Friday, May 27, 2016

ACA Rafting Program in Oregon

By J.R. Weir, Owner & ACA Instructor Trainer at Sundance Kayak School

When the first brave river men and women began exploring wild rivers in inflatable boats, the art of river running was still in its infancy. Inspired by the prospect of adventure and rare splendor to be discovered in remote river canyons, these adventurous souls ventured into the unknown, determined to immerse themselves in true wilderness adventure. These early whitewater rafters learned through trial and error, testing theories and learning valuable lessons which they shared and developed, passing skills down to new generations of river runners. Today, rafting is an art form and to watch a true expert maneuver their craft in whitewater is a thing of beauty. 

Sundance Kayak School has been training whitewater enthusiasts and professionals for over 40 years on the Rogue River. As a center for learning and paddlesport development, we have decades of experience and expertise in training river runners and guides. Our mission is to get people paddling so that they can experience the natural rhythm of river life, and to empower them to continue boating for themselves.

This year we set out to create a rafting school for professional rafters, cut from the same mould as our legendary kayak instructor courses. More than just a guide school for rafters, this course is designed to cultivate rafting teachers. Where many raft guides are highly skilled as whitewater tour guides, these rafting instructors will not only be able to get people safely down the river, but also teach them the skills to do it themselves and become self-sufficient river runners.

In mid-April, Sundance Kayak School teamed up with Mather Rescue to produce the first ever American Canoe Association (ACA) Level 4 Raft Instructor Certification Workshop on the legendary Rogue River in Oregon. 

The 5-day course began with an intensive 3-day development workshop, where the instructor candidates worked to hone their personal technique and teaching ability. The course culminated in a 2-day, simulated rafting class, designed and conducted by the ACA instructor candidates. 

Among the participants were raft guide school instructors, college outdoor program facilitators, professional river guides, and wilderness educators, all professionals, with a staggering amount of combined experience and expertise. One of the most informative aspects of the course is the knowledge that is shared among the participants – each person demonstrating their own unique style of teaching and boatmanship. 

Each day on the water, we practiced a diverse skill set and a wide array of necessary talents that is the art of raft guiding. We explored the science of river currents and hydrology, paddle and oar techniques, leadership, planning and decision making, boat captain responsibilities, and vital knowledge in a myriad of areas including rescue, safety, and equipment. We worked hard and had a ton of fun, and each day we made sure to stop at the “mole hole” - our favorite surf spot. All the while surrounded by the breathtaking scenery, wildlife and whitewater of the legendary Wild and Scenic Rogue River.

Off of the water, we discussed coaching theory and methods for giving great presentations. We set up rope systems, rescue scenarios, and explored topics ranging from warm-up exercises to raft rigging technique, to strategy for escaping dangerous river hydraulics. As we floated into the takeout on the last day, I was excited to see these professional instructors graduate and begin a new chapter as ACA certified raft instructors, but I couldn’t help but wish that we had more time to surf and laugh and share ideas. In the end, everyone passed with flying colors. Congratulations to 7 new ACA certified raft instructors!

Check out the ACA website schedule of classes to find a Raft Instructor course near you! This class is great for river professionals such as outfitters, trainers, guides, instructors and coaches, but also for river parents and anyone who enjoys teaching others how to row boats, or likes to let their fellow boatman "take the oars" once in awhile. The Raft ICW will grow your personal rowing expertise, but more importantly, it will help you be a better coach on the water. It is also a great way to document your expertise. The ACA certification represents the golden standard in paddlesports for instructional excellence, professionalism, and safety.

*Photos courtesy of Mike Mather, Nate Wilson, and Sundance Kayak School
**Special thanks to SOTAR inflatables and Sawyer Oars for their support of paddlesports safety and instruction

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

ACA Staff Member Kelsey Bracewell Wins Safety & Rescue Award

By Woodie L. Walker, Community Conservationist at Friends of the Rappahannock

Friends of the Rappahannock (FOR) presents its Safety & Rescue Award each May at our annual members meeting. On May 16, Kelsey Bracewell from the ACA received our 2015 award for work she performed during the past year. 

