As the boating safety education program manager, I’ve had a concern for (literally) years that the department was seriously missing a target audience that would benefit tremendously from some sort of formalized boater (safety) education. True enough, the department’s standard, NASBLA approved classroom and Internet based online course was available to anyone that wished to take it. However, the course is tailored for powerboaters, and paddlers weren’t interested. Additionally, paddlers seem to prefer shorter and more hands-on types of training and courses, so aside from the occasional opportunity to talk one-on-one at outreach types of events, we were seldom, if ever, effectively reaching the paddling segment of the state’s boating community. A group I might add that is involved all too much in serious and often fatal boating accidents in Arizona.
As ACA began to disseminate short, canned, easy-to-present flipchart presentations (Paddlesmart from the Start, SmartStart and the like) that agency and volunteer staff could present shore-side and immediately follow up with hands-on experiential flat-water paddling experiences, we began to expand our education efforts. I found this curriculum to be far more effective, professional, credible and educational than what we’d been doing, but I still wasn’t able to reach experienced paddlers. Let alone recruit them as instructors. We were still missing that core group of paddlers with either significant experience or credential to add validation and creditability to our paddling education effort.
Once NASBLA developed the paddling standards and we were able to develop a classroom course, I felt that we had the core elements for an effective and credible program. However we were still unable to develop a cadre of credible instructors. I made the decision early last year to select a core group of existing instructors that are also paddling enthusiasts, and put them through a basic ACA instructor course so we could grow instructors from the inside instead of trying to recruit them from the outside. As word began to spread, I was pleased to see that the agency was able to recruit a few locally known paddling instructors from local organized paddle clubs.
The volunteer instructors identified and selected, the time and place for the course determined, we began to move forward with our plan. In talking about the upcoming instructor training course at the ACA National Paddlesports Conference, Chris (Stec) and Wade (Blackwood) advised me that the ACA had applied for, and received a grant to provide instructor courses to several states for just what Arizona was looking for – introductory paddlesports instructors. We were thrilled to hear that ACA would be arranging for and covering the expense for the course. This meant I could now take the money I’d budgeted for the training, and put it back into boats, equipment and life jackets to be used by our newly certified paddlesports instructors in the agency’s courses.
Of the twelve instructor candidates that participated in the clinic/workshop, ten were certified, and two students are being continued. One needing a bit more work on instructor level paddling skills, and the other requiring a bit more polish on classroom presentation skills. Both of these students will be assisting in future courses to help sharpen their deficiencies. I’ve every confidence they will ultimately pass their requirements and become certified.
The actual result of the training session provided the agency with 10 ACA certified introductory instructors; 3 Into to Canoe – Tandem/Solo, 3 intro to Kayak, and 4 Intro to Canoe – Tandem/Solo & Kayak instructors. As noted above, 2 Intro to Kayak instructors were continued.
The course was great, and that short comment does NOT do it justice. Our ACA Instructor Trainers, Emily King and Pam Dillon, ably assisted by ACA Instructor Virgil Chambers provided insight, enthusiasm, experience and SERIOUS credibility to the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s paddlesports education program. I couldn’t be more satisfied with the training, those that provided it, those that benefited from it or those that will be taught by those that completed it! And I again have to emphasize that while we were going to do the training anyway, before we knew we were about to be the beneficiary of the grant, that allowing us to take advantage of the grant allows us to put that money into more equipment from which the ultimate beneficiary will be the paddling public, and that’s who we’re all out to touch.
Ed Huntsman, Boating & OHV Safety Education Program Manager
Boating Education Administrator