Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Cultivating Inclusive Culture in Paddlesports

By Joe Moore, Adaptive Expeditions Founding Executive Director and ACA Adaptive Paddling Committee Chair

Have you ever walked into a place and had the overwhelming feeling that you can be yourself without anyone pre-judging anything about you? Without knowing why or consciously thinking about it, you just feel good…. like you really fit in.

Have you ever felt the opposite sensation? Imagine how powerful that sensation could be if there really was something different about you.

According to the United Nations (2), more than 650 million individuals across the globe live with a disability. According to the U.S. Census, if individuals with disabilities were a formally recognized minority group, then it would be the largest by far in America with around 58 million individuals.

Cultivating inclusive culture presents a long­standing challenge in our society. First, the goal was gender inclusion, then race inclusion. Huge strides have been made toward gender and race social equality (although neither effort is anywhere near complete). Unfortunately, progress toward creating a culture of inclusion for individuals with disabilities lags behind most other social change.

All organizations express a culture. Organiza­tional cultures can empower employees, cus­tomers and members – or not. Organizations outwardly express culture with subtle nu­ances: attitude, voice, persona, mannerisms, habits (like smiling and laughing), etc. These often-subconscious subtleties, taken collec­tively, likely determine more than any other single factor, whether individuals with disabili­ties (or any other group) will enjoy their expe­rience and want to return to a program. 

Recognizing the need and understanding how to create a culture of inclusion presents one of the greatest challenges in the world of adap­tive paddling. Non-inclusive culture is a bar­rier to paddlesports program integration that stands more dauntingly than other barriers. No technology will overcome this barrier. No simple prescription exists.

Rarely, if ever, would someone or an organi­zation simply deny participation to a person with a disability who can safely participate. Today, discrimination occurs much more sub­tly. For example, the United Nations has rec­ognized:

[People with disabilities] can be excluded by other types of barriers, for example oral communication which ignores the needs of the hearing impaired and written information which ignores the needs of the visually im­paired. Such barriers are the result of igno­rance and lack of concern; they exist despite the fact that most of them could be avoided at no great cost by careful planning (2).

Simple mechanical rules like implementing assistive technologies, using person-first ter­minology, maintaining programming flexibil­ity, emphasizing abilities, avoiding the word “handicapped”, and other easily applied rules can go a long way towards projecting inclusive culture. However, these simple rules are only a part of an equation for inclusion. And, to be honest, they can also provide a political-cor­rectness mask for an underlying organizational culture that is not inclusive.

An organization can follow every best practice and still not convey that welcoming, empow­ering feeling. If taking time to build adapta­tions before the start of a kayaking program is really not worth the extra hour of staff time, that reality will ooze through the orga­nization’s pores. If staff have serious doubts whether any individual should take off their prosthetic legs and go canoeing, the lack of education will be unavoidably obvious. If an organization measures the bottom-line only in dollar signs, that value-system cannot be hidden. 

An organizational culture that creates a wel­coming, inclusive feeling emanates from the hearts and minds of individuals. A smile, excitement, and positive energy always shine through. If someone really wants to be inclu­sive, but finds himself or herself paralyzed by the fear of saying or doing the “wrong thing,” that lack of experience will be obvious, but, more importantly, so will the underlying drive for self-improvement. An underlying drive for self-improvement coupled with smiles, excite­ment, and positive energy makes “saying or doing the wrong thing” easily forgivable.

Individuals and organizations must not just be willing, but they must really want to under­take extra effort to break down barriers. They have to want it strongly enough to make small sacrifices of time, be willing to risk embarrass­ment of saying or doing the “wrong thing,” be willing to absorb the cost of a few extra staff hours each year, and they have to feel good about making those choices.

How can we help effect this social change? Educate and demonstrate with actions! Go out and find someone with a disability, devel­op a friendship, teach him or her to paddle, and then share your story with the world.


