ACA/GAP instructor course = SUCCESS!


By Em Shanblatt


The American Canoe Association (ACA) and Girls as Play have started to team up for women’s specific kayak instructor courses.  This past weekend concluded the first ever course under this partnership, and it was a huge success!  We battled the cold Fall weather and were able to learn and practice hundreds of teaching skills on the water…drysuits, pogies and all!

As I’m sure you know from reading the update on the first weekend (here it is) we spent lots of time on flatwater practicing stroke and teaching techniques.  This past weekend, we progressed onto moving water, and spent the 3 day weekend on the French Broad, Upper Green, and Ledges.

The camaraderie we had created after the first weekend carried through as if we had never left one another.  We eagerly greeted each other as if we were paddling buddies from long ago, and jumped right into life updates and laughing together.

On the river, we refreshed a fair amount of the previous material covered, and made sure our stroke refinements we’d been practicing were in place.  Quickly, we jumped into teaching a new set of skills related to current.  We practiced teaching eddy turns, peel outs, and ferries, and I was BLOWN AWAY at the huge variety of teaching techniques and language used to explain these maneuvers.

That example alone has stood out in my mind as the biggest thing I will take away from the course.  It’s so easy as an instructor to get stuck in explaining topics in one specific way, or using your favorite go-to acronym or metaphor…but there are TONS of methods and ways to explain even the simplest of maneuvers.  Robin Pope of the ACA changed my world with his variety of creative and inventive teaching styles.  That man is a genius and guru.  I felt so fortunate to spend so much time observing and learning from him!

Another super valuable aspect of the course was the incredible personal feedback we all received about our own technique.  We spent the first weekend focusing on strokes, and this weekend we were critiqued on our river maneuvers such as peel outs, ferries, and eddy turns. We used video analysis to not only see and critique ourselves, but the rest of the class and instructors were able to provide feedback as well.

While this sounds like an intimidating process, Anna and Robin set the stage for a tactful, respectful, and safe learning environment.. Plenty of positive feedback is given, and the constructive pieces are framed in a way which is easy to receive as constructive critique rather than criticism. This process also allowed us to also practice using our “critical eye” or observing someone’s paddling and being able to comment on what they’re doing well and how it could be improved.  This skill is one that comes with time and practice, but is very important for successful instructors.

When we weren’t stopped in eddies teaching to one another, we had a blast cruising down the French Broad and Upper Green!  Everyone had stellar lines on rapids like S-Turn, Pillow, and Bayless!

This course was a huge turning point in the world of female specific kayak instruction.  We set a new standard for not only how ACA & GAP will work together, but also to future courses and instructors that women do learn kayaking differently than men, and instruction tailored to our needs is critical.

Spreading the Girls at Play message to other instructors who will then go teach other women is the next step in the female kayaking revolution!    We’re changing lives and changing the world, one woman at a time.

If you’re interested in taking an ACA/GAP kayak instructor course, we’ll be offering some in the Spring of 2012, so stay tuned for dates!!!  We’d love to see you out there!  As always, feel free to contact us with any questions regarding the course!

If you’re not sure if you’re prepared to take an instructor course just yet, Girls at Play clinics or private instruction are great ways to improve your kayaking!