This award was established in 1987 by the late Dr. Robert Wheeler, a Fredericksburg physician and longtime FOR supporter. Past recipients include ACA's Chris Stec, who won the award in 2010, and folks involved with our local emergency response teams.

The intent of the award is to recognize those who make our river safer for water sports enthusiasts - area paddlers and boarders. Bill Micks, FOR founder and owner of the Virginia Outdoor Center, nominated Kelsey for this award, which was agreed upon unanimously by our staff. In addition to her ACA duties, in May 2015 Kelsey and Chris teamed up for FOR's annual whitewater rescue training for our staff and volunteers. This is a full-day training that is essential for us - we lead many trips on the river and also run summer camps for children, who spend a lot of time in the water. Kelsey and Chris provided this same training again this May.

Kelsey has just the right vibe to make our training very informative, and also enjoyable. She combines technical expertise with a friendly attitude that puts attendees at ease. I like the way she stresses hands-on training. She talks us through the exercise, then has us show we can perform the maneuver.

I've known Kelsey for almost three years, and it was a real treat to be the guy handing her the framed award certificate the other night. I am proud to be part of a team that recognizes her work to make this river a safer place for all of us.

Congrats, Kelsey!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Paddle Green Spotlight: Oregon Whitewater Association Sandy River Cleanup

By ACA Instructor Sam Drevo

The Oregon Whitewater Association (OWA) is one of the largest whitewater clubs in Oregon, and its members are dedicated to river safety and stewardship. Working with local outfitter eNRG Kayaking and some of the top swiftwater rescue instructors in the Northwest, OWA organizes a two day river safety workshop each year that allows members to learn, practice, and hone river safety skills. 

This year we were able to merge this effort with an ACA Paddle Green cleanup to help make Dodge Park a little cleaner. 

OWA conducted the cleanup on April 23 & 24 at the confluence of Bull Run (where Portland gets its drinking water) and the Sandy River. Volunteers filled all of their Paddle Green Bags and even pulled a muffler exhaust pipe off the river bank. 

The cleanup offered a great opportunity to demonstrate to club members and park-goers our whitewater community's commitment to protecting and preserving the river. Thanks to the ACA for providing the bags and the format to pay it forward.

Want to organize a Paddle Green cleanup in your area? Visit for more information on how you can join the fight against marine debris!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Alana Nichols, Kelly Allen Qualify As First Paracanoeists To Represent Team USA At Paralympic Games

By Craig Bonhert, USACK

Alana Nichols and Kelly Allen will become the first athletes to represent the United States in paracanoe, earning berths for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games at the 2016 ICF Paracanoe World Championships on Thursday in Duisberg, Germany. The sport of paracanoe will make its Paralympic debut in Rio in September.

Nichols qualified for her fifth Paralympic Games in a third sport by placing eighth in the women’s KL2 200-meter final. Her time of 1:00.647 was 6.956 seconds behind the winning time of Emma Wiggs of Great Britain, who crossed in 53.691 seconds. A two-time member of the U.S. Paralympic wheelchair basketball team, Nichols won gold in Beijing in 2008 and placed fourth in London in 2012. She also won medals at the past two Paralympic Winter Games: golds in downhill and giant slalom, silver in super-G and bronze in super combined in Vancouver in 2010, and a silver in downhill in Sochi two years ago. Her wins in Vancouver made her the first U.S. Paralympian to win gold at both a summer and winter Games. Nichols was nominated for an ESPY Award three consecutive years (2010-12).

Allen has qualified for her first Paralympic Games after crossing over from skiing into kayaking in 2012. She finished eighth in women’s KL3 K1 200-meter in 54.885, 3.639 seconds off the winning pace set of 51.246 seconds, set by Anne Dickins of Great Britain. Only a month after starting full-time training, she had claimed the title of national champion in women’s LTA K1, winning a spot on the national team. She placed fourth at her first world championship and followed that with a seventh-place finish a year later.

