The following are the modules I will cover in an L4 River Kayak Instructor Certification Workshop. The depth to which minor topics will be covered and the order in which they are covered will depend on the background and experience of candidates and time available within the scheduled class. Some material may be covered by assigned reading/research before or between course sessions, provided as online instruction and/or other teaching moments as they arise.

Instructor candidates will be asked to present several of these topics as an educational/collaboration component of the course, followed by a group discussion of the material presented.

Welcome and Introductions

  • Logistics, overview and schedule
  • Course objectives and goals. Individual expectations and goals
  • Review of certification requirements and process

Orientation to ACA

  • Brief history and mission. Value of certification
  • Orientation to SEI and SEIC and overview
  • Orientation to ACA instruction, levels, venues, skills classes, assessments

 Teaching/Learning Theory

  • Characteristics of an effective instructor
  • Characteristics of an effective learner
  • Effective Presentation Strategies
  • How people learn and barriers to learning
  • Evaluation and Feedback Techniques (purpose, types and how to give)

Risk Management

  • 5 P’s (Proper Prior Planning Prevents Problems)
  • Liability and Negligence, Standard of Care, Duty of Care
  • Supervision and Risk Assumption
  • Accidents: Reporting and documentation requirements

 ACA Paperwork Requirements and Policies / Procedures

  • Course Registration, Reporting, Waivers, Insurance
  • Instructor Certification and Maintenance Requirements
  • CPR/First Aid Certification Maintenance Requirements
  • Instructor Responsibilities and Instructor/Student Ratios
  • Materials, Texts, Resources, ACA Website
  • Essential Eligibility Criteria (EEC)—students with special needs

Student Orientation and Safety

  • Rescue Priorities—Self, Group, Bystanders, Person, Boat, Equipment/Gear
  • Responsibilities—of Group, Victim, Rescuer
  • Appropriate Clothing
  • Recommended additional training, advanced first Aid, CPR, Swiftwater Rescue
  • Cold shock
  • Hypothermia—HELP, Huddle, hydration, clothing
  • Hyperthermia—Hydration, clothing
  • Group Signals—Whistle, Hand, Paddle
  • Hazard Recognition and Avoidance—Wind, Weather, Waves, Strainers, Low Head Dams
  • Water Comfort and Confidence
  • Wet Exits and Sprayskirts/Emptying the boat

Paddlesport Equipment

  • Personal and Group
  • PFD, clothing, footwear, weather related gear and items
  • Water protection for gear, securing gear
  • First Aid Kit
  • Kayaks
  • Types, Materials, Parts
  • Safety gear—throwbags, pin kits
  • Paddles: Types, Parts, Sizing
  • Flotation

Paddling Skills/Concepts

  • Warm up, Stretching, and Conditioning
  • Boat Handling, Lifting, Various Carries, Car Topping
  • Boat Entry and Exit (Types)
  • Basic Terminology: onside, offside, etc.
  • Paddling theory/physics
  • Paddler’s box
  • Stability in Boat, Posture, Positions
  • Bio-Mechanics


  • Stroke components: Catch, Propulsion, Recovery
  • Types of strokes: power and turning
  • Forward
  • Reverse
  • Sweeps forward/reverse
  • Draws, slicing/sculling and dynamic/static
  • Duffek
  • C-stroke
  • Bracing, low/high
  • Compound strokes

Flat Water Maneuvers

  • Launch and land (Parallel to shore, dock)
  • Forward to propel the kayak straight forward
  • Reverse to stop and reverse straight backward
  • Spins
  • Move kayak abeam (sideways) both directions in a straight line
  • Turns with edge
  • Inside Circle (Power Circle)

Critical Eye

  • Video assessment—Developing a Critical Eye

River Environment

  • International Scale of River Difficulty
  • Characteristics of river currents
  • Downstream and Upstream V’s
  • Reading the River
  • Eddies/Eddy Lines
  • Bends
  • Dealing with Hazards
  • Currents
  • Hydraulics
  • Rocks (Upstream and downstream V’s)
  • Ledges and low head dams (Horizon Line)
  • Broaching
  • Pins and entrapment
  • Strainers/Sieves
  • Bends
  • Undercut Rocks/Ice
  • Dams/Flow diversion structures and pipelines

Group Management

  • Planning a trip
  • Put-in Briefing
  • Scouting and Portage
  • Group Management (Lead /Sweep, Safety, Spacing)
  • River Signals
  • Leave no trace
  • Respect for property/landowners

Whitewater Maneuvers (Class II Current)

  • Spins
  • Shift: Move kayak abeam (sideways) both directions
  • Forward Ferries
  • Eddy Turns
  • Peel-Outs
  • C-Turns
  • S-Turns
  • Back Ferries
  • Bracing
  • Attainments
  • Bow surfing and side surfing

Candidate Paddling Skills Evaluation

  • Instructor candidates demonstrate proficient paddling skills in Class II-III whitewater.
  • Candidates are expected to paddle confidently and competently in the venue using basic skills and maneuvers which may include edging, strokes, eddy turns, peelouts, bow surfing, side surfing, ferry and reverse ferry.


  • Self rescue
  • Bow Rescues
  • Rescue priorities: People, Boats and Gear
  • Rescue sequence: Talk, Reach, Throw, Row and Go (TRETHROG)
  • Towing/bulldozing a kayak
  • Towing a swimmer
  • Controlled wet exit from the kayak
  • Swim to shore with the kayak and empty of water
  • T-rescue
  • Rafted-T Rescue
  • Scoop Rescue
  • Side-by-side Rescue
  • Unresponsive Paddler Rescue (e.g “Hand of god”)
  • Throw bag use (Throwing and Receiving)
  • Foot Entrapment Rescues (Tag and Snag Lines)
  • Overview of Pinned Boat Rescues (Arm Strong, Vector Pulls)
  • Basic Wading
  • Avoiding and dealing with strainers
  • Pin Self-Rescue

Kayak Rolling

  • Roll instruction Progressions
  • C-to-C Roll
  • Sweep Roll
  • Discussion of Left and Right side rolls and advantages of being capable of both


  • Impromptu Teaching Talks, Strokes, Maneuvers and Rescues
  • Instructor candidates will be evaluated as they are asked to present any topic on the ACA L1 “Introduction to Kayaking”, L2 “Essentials of River Kayaking”, L3 “River Kayaking” and L4 “Whitewater Kayaking” skills courses. Typical teaching topic and leadership roles include group management while navigating from one point to another, rescues, responding to unexpected scenarios and dealing capsizes performed in Class II conditions. Candidates are expected to paddle comfortably in Class III situations.


  • Group Assessment
  • ACA course evaluations
  • Individual Assessment Conferences
  • Review of continuing education opportunities
  • Administrative wrap-up
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