Monday, August 31, 2015

Combining Passions: How Stand Up Paddle Programs Strengthen Core Presentation Skills

By Tim Chandler, ACA SUP Instructor

Back in 2013, two notable things happened for me. First, I finished my Australian gig and took a job in back in the US technology sales/market where I began presenting almost daily (even if sometimes just to small groups). Second, I ran across a special report by the Outdoor Foundation that showed the sport of stand up paddling as the fastest growing water sport in the world. Excited to share the stoke I'd found with SUP surfing and potentially combine it with a my love of training and presenting technical content, I decided to put my water skills to the test to become an SUP instructor. 

Through multiple experiences, I eventually settled on the American Canoe Association SUP program as one of the oldest and most recognized organizations in the USA, set my educational goals, and speak to you now as one of a handful of Level 3 SUP Surf Instructors specializing in surf zone skills. 

During the last few years as an ACA SUP instructor/guide, the framework I've learned from the ACA instructor training programs surprised me as incredibly applicable in my role as a technologist and presenter. 

Here are four things I've learned on the water that have fundamentally impacted how I present technology to technical audiences in my day job.

1. Use a framework that ensures you 'deliver' what you present.

People learn in very different ways, and a good presentation should allow for content consumption by all kinds of learners.When delivering skills training we learn as instructors and presenters that groups we are speaking to contain many different types of learners/listeners. The ability to fully relay information to a "doer" at the same time we're delivering information to a "thinker" takes time & practice, but there are frameworks that we can follow to ensure we present in ways that are 'consumable' for each type of learner. I find frameworks like the IDEAS method (Introduce, Demonstrate, Explain, Activities, Summarize) used for skills training & development extrapolate well to technical presentations. This type of interactive presentation requires more than slideware and will need solid story telling with examples. I have found that adding interactive polling, listening for feedback and engaging audience members to speak beneficial. Even asking for feedback and physically 'pursuing' those who nod their heads in agreement to state why they're agreeing will grab the attention of listeners you may lose with even the most passionate 'flat' presentation of slides. Obviously, venue matters - but the IDEAS framework elements are things we do in SUP Instructor training or while training the lay person... and it's a great experiment crossing IDEAS into daily presentations even to groups of 100+. Just be prepared to reward a few participants with gift cards to Starbucks or Pete's Coffee for speaking up on the spot if you hit 'pursuit mode'. The first time you hand one of those puppies out, make a show, and you'll see other heads start to nod and hands going up. After all, technical people love their coffee... use the cards to teach your audience how to engage you!

2. People will remember a fraction of what you 'say'.

A good rule of thumb, people remember 20% of what they hear, 40% of what you show them, 60% of what they do, and 80% of what they discover on their own. It's clearly illustrated in teaching on the water SUP skills to adults, and you can cut the metrics in half or more when teaching kids! So how do you ensure that individual people actually digest the content you're delivering? We talked about delivery above - but remember to keep things short and simple and tie them to easy takeaways and key points. If your venue allows you can use stories with open ended questions like "Who has a story, where somewhere in the story arc, You were left sleeping on the data center floor during a SEV1 event?" That'll get techies talking, as we all love to compare battle scars. Leaving room in your presentation for a natural interaction to occur is important. Let the audience talk if the venue allows, or even push your perceived boundaries of the venue, ensuring that you tie any audience comments back to your key points. You'll find yourself creeping past the 20% rule into 40-60% as they show and tell and recall what it is they "do" or "did" that illustrates your points. If you can leave them with clear calls to action and really lead your audience down the path to simple discovery, you'll have a much richer experience in any follow up as they'll recall more of what you presented, and why.