Ann Yoshida won gold in the non-Paralympic VL1 200-meter, while Anja Pierce won the bronze medal in the women’s non-Paralympic VL3 K1 200-meter event. The 2015 world champion in the event, she now has collected four worlds medals in the past four years. She won a silver in 2012 and a bronze in 2013. She has placed in the top four at the past five world championships.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Happy Wear Your Life Jacket to Work Day!

The ACA Staff will be wearing our life jackets to work and posting photos throughout the day on our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts. We encourage you to join in on the fun by sharing your ‪#‎WearIt‬ photos and spreading the message of ‪#‎SafeBoatWeek‬ with us!

Join in and show us how easy it is to Wear It!, even while at work! 
Post your photos to social media using the #wearit and #safeboatweek hashtags, or send them to

The annual Wear Your Life Jacket to Work Day is hosted by the National Safe Boating Council (NSBC) and serves as a kick-off event to National Safe Boating Week, May 21-27!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The 36th Annual Great Rappahannock Whitewater Canoe Race

Don't forget to register for the 36th Annual Great Rappahannock Whitewater Canoe Race (GRWCR) happening Saturday, June 4th in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Visit to sign up today!

The GRWCR features fun for the whole family with SUP, kayak, canoe, and kids races, and it's the cornerstone of the Rock the River FXBG event.

Proceeds from the 2016 annual race will support:
We hope to see you on June 4th!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Congratulations to May Instructor of the Month, Bill Vonnegut!

The ACA is proud to partner with Kokatat for the ACA Instructor of the Month recognition program. Instructor of the Month award recipients are featured in our Paddle eMagazine and across ACA social media channels. They also receive a brand new Kokatat life jacket.

Congratulations to May 2016 Instructor of the Month, Bill Vonnegut! 

"Paddling on the coast is where I feel at home. I am always checking the forecast and planning what I’ll be doing the next time I’m on the water. No matter the conditions, there’s always something I can do on the coast. Surfing, rock gardening, or open water storm paddles, I love it all and try to get out whenever possible." -Bill Vonnegut

Read more about Bill in the May 2016 Issue of Paddle.

Do you know an excellent instructor who deserves recognition? Fill out this simple form to submit a nomination for the next Instructor of the Month.

You can view a list of previous Instructor of the Month awards recipients here

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Outdoor Alliance's Advocacy 101 Series

If you want to give back to the places you play, and get involved in protecting them, it can feel hard to know where to start.

Outdoor Alliance's Advocacy 101 series is a quick-and-dirty run down on four ways to step up your advocacy game.

Learn why Twitter is the most effective advocacy tool you aren't yet using, when just a dozen letters can make a difference in protecting a landscape, and how signing up for a few newsletters will bring relevant advocacy opportunities right to your inbox. 

Outdoor Alliance's Advocacy 101 Series gives you 4 easy ways to make a difference in protecting your favorite outdoor places. CLICK HERE to check out this great resource.

ACA is a proud member of Outdoor Alliance, a national coalition of outdoor recreation groups that advocates for protecting public lands and waters. 

Monday, May 9, 2016

Belated Congratulations to April Instructor of the Month, Rob Hutchison!

The ACA is proud to partner with Kokatat for the ACA Instructor of the Month recognition program. Instructor of the Month award recipients are featured in our Paddle eMagazine and across ACA social media channels. They also receive a brand new Kokatat life jacket.

Congratulations to April 2016 Instructor of the Month, Rob Hutchison! 

Here's an excerpt from our interview with Rob...

ACA: What aspect of paddling is the most exciting and engaging to you? Approximately how much of your time do you dedicate to paddling (or thinking/training/dreaming about paddling)?

Hutchison: For me, paddling is my favorite way to spend time outside. I love being able to explore any body of water: Oceans, lakes, rivers etc. I spent a great deal of time as a kid at the beach with my family. Now, instead of going to the beach, my wife and I grab our SUPs or kayaks and hit the water. Living on the coast of Maine provides so many places to paddle right outside our front door.