(1) International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

(2) World Programme of Action Concerning Disabled Persons, adopted by the General Assembly on 3 December 1982, by its resolution 37/52.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Last Chance to Register for the Swiftwater Rescue Conference

The ACA Swiftwater Rescue Conference only has a few spots left-- hurry and register before September 30th!

We're looking forward to another all-star cast of swiftwater rescue presenters for 2015, including Charlie Walbridge, Jim Coffey, Mike Mather, Aaron Peeler, Walter Felton, Justin Padgett, Sam Fowlkes, Robin Pope, Marcel Bieg, and more!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

ACA Board Elections - All ACA Members Encouraged to Vote!

As a member of the ACA, you have the option to participate in elections concerning the governance of the Association.

On behalf of the ACA Board of Directors, I would like to encourage you to vote for the following: five at-large Directors, and the appointment to the Properties Committee.

You have the option to vote online, or download a paper ballot and mail it in.

Please note, to vote online, you will need to log-in to the ACA website. If you have forgotten your password, there is a ‘reset your password' prompt at the bottom of the webpage at the above voting link, or you can contact the ACA's Membership Department.

Deadline: All ballots must be received (electroncially or via mail) at the ACA Office by October 19, 2015.

You can also cast your votes in person at the ACA Annual Membership Meeting which takes place at the upcoming Instructor Trainer Conference in Charleston, South Carolina.

The ACA is your organization, so please exercise your right to vote.

See you on the water,

Anne Maleady

President, Board of Directors

ACA | Canoe-Kayak-SUP-Raft-Rescue

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Improve Your River Rescue Skills!

Time is running out to register for the Swiftwater Rescue Conference taking place October 9-11, 2015. 

September 28th is the last day to register, so sign up today!

Visit for more information. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Sixth Annual ACA Europe Paddlesports Symposium in London!

Location: London (Shadwell Basin)
Date: October 2-4, 2015
Host: Greg Spencer

The Sixth Annual Symposium of ACA Europe Division will be a lively a gathering of ACA students, instructors, and national representatives. Expect workshops, presentations, networking, fine food, and more!  

For more information, visit

Or check out the ACA Europe Division website

Monday, September 21, 2015

Life Jacket Design Winners Announced

What would a modern life jacket look like if you threw out the rulebook and started with a clean slate? The answer lies with the winners of the 2015 “Innovation in Life Jacket Design Competition” announced last week at the International Boat Builders Exhibition and Conference in Louisville. Sponsored by the BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water and the Personal Floatation Device Manufacturers Association (PFDMA), a team of five judges from the boating, paddling, and life jacket manufacturing industry reviewed nearly 250 contest submissions from as far away as Mongolia and New Zealand, and also asked recreational boaters to vote for their favorite design entry.

The goal of the competition was to rethink a 100-year-old design, seek out the newest technologies and design innovations and develop interest in newer, more versatile life jackets. Design entries were judged on the following criteria: innovation, wearability, value/affordability, reliability, versatility and practicality. At stake was $15,000 in prize money.

Michael Garman’s custom, factory-fitted life jacket design won first place – and $10,000 – in the 2015 Life Jacket Design Competition.

Competition Judge and Image Base Vice President Joe Fogarty said, “Whether a commercial enterprise, an individual inventor-entrepreneur, a student or a group of Scouts, the 2015 Life Jacket Design Competition brought forth a lot of creativity. The entries we chose will not only keep us afloat, but showed thoughtfulness, problem solving and practicality.”

Judge Lili Colby, Owner and “chief PFDiva” at paddlesport life jacket manufacturer MTI Adventurewear said, “It was exciting to see that so many of the competitors shared a common goal to create more wearable product for the average recreational boater. Thinking ‘out of the box’ not only meant that the designs need to work, but that they also need to look good and be comfortable to wear. I wouldn’t be surprised to find a number of the finalist’s designs make it to market someday if they can be US Coast Guard approved.”