3. Share the "A-HA!" Moments

A great way to close a training session or presentation is to discuss the "A-HA!" moments - or point to one of your own as you've learned during your time presenting to them/others. Getting someone to state their "discovery" moments in our rule of thumb above really 'seats' the information in their minds, and gives you +80% likelihood they'll remember. In skills training with stand up paddle boarding, we as instructors hear things like "I had no idea I was bending that way..." or "I realized I need to slow down and focus on efficiency in my paddle stroke." In technology, I recall a time where one of my early mentors chided that I was a 'bulldog' with technical problems grabbing on and not letting go. I was forgetting I have a team of knowledge behind me... that I need to know when to slow down or stop, and ask for help. That was an A-HA! moment in my career (thanks @ChristianSpence). Work to create AHA! moments with your audience as you present that you can recall later with them -- you can see these moments when they happen if you're actively watching and listening to how your audience received your information part by part. Recall that at the end, or even better, have them recall it for you. Retention rates will climb.

4. Check or Change Your Passion

Leverage your experience and be a story teller, but be sure your own experiences relate well to what you're discussing or don't discuss it. Example: Don't ask for people to discuss the pain of a massive security breach if you've never experienced one. It's like listening to someone describe riding big waves when their language clearly indicates they've never dropped in over 3 foot. We all have our stories, but when building connections and using empathy as a tool during your presentation, you must be genuine to achieve any lasting impression. In my experience, it's temping when in a group of highly skilled ACA Instructor Trainers to exaggerate the story when comparing scars/stories/lessons learned. It's even easier when talking to students on the water: "Oh, I paddled 300 miles one time....". It's an easy mistake with lasting consequences. Similar pressures exists in the tech world, where we love our feeds and speeds, specs and metrics, and complex hybrid IT solutions. Rather than contribute at all, maybe lean on your audience's experience if you can and continually point to their examples. Make your passion in teaching the "guided discovery" and building context for audience members to apply the knowledge they've remembered or discovered on their own during the presentation - and they'll remember you as the catalyst.

I love that formal business technology training and presenting align so well with skills training, skill development and coaching. What an excuse to do two things I love to do. In technology terms, it's an excellent mash-up of passions and I utilize components from both experiences when training or presenting to others. In surf terms, I can sum it up in a word: "cosmic." If you're not sure what I mean, come hit the water with me for a SUP tour or a surf.*

I firmly believe that through my work with the ACA I'm getting a boost on both sides of the lifestyle/career coin lately, utilizing skills training methods discovered on the water or in the waves over the years to deliver technical presentations in the board room to great effect. Having been in martial arts and other activities over the years where I worked my way up to training others, I've experienced similar things in those areas... and maybe you have too? Stories and experiences welcome!

It occurs to me I've given away the method a bit here and that maybe any mystique I could have created will be gone the next time I present? You can call me out for applying the IDEAS method when you hear it - but first you'll have to let me take the stage!

* I provide high-end adventure SUP instruction tours in the US Southwest when not working on complex Hybrid IT / Cloud Visio diagrams. Interested in a unique corporate retreat / private learning experience? Let's hit the water in Northern Arizona or the beaches of Southern California. Fair warning, I can't promise not to talk too much.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Going Paddling This Weekend?

If you're looking for safety information, we've got you covered. Check out all the free educational resources available on our website, and be sure to share this link with a friend.

Whether you want to watch a video to brush up on your basic knowledge, print out a brochure with your family and friends, or download our free Paddle Ready app, it's all here!

Stay safe out there this weekend everyone. And as always, if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact our office.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Our Love For Public Lands Will Never Expire

On September 30, 2015, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is set to expire. Unless we succeed in convincing Congress to renew this fund for future generations, we will lose one of the most powerful conservation tools in our arsenal.

Although LWCF has protected public lands in 50 states, few Americans are familiar with it. LWCF ensures that a portion of the revenue from offshore oil and gas drilling on public land goes back to conservation efforts. It is a simple idea that ensures balance between development and conservation. LWCF has been used since 1965 to create new parks in urban environments, complete national parks, and protect recreation across the country.

