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ACA Coastal Kayak Instructor Certification Workshops

The American Canoe Association instructor certification process has two components: the Instructor Development Workshop (IDW), and the Instructor Certification Exam (ICE).


The IDW is designed to give participants a foundation in teaching and skills coaching, and depth in topic knowledge required to become an instructor. The ICE then challenges each candidate to demonstrate individual proficiency in the presentation (teaching) and demonstration (modeling) of sea kayaking subjects, general paddling knowledge, safety, and leadership. Certification levels include:

 1 - Introduction To Kayak - For teaching on calm water in any type of kayak.

 2 - Essentials Of Kayak Touring - For teaching in near-shore coastal environments.

 3 - Coastal Kayak - For teaching in coastal waters with sea conditions such as waves and current.

 4 - Open Water Coastal Kayak - For teaching in open coastal areas including longer crossings and surf zone environments.

 5 - Advanced Open Water Coastal Kayak - For teaching in advanced open water conditions.

Entering The Instructor Process

Instructor candidates begin by taking the IDW. However if students have limited technical knowledge of sea kayaking topics such as tides, currents, weather, boat design, or have never been coached in proper paddling technique, we suggest taking one of our Skills Courses prior to enrolling in an IDW. The IDW is for those who already have considerable kayaking experience and a developing but solid skill base. Following are some of the minimum attributes we suggest for candidates:

  • Developing ability to paddle comfortably with grace and style in the sea conditions you hope to certify in. This includes comfort on edge, and familiarity with all paddle strokes listed on the Instructor Criteria. (Forward & reverse strokes, forward and reverse sweeps, draw and sculling draw, and high and low braces) 

  • Knowledge & experience with rescue techniques; T-rescue, Side-by-Side, Rafted-T, and Paddle Float. Also have working knowledge of other rescues; Scramble, Reentry and Roll with Paddle Float, Reentry and Roll, All-In, and Scoop. 

  • Ability to perform a reliable kayak roll. (To pass level 3 and above)

  • Developing knowledge of; safety issues and hazards of coastal kayaking, marine navigation, weather conditions important to the kayaker, hypothermia prevention and treatment, signaling devices and safety equipment, boat traffic & rules of the road, kayak design and equipment, kayak towing technique, and tides.

  • Demonstrate leadership and group management skills, experience and judgment necessary to be a safe, effective instructor.

"I have heard nothing but great things from all our leaders...We will be in touch and continue to send folks up to the

course as long as you are running them."

Ryan Wagner - Camp Manitowish Wilderness Program Director


"I participated in an ACA coastal kayak course with Greg and Lost Creek Adventures last summer. I really enjoyed Greg's insight and varied teaching methods, as well as his encouragement and personality. I absolutely loved the comfortable learning atmosphere and level of professionalism that he and his staff provided. Great location and great fun made for solid learning."

Lucas Will - Lutsen Resort Outdoor Program Director


The IDW will teach you everything that you didn't know you didn't know about your kayaking strokes. It refined my own paddling significantly, and gave me the language and methods to better teach kayaking to others. Greg sets the bar high, but he provides the tools and support needed to help participants meet their individual goals, whatever they may be."

Liz Carson - Participant

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Pre-requisites for taking the ICE (Instructor Certification Exam)
Candidates are judged on their paddling, group management, safety, teaching ability as well as general paddlesport knowledge. (i.e. depth & breath & prior experience)

In order to pass a given level, ALL criteria for that level must be met. (see resources below for criteria) If you are lacking in one of these areas you may be certified at a lower level until you have demonstrated improvement in the areas noted. This policy insures that instructors are well-rounded and able to meet the requirements of a diverse student population.

About Your Trainer...