ACA Chief Operating Officer Chris Stec was also one of the judges for the contest. He said, “The contest truly showed innovation in PFD design at its best. From highly technical entries to simple concepts, there are several new ideas out there that could help boaters stay safer out on the water.”

Additional judges included marine industry consultant, speaker, and former “West Marine Advisor,” Chuck Hawley and Frank Solazzo, a Team Leader with Leland Limited which supplies high-pressure gas filled cylinders used in inflatable life jackets.

The winners:

First Place ($10,000): Michael Garman of Moseley, Virginia submitted his prototype design that uses two-part expanding foam encased in a comfortable thermal fabric that’s designed to keep the wearer cool. The design uses a smartphone app to submit exact body measurements to the factory where the lifejacket is custom molded, offering a perfect fit right out of the box. A heat reflecting fabric can be used on cold days to help keep the wearer warm – or reversed for hot days that combine with an inner fabric mesh to keep the wearer cool. Accessories such as a rear mounted hydration pack – great for paddlers – and custom pocket choices add versatility. A built-in signal mirror and whistle improve safety. Go to for a look.

Second Place ($3,000): Jimi Beach of the two-year-young Aegis Safety Products in Orlando, Florida took second place with his brand new, soon-to-market, inflatable floatation “Lifeshirt” that blends affordability with comfort and performance. The “actionwear” design looks similar to a sport shirt and is intended for a range of uses from boating to surfing. Offering automatic or manual inflation, a patented design resists inadvertent inflation from rain or splashes but activates instantly when the user’s head or shoulders submerge. Retail pricing is expected to remain consistent with or lower than other PFDs on the market. Lifeshirt is currently undergoing certification for adults and children in a lightweight performance class of personal floatation devices. Go to for a look.

Third Place ($2,000): Jessie Kate Brown of Lafayette, Louisiana submitted a theoretical design for the “Comfort Flex Life Vest,” a comfortable form-fitting design that increases visibility and inspires user confidence. “Relief cuts” on the side add buoyant material while a new hinge point and a lobster tail-like relief cut on the middle of the back of the jacket allow the wearer to easily bend their body, unlike some current vest-style designs which have one-piece backs. A reflective collar, and an athletic spandex shell and liner increase comfort and wearability.

This is the third time BoatUS Foundation and PFDMA have teamed up for a PFD Design Contest. For more, go to

Friday, September 18, 2015

When You Stop Smiling, It's All Over

by John Beausang, Publisher of Distressed Mullet

When paddling out, we thank Rushmore, our rock jetty or Cow, our mile buoy, and show gratitude. We thank the ocean and waves, the sky and sunrise, for letting us be out here. No matter how hard we're training, we always stop to say thanks. With a nod to the rocks or buoy we say:

Purity of my thought. Purity of my focus. Purity of my words. Purity of my heart.

I have to keep these in mind all the time because my monkey mind is a 1200 gorilla at times. And when any one of those gets out of whack, the rest pile on.

It's hard to focus on making each experience as good as it can be, but why else are we out here? Why are we alive if not to live. And by saying the things that reinforce those thoughts, keeping our focus on our goals and purpose, and remembering that we’re out here because we love being out here, we are alive. Paddling is an honor and a gift. Any day above ground is a good day. And any day on the water is an even better day.

To everyone out paddling in races, for training or for fun, enjoy every second. Take a second to take it all in, to look around, to be kind to yourself, to remember those we've lost, celebrate those still in our lives, and to breathe.

We are people of the water and we are doing exactly what we were born to do.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Welcome, Chris Rabb!

Please join us in giving a warm welcome to Chris Raab, the ACA's new Stewardship Director!

With degrees in Business Administration, Environmental Science and Conservation Biology, combined with experience with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and L.L.Bean’s Outdoor Discovery School, Chris brings a unique skill set to this position. We are thrilled to have him on board.