How does LWCF work? It provides funding to acquire land from willing sellers and make it part of local, state, or national public lands. Over the life of the program, LWCF has funded critical protections for river corridors in places like West Virginia’s Gauley and New Rivers and helped establish public river access points for canoers, kayakers, and rafters in places like Washington’s White Salmon River. LWCF has made possible thousands of miles of singletrack for mountain bikers and hikers, including at areas like the world-class trail system at Lory State Park near Fort Collins, Colorado, and Toro Park, California, home to challenging trails and spectacular views of Monterey Bay. LWCF has funded close-to-home recreation opportunities in all fifty states and every congressional district.

LWCF will expire on September 30. Unless Congress acts soon to renew LWCF, we all lose this important tool for protecting America’s public waterways where we love to paddle.

Read the ACA's letter of support with Outdoor Alliance, and take action to tell Congress to reauthorize LWCF to improve outdoor recreation nationwide. 

#stewardship #LWCF

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

New ACA Staff Member

Please join us in welcoming Whit Overstreet to the ACA Staff!

Based out of Portland, OR, Whit is the ACA's Public Policy Chief. We're thrilled to have him as a part of our team. 

To learn more about Whit's background, please visit his staff bio page

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Developing Lifejackets Specifically for Individuals with Adaptive Needs

The ACA is proud to partner with U.S. Sailing and the C. Thomas Clagett, Jr. Memorial Clinic & Regatta on a Bonnell Cove Foundation grant program to assist individuals of all abilities with lifejacket performance and designs.

If you are, or know of someone who is a paddler with a physical or cognitive disability, please consider taking a few moments to fill out this short online survey:

Survey deadline is Friday, September 11th.

The next phase of this grant program will be to conduct on-water testing of various lifejackets with the ultimate goal of recommending performance improvements to manufacturers and regulatory entities.

Thank you for your time and consideration of providing valuable feedback for this project.

Monday, August 24, 2015

ACA Event Calendar

Looking for paddling events and classes near you? Check out the ACA Event Calendar

Whether you want to compete in a race, participate in an intro-level course, or attend an adaptive paddling workshop, you'll find a wide range of events on our website to boost your skills while having fun. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Paddle vs. Prop: Three Safety Tips for Stand Up Paddlers When Boats are Around

From our friends at BoatUS

When it comes to enjoying the outdoors, stand up paddleboarding (SUP) has led the nation in growth with a 38 percent increase in participation from 2013 to 2014, according to the Outdoor Foundation’s 2015 Outdoor Recreation Participation Topline Report. But as these human-powered watercraft become more common in crowded harbors, busy waterfronts and other navigable waterways, sharing the water with both recreational boats and commercial vessels requires paddlers to up their safety game. With many of its half-million members owning both boats and paddlecraft, BoatUS offers its unique look at the issue with three easy to remember safety rules for stand up paddlers.

When is a paddleboard a boat? 
According to the US Coast Guard an SUP is considered a “vessel,” so it’s important to understand certain boating responsibilities. Follow all local navigation rules and use common sense when paddling around other vessels that may not be as maneuverable or are restricted by their draft or size. Generally, a paddleboard is more easily able to turn and stop whereas larger craft take time and distance to stop. Typically, it is safest to pass astern of other vessels and let them cross in front of you. Try to avoid heavy boat traffic and pick a route away from congestion.

Practice defensive paddling: 
Defensive paddling is preventing collisions and mishaps in spite of the actions of others around you. Remember boats may travel faster than you do and can carry a large wake. Some boats have awkward blind spots that prevent good visibility at certain trim angles so don’t assume a boater can always see you, especially at dawn or dusk. Wear bright colors and wear your life jacket with a whistle attached. Falling in, or swimming in heavily trafficked areas can lead to the start of a bad chain of events. In narrow channels stay as far right as possible and avoid crossing busy lanes. If you must, cross perpendicular to the lane so you get across quickly. If in a group, cross as a compact group – spreading out in a line like a bunch of baby ducks hinders traffic and increases the chance for a collision.