Greg Weiss is an ACA Instructor Trainer for Open Water Coastal Kayaking (L4) and an instructor for Whitewater Kayak (L4) and Stand Up Paddleboard (L2). He has been teaching and guiding since 1990 at locations throughout North and South America. Greg has also spent time instructing skin on frame kayak building and continues to carve traditional paddles. He keeps busy teaching adjunct courses at Northland College, running Lost Creek Adventures, homesteading, and of course, paddling.

ACA cert course calendar

You may also Contact us to set up custom dates for your group of 3 or more.

Level 1-2: Instructor Certification Workshop - 2023 dates TBD

This certification workshop is a combined IDW & ICE.

Tuition: $325 Register Now

Level 1-2: Coastal Kayaking Instructor Update - May 19-20, 2023

This is a one day stand-alone update for Level 1 and 2 Kayaking Instructors.

Tuition: $115 Register Now 

Level 2-3: Kayak Rolling Instructor Endorsement - Summer 2023 dates TBD. Contact us with interest

This is a great stand alone course for those interested in teaching the kayak roll, as well as an endorsement for ACA Kayaking Instructors at levels 2 and 3. 

Tuition: $115 Register Now 

Level 3: Instructor Development Workshop - May 19-21, 2023

New candidates must pass a level 3 or above ACA Trip Leader or Skills Assessment prior to attending the IDW. 

Tuition: $325 Register Now

Level 3: Instructor Certification Exam & Update - May 19-21, 2023 (Only first 2 days required for update)

The exam is for candidates who have taken a level 3 IDW and are ready to take the exam. May also be used as an update for certified L3 instructors.

Instructor Exam: $325 Register Now

Instructor Update (Days 1&2 only required): $225 Register Now

Level 4: Instructor Certification Workshop - Watch for fall 2023 dates. Contact us with interest

Current level 3 instructors may apply for upgrade to level 4 by taking the level 4 ICW. 

Candidates must meet the following requirements for participation:

Tuition: $425 Register Now

Level 4: Instructor Certification Update - Watch for fall 2023 dates. Contact us with interest

If you are already certified at level 4 you may use this course to complete your four-year update requirement.

Tuition: $225 Register Now

Course Information



Tuition covers instruction and course materials, not equipment. We also offer group discounts.

Required Materials

The ACA instructors manual is required for certification courses. (Not for updates) You may purchase it directly through the ACA website store.

Required Equipment

You must bring your own boat and equipment or rent. You can rent a kayak package from Lost Creek, (kayak, paddle, pump, float, etc) as well as purchase certain needed items from our store. (tow belt, compass, etc) 

During early season courses a dry suit or thick farmer-john style wetsuit with dry top is necessary. We do not have dry suits available for rent, however we do rent 3mm wetsuits and you can usually double up on them.

Required Memberships

The ACA requires all candidates to be members in good standing in order to take an IDW and to hold a certification. This cost  is $40 for an annual membership. Become a member online before your course and retrieve your member number.

Once you have passed the exam you must join the ACA SEIC (Safety, Education and Instruction Committee) which is $30 for an annual membership and allows you to register the ACA courses you teach and use the ACA's liability insurance.


Registration policies follow our class reservation policies. 


Stay with other paddlers at our Apostle Islands Bunkhouse. There are also other inexpensive options for camping and local lodging available.  See our resources page for ideas.

To Register

1st Read through the information via the ACA's Instructor Resource Center. These are all the 'need to knows' and important updates about being an ACA instructor.

2nd Read about the level system and where you fit into the process via the ACA Instructor Criteria page. You must meet ALL criteria at the level you are attempting to certify at.

3rd Once you feel confident that you are ready to start the instructor candidate process, obtain your ACA membership # You MUST be registered at course start.

4th Download a copy of the ACA Instructor Policy Manual. This will give you the details on staying current, and staying within the parameters of your certification. Get familiar with it.

5th - Register! We will send you a confirmation to let you know that you have been accepted to the course. Prior to course start we will send you the course packet which includes the course outline, your teaching topics, and other items to help you prepare.

Helpful Resources

Sea Kayak Instructor Topics & Resources