Learn more about Chris, and the rest of your ACA staff, here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

ACA & Outdoors Alliance for Kids

This week, the ACA attended the Outdoors Alliance for Kids' (OAK) annual gathering in Washington, D.C. We are proud to support OAK's mission and work that reflects so many of the ACA's core values. 

OAK strives to expand the number and quality of opportunities for children, youth, and families to connect with the outdoors. Most recently, federal officials, local government leaders, OAK, and more than 100 local fourth graders gathered in Washington’s Rock Creek Park to promote the national Every Kid in a Park program. The ACA has also teamed up with OAK to urge Congress to renew the Land and Water Conservation Fund, our nation's primary tool for protecting our public lands for future generations. 

To learn more about OAK and all the good work they do, please visit

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

There's Something for Everyone at the IT Conference

The purpose of the inaugural ACA Instructor Trainer Conference is to provide a resource for currently certified Instructor Trainers, as well as for those aspiring to become ACA Instructor Trainers and Instructor Trainer Educators. 

Thinking about joining us? Get all the details, including the updated schedule, registration & lodging info, and more.

Plus, don't miss these pre- and post-conference workshops:

Level 3: Surf SUP Instructor Certification Workshop (Oct 20-21)

Level 3: Surf SUP Instructor Trainer Development Workshop (Oct 20-21)

Adaptive Paddling Workshop sponsored & provided by Adaptive Expeditions (Oct 25-27)

We hope to see you in October! 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Boating Safety Professionals Come Together at NASBLA Conference

ACA Chief Operating Officer Chris Stec is representing paddlesports at the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators' (NASBLA) annual conference being held this week in Wichita, KS.

Topics NASBLA asked the ACA to address include leash wear on stand up paddleboards, participation trends in paddlesports, and ways to effectively reach out to paddlers in their states.

To learn more about boating officials in your state, please download the ACA Paddle Ready app and click on the 'Organizations' button for state specific information.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Thursday, September 10, 2015


If you are planning to attend the AORE Conference November 18-20, then don't miss these two pre-conference workshops:

Nov 15-17, ACA Adaptive Paddling Workshop, led by Adaptive Expeditions

Nov 16-17, ACA Level 2: Essentials of SUP Instructor Certification Course, led by Trey Knight.

The early bird registration deadline is this Friday so don't delay!

For more information, visit:

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Surf Forecasting, Float Plan Updates, & More!

In case you missed it, we've just added some awesome new features to the Paddle Ready app! Download it for your iPhone or Android device, and see for yourself.

We would love to know what you think of the latest updates. Please send us an email at with your feedback, or consider leaving a review in the app store!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Making Cents Out of Buying Used Gear

By Daniel Lassiter, H20 Dreams Instructor 

When I first got into kayaking in 2002, I made the mistake that many beginners do: I walked into a retail store and bought a brand new boat, helmet, PFD, spray skirt, paddle, and other miscellaneous accessories. All told, I spent over $1,500, and that was buying the cheapest equipment they had. Little did I know that in less than two years I would stop paddling that boat, sell it for less than half of what I had bought it, and upgrade to a different paddle. Needless to say, I didn’t make the wisest of decisions right out of the gate.

When it comes to buying gear- boats especially- it’s a lot like buying a car. When you buy a new car, as soon as your drive it off the lot, it looses approximately 11% of its value… 11% for driving it less than one mile! If you trade that car in a year or two later, it has already lost a significant amount of its value while retaining a ton of life. But if you keep the car until it ‘dies,’ then you’re actually getting your money’s worth out of your purchase.

There is nothing like your first ride!
Can you see the resemblance between my first kayak purchase and a new car purchase? I still kick myself for not knowing that I could buy anything used when I first started kayaking. But by the end of 2004, I had wised up and purchased a season-old Dagger Kingpin Icon for $500. I paddled the heck out of that thing for the next seven years before I sold it for a whopping $300. Talk about getting your money’s worth!