Don’t leave home without it: 
A life jacket is the minimum gear – but it only works if you wear it so don’t leave it strapped to the board. If you’re concerned about comfort, take a look at high-tech, low-maintenance belt-pack inflatables or the newest vest designs that offer complete freedom of movement. Add a whistle - it will always beat yelling at the top of your lungs. Avoid paddling at night, but if you must, you’ll have to show a white light in sufficient time to avoid a collision. A flashlight or headlamp meets this requirement; a glow stick does not. And finally, a safety leash is most helpful in preventing an awkward and potentially dangerous separation from your board.

If you’d like to learn more about boating safely, visit the BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water at

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Pierce Wins Paracanoe Gold at World Championships

By Aaron Mann

The 2015 ICF Canoe Sprint and Paracanoe World Championships began on Wednesday with the Paracanoe events taking center stage. Team USA got off to a strong start in these championships with two-time World Championship Medalist Anja Pierce (Pittsford, NY) winning a gold medal in the Women's VL3 200m event. 

Starting the day in kayak where she qualified for tomorrow's Women's KL3 200m Final, Pierce switched to her canoe for the afternoon's Women's VL3 200m final. After previously winning World Championship silver and bronze medals in this event, Pierce was able to complete her collection today by winning gold. Joining her on the podium was Frances Bateman (Great Britain) and Aline Souza Lopes (Brazil).

Elsewhere, three-time Paralympian Alana Nichols (Farmington, NM) and Ashley Thomas (Durham, NC) took to the water in the Women's KL2 200m. Thomas, an experienced international competitor and adaptive sports advocate, was able to advance through heats, but a 9th place finish in the semifinal was not enough to push her into the final. After winning a bronze medal at the World Cup earlier this season, Nichols put together a solid performance, finishing 9th in the Final of her first Paracanoe World Championships.

Ann Yoshida (Mililani, HI) finished 2nd in the Women's VL1 200m Final, though no medals were awarded since there were not enough competitors to make it a world championship event. 

In the men's canoe races, Danzig Norberg displayed his speed in the Men's VL2 200m where he won the semifinal, advancing to tomorrow's final. Jamey Parks (Forest, VA) finished 4th in the semifinal of the Men's VL3 200m, but was unable to advance to the Final.

With a 7th place finish in the semifinal, Nikiha Miller (Virginia Beach, VA) advances on to the Men's KL3 200m Final C. Meanwhile, Ryan Padilla finished 24th overall in the Men's KL2 200m event.

Tomorrow's schedule features the remaining finals for Paracanoe and the start of competition for the Canoe Sprint events.

For more information, please refer to the links below:
Live Results
Paracanoe Classification System

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Threatened River: Rescuing the Yellow Dog

By Aaron Erdrich

The Yellow Dog River near Marquette, Michigan is in danger as a mining company tries to lease 40 acres in the river's headwaters.

The Yellow Dog is a remote stretch of whitewater, winding through Michigan to Lake Superior, going over many extremely beautiful waterfalls and slides. It is a favorite run of many kayakers as well as the tiny community of hardcore rafters that call the upper Midwest home. Rapids are named after dog-like qualities like "Eye of the Dog,” "Dog Leg,” "Wag Your Tail,” and "Junk Yard Dog," among several others. 

Michigan's Upper Peninsula is rich in heavy metals like iron ore, copper and nickel. The Eagle Mine is located two miles away from the Yellow Dog, and they are trying to secure the lease for the land to further study the copper ore body underneath the ground. This tract of land is currently owned by the state of Michigan.

The Yellow Dog watershed possesses a unique ecosystem which mining could jeopardize. It is one of only three rivers left in the Upper Peninsula that support the rare Coaster Brook Trout, a rare species of brook trout that spend most of their life in Lake Superior, migrating upstream to spawn and lay eggs. All of the 3000 miles of Lake Superior shoreline was once the home to the Coaster. Now they are limited to the Yellow Dog, east fork of the Huron, and the Salmon Trout River. Pushed to the edge of extinction by overfishing, deforestation, and mining waste, some experts say fewer than 400 breading coasters exist today. However, it is has not been classified as an endangered species as of yet.

