Sunday, May 10, 2009

ACA Certification!

What do you get when you combine 2400 miles, 7 states, 45 hours of training, and two awesome instructor-trainers? An ACA kayak instructor certification from NOC! The trip was great, and both Nora and I got our level IV certs.

I've always enjoyed introducing people to new experiences and activities, so teaching kayaking has always been one of my favorite things to do. I was an instructor/trip leader with the UW-Madison Hoofers for a couple years, then have been teaching informally in MN ever since. After law school I realized that I missed teaching classes and started looking into how to do it around here. Turns out that it was good timing, because Rapids Riders was looking for instructors. The only catch was that they require certification by the American Canoe Association in order to teach with them. So, I looked around for courses, found a good one at the Natahala Outdoor Center in North Carolina, talked Nora into coming with me, and headed out.

The area around the NOC had been pretty dry for the last few years, but as Nora and I headed South, we managed to bring a monsoon down with us to fix that little problem. It was raining the night we arrived and never really stopped for more than a couple hours. This was great to push the rivers up, but slightly less great for spending the week sleeping in tents.

Speaking of tents, we stayed at the Smokey Mountain Meadows Campground, which I can't recommend highly enough. It's in a beautiful spot, the grounds and shower houses are immaculate, and the owners are about the nicest people you could ever meet. They even let us move our tents under the picnic pavilion so that we could have a couple nights without getting rained on. This was a godsend because we were pretty much spending our days in the river, then our nights in the rain. Not the greatest scenario for drying stuff out, but at least it was warm...

The course itself was packed with a combination of classroom discussion, on-water skills development, rescue training, and teaching real students under the guidance of our instructor-trainers. We had lots of time on and in the chilly water of the Nantahala River. It made for a long week, but I think that both Nora and I learned a lot and had a great time.

Our group consisted of 8 paddlers of a variety of ages and experience levels, all of whom brought something unique to the group. They were wonderful people, and I feel lucky to have spent the week with them. Our instructor-trainers were Rob and Jason, and they were both awesome. They were fun and laid-back, but also demonstrated expertise to an extreme and an intuitive way of teaching that was helpful both as one of their students, and as a model for ways to relate to those I'll be teaching.

Now that we're back in the real world and our stuff is starting to finally dry out, I'm looking forward to getting out this weekend and teaching. It'll be great to meet all the new paddlers and try out some of the new teaching tricks I picked up!

1)The whole crew
2)Jason demonstrating roll instruction
3)Nora teaching real students on Friday
4)Instructor-trainer Jason
5)Instructor-trainer Rob
6)Swift water rescue practice
7)Pretty much explains itself
8)Camping in the pavillion
9)Smokey Mountain traffic jam

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