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Are you an American Canoe Association paddlesport Instructor or Instructor Trainer or do you aspire to be one?  This resource page will help anyone interested in following this path. Shellback has been certifying ACA Instructors and Instructor Trainers since the mid 90's in the Pacific Northwest and around the world.  Our methods of Instruction and Instructor Training are based on years of multi-discipline experience, with physics and bio-mechanics always playing a lead role. We understand there are many body types and different personality traits that contribute to the learning experience. Our mantra has been to teach with a high SPF rating. In this case the focus is not sunburn protection but Safety, Performance and FUN!

Dialing in all 3 make for a great time on the water!


Over the years Shellback has developed some unique and interesting ways of sharing the stoke with paddlers!


Join us for an adventure!

American Canoe Association Instructor Certification

The American Canoe Association has been making the world a better place to paddle since 1880. They have been teaching paddlesports since 1972 when the instructor certification program began.  The paddlesport instruction system is time-tested and an industry leader when it comes to learning how to paddle.

Why take Paddlesport lessons? 

Stand Up Paddleboarding and Kayaking are easy sports in which to participate but challenging sports to master.  Learning proper balance, applied physics, body bio-mechanics, vessel and gear choices, venue opportunities, weather and water conditions, basic nautical navigation, safety and so much more are all part of learning the sport. In a proper lesson, with a certified ACA Instructor you will have the opportunity to learn many of these aspects of paddling.

How to become a certified ACA Paddlesport Instructor.

ACA Instructors teach paddling skills using approved methods and techniques. First off, you will need to be a decent paddler. Ownership of all the skills you will be asked to teach is mandatory. Previous lessons and lots of practice of proper technique is the baseline one must possess before taking a certification workshop. Self-taught paddlers often find that the techniques they have taught themselves are not up to the ACA standard. This standard is based on the ACA's experience of teaching paddling to the public since 1972. A solid knowledge of learning and teaching theory is also beneficial, along with a personable attitude. Safety is always number 1 (remember SPF?) and of course FUN!  Joyful and fun experiences are long remembered and an excellent way to teach. Ideally, if a paddler has an opportunity to get an ACA skills assessment first, this guarantees they possess the skills and performance it takes to participate in an Instructor Certification Workshop or ICW.

What is involved in an ICW?

The ICW is an intense, multi-day course focused on preparing the candidate to become an ACA Instructor.  The focus is on paddling skills, safety and rescues, teaching and learning theory, leadership and ACA protocol.  Depending on the level of the course, most of the material in the curriculum is discussed along with a lot of paddling, practice teaching, video analyzation, practice leadership journeys, presentations and more.

What kind of  ACA Paddlesport certification does Shellback do?

Steve is an ACA SUP Level 1 - 2 ITE (Instructor Trainer Educator) a SUP Level 3 Coastal IT (Instructor Trainer) and a Level 1-4 Kayak ITE. We can certify SUP Instructors up to Level 3 Coastal and Instructors and  Instructor Trainers up to Level 2. We can certify kayak Instructors and Instructor Trainers up to Level 4 Coastal.  Cindy is a retired SUP Level 2 IT and Kayak Level 4 Instructor and is presently a SUP Level 2 Instructor. In the past few years we have been focused primarily on SUP certification but we still enjoy the kayak certification courses. Here is a link to the ACA website for instructor criteria details or click on the links in the next section for the ACA instructor criteria.

How long does it take?

SUP Level 1                      3-day ICW 

SUP Level 1-2                   4-day ICW

SUP Level 3 Coastal        3-day ICW (must be a Level 2 instructor with a L/ 3 assessment)

Kayak Level 1-2                4-day ICW

Kayak Level 3 Coastal     3-day ICW (must be a Level 2 instructor with a L/3 assessment)

Kayak Level 4 Coastal     4-day ICW (must be a Level 3 instructor with a L/4 assessment)

Participation in a course does NOT guarantee certification. There are a variety of options open to the candidate that trains but doesn't get fully certified.

How much does it cost?

This depends on a number of factors but generally Instructor training will range between $125-200 a day for the instruction and certification.  ACA membership and SEIC (Safety Education Instruction Council) fees are also required.  Current First Aid and CPR certification, pertaining to the venue you will be teaching, is also a requirement.

How do I maintain my ACA Paddlesport Certification?

As an Instructor you are required to teach and report at least 2 skills courses at your highest level of certification in the 4-year certification period. You are also required to maintain both ACA membership and SEIC dues. You are required to be current with first aid and CPR. You are required to do a Instructor update within the 4-years, as well. there are a variety of ways to complete an update. Here is a link to the ACA policy page that cover these topics.

When and where can I take a certification or update course?

Steve and Cindy are officially retired and have fairly open schedules. We live on the Long Beach Washington Peninsula and have a beautiful place to teach any of the courses. With a little planning we can arrange courses when and wherever we see demand. We have taught all over the world, year-round. Contact us for availability and current schedule. If you have a group of folks wanting to get together and get certified, we can make it happen! Check out the GALLERIES for pictures of some of our courses we have done around the states and the world.

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