The environmental coalition group "Save the Wild U.P." says that the proposed mining area is not only threatening local wildlife, it also contains several historical sites. The group has been fighting the Eagle Mine for years. In 2014, after the mine proposed developing a piece of property along the Yellow Dog, the group demanded the Department of Natural resources hold a public hearing. Save the Wild U.P. says that the mining leases only serve a short-term goal which mainly benefit the mining interests, and in response the department sent out form letters and approved the lease without holding the hearings. 

The group claims the DNR is only serving as a land broker to Lundin Mining, operators of Eagle Mine, and this is just the beginning. In the long run it will be the public who ends up paying the price for mining with inadequate permit processes, proper monitoring processes, and enforcement.

A 30-day period to submit comments on this proposed mining site to the DNR comes to a end on the 26th of August, 2015. If the DNR approves the lease, it will be issued by mid October.

You can submit by email to: Karen Maidlow, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, at, or mail directly to Karen Maidlow, Property Analyst, Minerals Management, DNR, P.O. Box 30452, Lansing, MI 48909.

For more info, visit:

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Veterans Kayak Football Challenge

By Ryan Pepper, ACA Ohio State Director

On August 9th the American Canoe Association (ACA) and Team River Runner (TRR) joined forces to put together the first-ever outdoor Veterans Kayak Football Tournament in Canton, Ohio at Willowdale Lake. The purpose of the tournament was to honor our Veterans in a fun and unique way while at the same time demonstrating the benefits of paddlesports to a wider audience. 

Approximately 40 Veterans made the trip to Canton from six different states, as far away as North Carolina. Some of the men and woman were highly skilled kayakers while others were new to the sport.

Team River Runner is an organization of Veterans helping Veterans through kayaking. Many of their members have disabilities due to their service to our country. These disabilities include things like PTSD, amputations, blindness, and paralysis, although you could never tell once they’re out kayaking. 

We set up two fields that were approximately the size of an Olympic pool and divided the Veterans up into eight teams and two divisions. We played a round robin style tournament with the winners of each division playing in a championship game. Ultimately the TRR team from Walter Reed Hospital beat team RamRod, the TRR Team from Shepherdstown West Virginia. It was a close contest with Walter Reed scoring in the last two minutes to win it, 4 - 3.

We accomplished the goals we set for the Kayak Football Tournament, and more importantly, I believe the Veterans who came to Willowdale Lake felt honored to be there, and those of us there were honored by their presence. Many who came to watch had their eyes opened to a whole new world of paddlesports. 

What I didn't expect was the effect the tournament had on everyone there. It demonstrated the power of paddling: the power this sport has to bring people together from all walks of life, inspiring laughter and good times. The tournament demonstrated how paddling can be a tool in healing the human spirit. Holding a kayak football tournament like this will never change the world, but for one day it made a lot of people smile, laugh, and care about the sacrifices others have made for them.

As Joe Mornini, Executive Director of Team River Runner, said at the end of the event, “We put a lot of butts in boats today and that's always a good thing.” Thanks, Joe. The day was a great success thanks to your efforts.

We can't wait to do it all again next year! 

Interested in learning more about adaptive paddling? Click here to check out the ACA's program. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

ACA Adaptive Paddling Program

Since 1990, the ACA has been at the forefront of adaptive paddling issues, technology, and trends. ACA’s Adaptive Paddling Workshops have reached thousands of paddlesports instructors and students across the country by providing cutting-edge teaching methods and equipment modification techniques. 

ACA Adaptive endorsed instructors can now be found at almost every adaptive sport discipline across the country, and are continuing to make a splash in the paddling community.

For more information on how to get involved in this life-changing program, please visit or contact our Safety, Education, Instruction & Outreach Department

Friday, August 14, 2015

Happy Friday

Need a little inspiration to start your weekend? 

