue techniques, Paddle Ready will set you up with an ACA instructor who can help you reach your goals. 

The app also lets you create float plans and send them to friends, get river levels and weather forecasting, access a library of paddling videos, and so much more.

Download Paddle Ready for FREE on your iPhone or Android today!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

This is Why I #WearIt

Guest post by ACA Instructor and Arizona State Director Danielle Keil. Danielle is a Level 3: River Kayaking Instructor, Level 2: Essentials of River Canoe Instructor, and a swiftwater tech for state search and rescue. Her favorite place to paddle is the Upper Salt River in Arizona.

I grew up on the river… I swear paddling is in my DNA. Ever since I can remember, I’ve always loved putting on my lifejacket, because it meant that an adventure was soon to follow. Cheers to Dad for a good job teaching me the importance of wearing one (having brightly colored marine animals on it didn’t hurt, either). When I got serious about whitewater, I was in that awkward in-between phase where the youth lifejackets were too small, and the adult sizes were too big. Back then I didn’t have many options, so I spent a whole year paddling in a bulky generic type III. Fast forward almost 20 years later, and my lifejacket is one of my favorite gear items.

Since I never had any aversion to wearing my lifejacket, I find it hard to understand why people stubbornly refuse to wear them. With the technology advancements in the last few years alone, lifejackets are more comfortable than ever and come in a variety of designs and options for you to find the perfect one. 

The first thing I tell my students is to shop around and try on as many different types as you can find. Just because sponsored paddler Joe wears lifejacket X, doesn’t mean it’ll work for you. While an inflatable belt type may work for SUP, it has no place on the river. Like to fish? There’s plenty of fishing lifejackets on the market tailored for you! Don’t be overwhelmed with all the bells and whistles. Just because it has the fancy outlet to charge your jetpack, doesn’t mean you need it. 

Danielle and her pup Max both Wear It!
After a few years and several lifejackets, I found the perfect one, which for me is my Astral Greenjacket. I wear it for everything; SUP, Touring, Whitewater, even Sailing! Here is why I #WearIt. My lifejacket keeps me afloat should I swim (intentional or not…), keeps me warm when it’s cold or windy, protects me from rocks and the occasional bow of my friend’s kayak, works perfectly as a pillow for overnight excursions/nap time, and has turned in to a carryall for my essentials. At any given time, I’ve the following in my lifejacket:

· Watch
· Whistle
· Chapstick and Sunscreen
· Snacks
· CPR Mask and Gloves
· Prusik cord/ Webbing
· Two locking carabiners
· River Knife
· Z-Drag Chart

· Rubber ducky/inflatable beach ball (I'm a big hit with my friends' kids)
· Small ACA Paddle Green Bag

So, why do you #WearIt?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Boating Advisory Council Meeting May 18-19

ACA Chief Operating Officer Chris Stec, along with Russell Farrow of Sweetwater Kayaks and members of the ACA Florida Executive Council, are currently attending the Florida Boating Advisory Council meeting in Crystal River, FL.

The ACA is routinely asked to speak on paddlesport-related public policy issues at both the state and federal level. In this case, the FL Fish and Wildlife Commission asked us to attend the BAC meeting to talk about a range of paddlesport topics. This BAC meeting is focused on human powered recreation. 

Some of the topics Chris Stec plans to address during the meeting include:
  • Nationwide Paddlesport Participation Statistics
  • Paddlesport Fatality Data
  • Pros and Cons from other states in regards to boat/board registration
  • The ‘knowledge based’ and ‘on-water based’ Standard Development Programs
  • The leash/lifejacket debate associated with Stand Up Paddleboards
Russell Farrow, from Sweetwater Kayaks out of St. Petersburg, will be assisting Chris with the on-water portion of the program on Monday afternoon along with other individuals. The presentations, working groups, and public comment portion will take place throughout the day on Tuesday. 

Russell Farrow (Sweetwater Kayaks) & Chris Stec (ACA).
For more information, please visit:

Main FL BAC Website -  
BAC Meeting Agenda & Minutes -

Monday, May 18, 2015

Camp Cup Challenge 2015

The Camp Cup is a the world's largest youth paddling festival, with more than 150 young paddlers coming together from summer camps from all over Western North Carolina.

The ACA is proud to sponsor this event at the Nantahala Outdoor Center July 13 & 14, 2015. Hope to see you there!

For more information please click here

Safe Boating Week Twitter Party - You're Invited!

Join us on Tuesday, May 19 at 3pm EDT for a #SafeBoatWeek Twitter Party. 

Follow @BoatingCampaign and @americancanoe, and be ready to answer questions to win great prizes! 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Happy Stewardship Saturday

It's that time of the week again! Stewardship Saturday is when we shine a spotlight on organizations and individuals working hard to protect our waterways and make the world a better place to paddle. 

Currently, we are focusing on each of our 2015 Club Fostered Stewardship (CFS) Grant recipients. These organizations are doing great work across the country, and we hope they inspire you to take action in your own communities to improve your local waterways.

Through funds provided by L.L. Bean, the ACA's Club Fostered Stewardship (CFS) Program has provided nearly $130,000 to over 135 different stewardship initiatives since its inception thirteen years ago. 

Today, please join us in recognizing Eaton Rapids Adventure Club, part of the Eaton Rapids Public Schools System of Michigan. The schools provide high school completion opportunities to disenfranchised youth within the community.

Eaton Rapids Adventure Club plans to use its CFS grant funds to organize a clean-up of the Grand River. The participants will complete two basic ACA quick start courses before safely and effectively removing debris from the Grand River waterway using kayaks and canoes. 

Inspired to start your own local stewardship project? Apply for the CFS grant next year! Get more information here. Or just order yourself a Paddle Green Bag and take it with you the next time you hit the water. 

Paddle on, paddle green!