Read the rest of our interview with Rob in the May 2016 Issue of Paddle.

Do you know an excellent instructor who deserves recognition? Fill out this simple form to submit a nomination for the next Instructor of the Month.

You can view a list of previous Instructor of the Month awards recipients here

Friday, May 6, 2016

May Issue of ACA's Paddle eMagazine Just Released!

From stewardship stories and paddlesport-related policy changes, to competition and event announcements, Paddle is your go-to source for news in the world of paddlesports. 

Check out the May 2016 issue today.

In this issue:
  • Instructor of the Month awards for April & May
  • Paddling with Pups, an Interview with Maria Schultz (author of SUP With Your Pup and Paddle Tails)
  • Upcoming events, competitions, and adaptive paddling workshops
  • Why Your Language Matters on the River, by Elliot Jacobs
  • Hokulea is Weaving a Lei of Hope for the Planet, by Sam Low
  • Featured ACA Member Benefit: Discount on Hobie Sunglasses
  • Updates from your local ACA State Directors
  • And much more!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

ACA Announces Winner of Earth Day Clean Up Challenge

On behalf of the ACA, we would like to extend our thanks to all of those who participated in the 2016 ACA Earth Day Clean Up Challenge. We truly appreciate the time and energy everyone donated to enhance your local waterways.

Great turnout for the clean up in Oregon!
We had over 20 clubs and organizations from 13 states participate in this year’s challenge.
  • Kansas
  • Virginia
  • Oregon
  • New Jersey
  • South Carolina
  • New York
  • Florida
  • Michigan
  • Texas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • New Mexico
  • Hawaii 
The Great Bay Paddlers Kayaking Club.
With 1,000’s of pounds of trash removed, including truck tires, over 20 TVs, and countless plastic bottles, you really made a positive difference for the environment.

As promised, for those clubs and groups who submitted their clean up data, along with a few photos, we held a random drawing at the ACA Office… and the winner of a weekend of free canoe, kayak or SUP instruction for 10 of their members is…

Kayak New Mexico, organized by Jane Bales

The Kayak New Mexico clean up crew.
Excerpted from Kayak New Mexico’s Report:

What an absolutely successful day for our Earth Day Celebration Cleanup! We had 27 people come out and help clean up the area on the east side of the river near US550. A total of 976 pounds of garbage and recyclables were picked up (359 pounds of recyclables - 190 pounds of beer bottles).

We included several of our adaptive paddling participants in the clean up too. One boy with autism, one adult with autism, one boy with Down Syndrome, one boy who is a triple amputee, and one woman with limited use of her legs! Such a fun time was had by all.

Below is an email I sent to a representative of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District for letting us use a key to the gate so we could more easily access the river for our participants with physical disabilities:

The key was a huge asset to have. Huge for many reasons. (1) We wound up having no dumpsters from Waste Management at the site, so one of our volunteers volunteered the use of his trailer. We drove the trailer down to where the most garbage was located and loaded it up there. (2) We had several individuals with physical disabilities assist us. A young man using a wheel chair and a woman who normally uses a wheelchair, but wore her leg braces instead. Being able to get both individuals down to the cleanup site and river without a key would have been very difficult.

To learn more about what the ACA does for waterways across the U.S., please visit: 

Monday, May 2, 2016

Adaptive Paddling Workshop in Charleston

Adaptive Expeditions received Disabled Sports USA (DSUSA) grant funding to lead an ACA Adaptive Paddling Workshop (APW) for DSUSA’s Adapt2Achieve program. 

Last weekend, volunteers and staff from DSUSA Chapters around the country came to Charleston, SC for the 3.5-day training. ACA Adaptive Paddling Instructor Trainer Joe Moore of Adaptive Expeditions led the APW with assistance from ACA staff member TJ Turner.

Starting with land-based classroom and workshop instruction, participants progressed through a half-day pool session, and concluded with a 4-hour daytrip into the Wambaw Wilderness Cypress Swamp.

For a closer look at the ACA Adaptive Paddling Program, please watch this video and visit