Emily Jackson is a 2x World Champion Freestyle Kayaker, 7x Teva Mountain Game winner, mother, wife, and team manager for her family's company Jackson Kayak. In this TED Talk, she shares her secrets to becoming a champion and developing an Uncompromising voice in the world.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Don't Let the LWCF Expire

On September 30, 2015, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is set to expire. Unless we succeed in convincing Congress to renew this Fund for future generations, we will lose one of the most powerful conservation tools in our arsenal.

Although LWCF has protected public lands in 50 states, few Americans are familiar with it. LWCF ensures that a portion of the revenue from offshore oil and gas drilling on public land goes back to conservation efforts. It is a simple idea that ensures balance between development and conservation. LWCF has been used since 1965 to create new parks in urban environments, complete national parks, and protect recreation across the country.

How does LWCF work? It provides funding to acquire land from willing sellers and make it part of local, state, or national public lands. Over the life of the program, LWCF has funded critical protections for river corridors in places like West Virginia’s Gauley and New Rivers and helped establish public river access points for canoers, kayakers, and rafters in places like Washington’s White Salmon River. LWCF has made possible thousands of miles of singletrack for mountain bikers and hikers, including at areas like the world-class trail system at Lory State Park near Fort Collins, Colorado, and Toro Park, California, home to challenging trails and spectacular views of Monterey Bay. LWCF has funded close-to-home recreation opportunities in all fifty states and every congressional district.

LWCF will expire on September 30. Unless Congress acts soon to renew LWCF, we all lose this important tool for protecting America’s public waterways where we love to paddle.

Read the ACA's letter of support with Outdoor Alliance, and take action to tell Congress to reauthorize LWCF to improve outdoor recreation nationwide. 

#stewardship #LWCF

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Welcome to Our Newest Staff Member, Marcel Bieg

We have a new addition to the ACA Staff. Please join us in welcoming Marcel Bieg to the team! 

Marcel is the new Western States Outreach Director & Grant Manager. 

Marcel has been instructing and guiding for over 15 years from Alaska to the Florida Keys. Originally from Toronto, Canada, Marcel holds a M.S. in Experiential Education from Minnesota State University, Mankato along with Several Instructor Certifications from the AMGA, ACA, AIARE, LNT, ACCT and the PSIA. 

Marcel has a wide range of experience in the outdoor field and has been employed in several outdoor professions including Higher Education, U.S. Military, K12 and Expedition Education. Marcel is also part of several non-profit organizations that focus on Resource Protection and Outdoor Education. He holds numerous ACA certifications, including Instructor Trainer in Whitewater Rafting and Whitewater Kayaking. He is also a certified Instructor in SUP, Surf Kayak, Coastal Kayak, a Level 5: Advanced Swiftwater Rescue Instructor and he holds the Adaptive Paddling Endorsement.

To learn more about Marcel, or to view his contact information, please click here

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

#WearIt: Lifejackets For All

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? Tell us in the comments!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Want to Work in the Outdoor Recreation Industry?

The ACA Career Center Website is now better than ever! Use it as a one-stop-shop to find awesome jobs all over the country at places like REI, the U.S. National Whitewater Center, and more. 

Visit to find your dream job in the outdoor recreation industry today. You can even sign up for email notifications so you know when new jobs get posted to the site! 

Friday, August 7, 2015

An Easy Way to Support Paddlesports

Amazon Smile is the same Amazon site you know, with one difference--it donates a portion of proceeds to the charity of your choice. 

As a 501(c)(3) organization, the ACA is registered through the site, so all you have to do is start shopping from this link and Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price of your eligible purchases to the ACA. 

We recommend bookmarking the above link so you can easily access it every time you need to make an Amazon purchase. 