Today, when I talk to my students about buying his/her first boat and gear, I always tell them, “Buy a USED boat, paddle, and spray skirt, but get a NEW helmet and PFD and here’s why…”

Nine times out of ten, when you are a new kayaker, you have no clue what kind of boat you’re going to end up gravitating toward, meaning: your boating style will develop over time and influence what types of kayak designs you prefer. Whether it’s a creek boat from brand X, a playboat from brand Y, or a crossover from brand Z, odds are you’re not sure what you like yet. So it only makes sense to buy a good used boat, play around in it for a year or so, then sell it and get what you have discovered you really like.

As far as the paddle and spray skirt goes, when you’re a beginner you are more likely to be hard on this gear as you are learning skills and general gear maintenance, and you are less likely to appreciate the features of any higher quality equipment. Since there are many used but quality paddles and skirts out there for cheap (I just sold an old beat up paddle of mine that still has some life left in it to a student I’ve been working with for $30), it makes sense to beat up something cheap first and then invest in something better down the road.

Now, the bit about buying a new helmet and PFD is entirely my opinion. The way I see it is these are your two essential pieces of safety equipment and you do not want to run the risk of them being compromised in any way. PFD flotation breaks down over time due to UV exposure and it is possible for just one hit to compromise the integrity of a helmet, so don’t risk it! The only exception to my rule of this is you can buy a used PFD and/or helmet from someone who you know you can trust and therefore can take his/her word on the condition of the equipment.

Most gear, when properly taken care of, is designed to function for a long time. So when you’re looking to buy something used, one of the most important things you can do is to make sure that it has been well cared for so that you get the greatest chance of it lasting for as long as it’s supposed to.

Let’s recap:

  • Check the used gear market for boats, paddles, sprayskirts, & layers, especially when you are first starting out.
  • Your two lifelines in kayaking- the helmet & PFD- are best bought new unless you know and trust the source; even still, discretion is a must when buying your life saving equipment second-hand.
  • Get familiar with the warranty, repair, & replacement policies of the companies from which you buy your gear new. It will come in handy!
  • Take good care of your equipment to ensure it retains value if and when you go to resell it later on.
  • Check out popular paddling festivals to find the best deals on both new and used gear, year round!
Perusing the used gear market can not only land you an affordable boat, but a sweet old school design, too!
There is a lot of used gear out there that is in great condition at all kinds of price points… but there is also a ton of trash-worthy gear at very tempting prices. Ultimately, it comes down to your judgment and whether or not you’re comfortable purchasing something without a warranty. Sometimes buying used won’t work in your favor but more often than not- if you’re careful- it should.

There are plenty of places to pick up some gently, and sometimes heavily, used gear but here are some of the favorites for here in the Southeast:

  • Nantahala Outdoor Center’s Guest Appreciation Festival (GAF) – End of September in Bryson City, NC
  • Gauley Fest – Third Saturday of September in Summersville, WV
  •’s GearSwap Forum – All year!
  • Craigslist – Honestly, works anywhere, anytime.
  • – Little known but sometimes you can score big!

Monday, September 7, 2015

New Canoe Sailor is Out!

The latest issue of the Canoe Sailor newsletter is out! Read it online today. 

Did you know that canoes have been used for sailing since before 1870? Check out the ACA's Canoe Sailing Committee for more info on how you can give this great sport a try!

Friday, September 4, 2015

The September Issue of Paddle is Here!

Highlights in this issue:
  • New Paddle Ready app updates!
  • Featured Member Photo of the Month
  • A Year in the Wilderness to Protect the Boundary Waters, by Dave Freeman
  • August + September Instructors of the Month
  • Cultivating Inclusive Culture, by Joe Moore
  • Updates from your State Directors
  • And so much more!
Click here to read the September issue of Paddle right now.

