GAP / ACA Instructor Course Update!


By Em Shanblatt

The world needs more female kayak instructors…wouldn’t you agree?

Girls at Play has teamed up with ACA (American Canoe Association) to help make this ambition a reality.  We’re offering an official ACA instructor course, specifically designed for women.  Robin Pope of the ACA and Anna Levesque are co-teaching the course, and we couldn’t ask for a more qualified and inclusive teaching staff!  The entire course involves two weekends of time together on the water, with a month in between to improve on technique and teaching abilities.


This past weekend we kicked off the course in Sylva, NC with an incredible group of 7 excited and talented women.  We spent this weekend at Tsali Lake, nearby the Nantahala Gorge in NC.  The course focuses on many aspects of kayak instruction.  We had plenty of oppotunities to observe how Robin and Anna teach, and to practice teaching mini-lessons to each other and receiving quality feedback from peers and instructors.

Another key aspect of the course is focusing on personal technique and modeling ability.  It’s important as an instructor to not only be able to speak about a stroke or boat maneuver, but also to demonstrate it in a clear and accurate manner.  As we re-learned the basics and foundational strokes of kayaking, we tweaked our own strokes, offered feedback to one another, and practiced using our critical eye to pick out minute areas of improvement in one another’s strokes.  At the end of the day, we were also video recorded doing several strokes and maneuvers (including the roll) and later watched the videos in slow motion while Robin, Anna, and our peers offered suggestions for improvement.  It was unbelievable to see how many tiny adjustments can be made within a stroke to make it undoubtedly more effective.

When I first learned we’d be spending the entire weekend on flatwater, I admit that I was slightly disappointed.  I envisioned these two days being boring, tiring, and overly elementary…BUT I WAS WRONG!  Flatwater is an amazing thing, because it brings to light the true effectiveness of your strokes.  On the river, we often talk about using the water and the current to your advantage.  People who are good at going with the flow and not fighting the river often appear to be super smooth, when in reality they’re just covering up for poor technique.  Strength is another cover up we see on rivers and mistake solid paddling as proper technique.  Men especially often has so much brute strength that they can power down a rapid making it look easy, so no one questions their technique and true stoke effectiveness.  Flatwater acts as a mirror to showcase your technique.

I’ve been paddling for 4 years and have been teaching kayaking for 3 of them.  Although I constantly try to focus on my own technique, and was taught how to instruct by talented and capable people, this course has taken my own paddling and instruction skills to the next level.  It completely surpassed by expectations in terms of what I would take away, and gave me plenty of additional information to confidently teach to a variety of learning styles and abilities.


Girls at Play and ACA will continue to offer instructor courses throughout the future.  In the Spring of 2012 we’ll offer another 2 weekend course, as well as a 5 consecutive day course.

Whether you’re an advanced paddler who has been instructing for years, or you’re fairly new to the sport and are looking to improve your own technique, this course will certainly meet your needs and expectations!  Keep an eye out for more information and another update after the second weekend!

Check out this link for more information and details about the course – GAP/ACA Instructor Course

For ways to improve your technique and paddling skills at home, check out Anna’s Instructional DVD Whitewater Kayaking for Women!