Please don't hesitate to contact us with any questions. Thank you for your support. Together, we are making the world a better place to paddle!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Freestyle Canoeing: A National Activity Committee of the ACA

Members of the FreeStyle community enjoy sharing--through competition, demonstrations and teaching--the basic skills used to efficiently and gracefully paddle both tandem and solo canoes.

FreeStylers refer to paddle skill development as obedience training for the canoe. With the development of proper paddle handling and placement, they promise that any canoe will learn to respond with precision and grace.

Freestyle Canoeing is an activity committee of the American Canoe Association. Each year members of the committee organize symposiums and workshops around the country. Each of these events include:

· Paddling instruction for the Novice

· Tuning classes for the experienced

· Special skills development workshops

· Demonstrations and Competitions in both Solo and Tandem Canoeing

Classes are small, with no more than 5 students per instructor. Instructors are all ACA certified.

Coming up soon:

The Midwest Canoe Symposium

September 11-13, 2015

Camp Butler - Peninsula, Ohio

The Pine Barrens Functional FreeStyle Workshop

October 16–18, 2015

Camp Ockanickon, Medford, New Jersey

For more information, please visit: 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Recap: ACA Whitewater Open Canoe Downriver National Championships

by Zane Havens, ACA Stewardship Coordinator and whitewater open canoe downriver competitor. 

The mighty Penobscot River runs through the center of Maine, originating near Mt. Katahdin, Maine’s tallest mountain, and entering the Atlantic Ocean amidst the rocky islands southwest of Acadia National Park. During its journey to the sea, the river runs through the towns of Old Town, Bangor, and through the heart of the Penobscot Nation’s ancestral territory. The river is truly abundant with environmental, historical, and cultural resources.

This year, the ACA Whitewater Open Canoe Downriver National Championships were held on the Penobscot River as part of the first annual Penobscot River Whitewater Nationals Regatta. Competitors who paddled the 9.5 mile stretch from Old Town to Bangor, ME encountered four major rapids, the occasional Bald Eagle, and the remains of the logging industry that was once booming in the area. However, 4 years ago, paddlers would have also come across two features of the Penobscot River that are non-existent today: the Great Works and Veasie dams. Constructed in the around the turn of the 20th century, these dams were at one time crucial to central Maine’s industry, but had since become antiquated and non-functional. Additionally, the dams blocked the passage of salmon, shad, and other sea-run fish to their historic spawning grounds.

In the summer of 2012, the removal process of the Great Works Dam was initiated. A year later, Veasie dam was removed. The project was accomplished by the Penobscot River Restoration Trust, a group of organizations that that banded together with the goal of returning the Penobscot to its original free-flowing state. The trust managed to realize this goal by simply buying the antiquated dams; once they were the rightful owners of the dams, removal was made simple. This opened over 1000 miles of the Penobscot River to fish passage and exposed rapids that hadn’t been traversed in almost 150 years. 

The Penobscot Nation, one of the organizations who spearheaded this project, has a keen interest in the success of this project. A riverine people, the Penobscot traditionally relied heavily on fish caught in the Penobscot River. When fish were blocked by dams and not able to spawn in the Penobscot, the Penobscot Nation was robbed of this important facet of their culture. Furthermore, the section of river between Old Town and Bangor is historically significant as a travel corridor for the ancestors of the Penobscot Nation; the first Penobscot leader documented by European explorers, Chief Bashabez, paddled these rapids to meet with French explorer Samuel du Champlain. The return of the Penobscot to its pre-industrial state has allowed for the Penobscot Nation to continue to pass on the traditions and history that help to define their heritage.

The evening before the first competition, an elder from the Penobscot Nation held a traditional smudging ceremony, waving an eagle’s wing to spread the smoke from burning sweet grass around a circle of participants. This served as a welcome to the race participants, as well as a celebration of the Penobscot River and the Penobscot Nation. Following the ceremony, speakers held lectures dealing with the Penobscot way of life, the history of the Penobscot River, and other subjects.