Or visit to see all the past issues. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

An Event You Don't Want to Miss

The ACA is proud to present the second Swiftwater Rescue Conference, October 9-11, 2015, on the Tuckaseegee River in North Carolina. 

Registration is now live, but space is limited, so hurry and reserve your spot today!

Check out these testimonials from last year's conference:

"I am still buzzing from this past weekend...what an amazing event on all levels. From the preparation and execution to the presenters and the participants I am humbled by how lucky I am to have played a part in it. Most of all the people who I only knew buy name as being the leaders and creators of the field of expertise I am so passionate about I can now call friends!"

"What an absolute pleasure to spend time with such a talented group of like minded people exchanging ideas and techniques. The beauty of this event was it built the personal connections that will allow us to push the SWR segment of our sport to the next level."

The 2015 Swiftwater Rescue Conference will focus on a series of on-water safety and rescue educational sessions taught by the best of the best in swiftwater rescue instruction (Jim Coffey, Mike Mather, and Charlie Walbridge, just to name a few). There will also be a live band on Saturday night along with a BBQ. For those looking for an instructor update, you can accomplish that too!

Visit for more information, and register before it's too late.

See you in October!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Every Kid in a Park Initiative Officially Launches

When did you first discover a love of the outdoors? For many of us, we first got attached to the outdoors as kids, when a family member, friend, or summer camp got us out on America’s public lands. And research shows that ensuring kids have access to “wild nature” activities before age 11 makes them likely to care for the environment as an adult. There is a powerful connection between the experiences we have outside and our desire to protect those places for ourselves and future generations.

This week, the National Park Service launched an initiative designed to inspire the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts and stewards of our public lands. Every Kid in a Park provides a free park pass to all fourth graders and their families to access to any national park, national forest, refuge or BLM land.

With the Centennial of the Park Service on the horizon, this program is a major investment in the next 100 years of National Parks because it inspires the next generation to get outside and enjoy America’s public lands. And the good news for those of us who are a few years away from having a fourth grader? The program is designed to continue every year. In 12 years, this means that every school-age child in the U.S. will have had the opportunity to visit our public lands for free.

Many of today’s fiercest advocates for public lands were inspired by experiences they had outside at an early age. Every Kid in a Park is not just about getting today’s kids outside, but about inspiring the next generation of stewards and conservationists to protect our shared lands and waters.

Learn more at and Outdoor Alliance

Visit the ACA Stewardship Initiatives website to read about a few of the ways that ACA staff, Paddle America Clubs, and volunteers across the country are working on behalf of all paddlers.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Why Join the ACA?

When you join the nation's oldest paddlesports organization, you're joining a community of people who love what you love! You're also directly supporting safe paddling programs, stewardship initiatives to clean up our nation's waterways, top notch paddlesports education, and so much more. 

As a nonprofit, member-based organization, the ACA relies on support from members like you to fulfill our mission

Here are some other great benefits to ACA membership:

Subaru VIP Program

Public Policy Representation

Gold Standard in Educational Resources

Choice of one of 4 magazine titles from Rapid Media:
-Canoeroots, Adventure Kayak,
Rapid, Kayak Angler

Additional Rapid Media Subscriptions at a Discount

Exclusive Access to:
-Sugar Island on the St. Lawrence River
-Camp Sebago in New York

Support of Amateur Paddlesports Competition

Member Rewards Program
-Discounts on car rentals, hotels, restaurants, phone plans, even Disney World

Reduced admission to thousands of ACA sanctioned events and races each year

Discount on ACA merchandise

ACA Paddle eMagazine delivered to your inbox every other month, covering local, regional and national paddlesport issues

Pro Deals for certified Instructors

Members Only Discounts

Thanks for your support! If you have any questions about any of the membership benefits above, please contact the ACA Membership Department at 540-907-4460 ext 109 and we will be glad to help you. 

Not a member yet? Join today!

Paddle safe, paddle often.