While the competitors at the Penobscot River Whitewater Nationals Regatta were all competing to win their respective races, it was clear that the real victory was that they were paddling a section of river that would not have existed in a free-flowing state if it wasn’t for the efforts of the Penobscot River Restoration Trust. The race in many ways was an environmental and cultural triumph, and the ACA is proud to be the sanctioning organization of such an event.

For more information on the Penobscot River Whitewater Nationals Regatta, please visit

To learn more about the work that the Penobscot River Restoration Trust has accomplished, please visit

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

ACA Adaptive Paddling Workshop - A Student's Perspective

Hi, my name is Mike Adams. Four days of a physical and emotional roller coaster ride, and I’ve safely landed a new person. Please allow me to walk you (or paddle you) through the process of change that occurred over the four-day ACA Adaptive Paddling Workshop hosted by Venture Outdoors in conjunction with Dynamic Paddlers.

Rewind to the day before the class; as the Senior Site Supervisor of Kayak Pittsburgh I had a lot of expectations to live up to.

Day 1 was all classroom. We spent most of the day learning the core concepts of adaptive paddling. I drank WAY too many cups of coffee but enjoyed all of the new ideas that were introduced.

Day 2 we were off to North Park Lake where we were dressed to get wet! As part of the workshop, we learned how to safely rescue people who have limited to no use of their arms or legs. At the end of the day, we were assigned groups and given information on the participants we would be working with over the next two days. The instructors picked me to be the lead of our group– talk about added pressure! My group was the only group of three, and we were the “Dream Team” with Equipment & Facilities Manager, Jim Smith, Volunteer Trip Leader and Nurse, Mary Lynn Marsico, and myself– Mr. Kayak Pittsburgh. If we couldn’t do it, nobody could! The information presented to us about our participant was definitely eye opening. The challenges that faced us seemed impossible to overcome. At times, the thought crossed my mind, “is it even possible to get this person on the water?”

Day 3 we met the participants. I was excited and nervous. I’m not used to being around people with disabilities and felt uncomfortable at first. My participant showed up with a shirt saying “10 fingers are overrated." With a sense of humor like that, I knew we would get along. 

The “Dream Team” sat down with the participant and, after an hour and a half of figuring out what the participant needed, we got to work constructing a custom setup to make it possible to paddle. Oh yeah, did I tell you all we had to work with was three types of foam, some bike inner tubes and some duct tape? We also had a three hour time limit, half of which was burned just talking! One at a time, we knocked out all issues that faced our participant. With some scrambling at the end, we finished the entire roll of duct tape and our build. We built foot rests, behind the knee supports, compound sloped seat, and even custom paddle grips with a little help from the head instructor.

Next, we went to the swimming pool for a test to see how our new kayak would hold together. Our participant had been in a wheelchair the entire time up until this point. I’m a tall guy and it was such a joy to spend time standing with my participant! Water really is the great equalizer!! The participant was a quick study in the pool. She made it easy with the help of my team to get her paddling. 

Day 4 was the final test. I was SUPER excited for this day. All the hard work was done. Three days of practice and testing for this. Now we relax and do what we are supposed to do: HAVE FUN!! Despite the rain, we got to the North Park Lake bright and early. Just like we practiced, the real world was no different than the dress rehearsal. Some minor modifications needed to be made on-the-fly but all-in-all our participant was a lean-mean-kayaking-machine.  

Throughout this process I grew not only as a kayaker/coach/outdoor enthusiast but also as an athlete and person. It taught me that any physical issues that I face are miniscule. Pure passion and heart can overcome even the biggest of hurdles.

To learn more about ACA adaptive paddling opportunities, visit

Monday, August 3, 2015

Swiftwater Rescue Conference Registration Opens Tomorrow!

There are only 100 spaces available for the Swiftwater Rescue Conference happening this fall. Registration opens tomorrow, August 4th, so mark your calendar and reserve a spot before it fills up!

Check out the conference tracks & topics as well as the impressive list of presenters

Visit for more details on how to register.