top of page

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 Development Workshop is designed to give participants a foundation in teaching and skills coaching, and depth in topic knowledge required to become an instructor. The Certification Exam 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. Instructor 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.

Requirements For Beginning The Instructor Process

All participants attempting a certification at level 3 or above must pass as Skills Assessment at that level prior to being allowed into the IDW. 

Regardless of certification level, if you don't feel comfortable with ALL topics in the skills assessment we suggest taking one of our Skills Courses first. A course will provide you with breath of knowledge in a short amount of time.

"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

Passing The Exam

There is a lot of information covered in the IDW that is often new to participants, information that takes a while to be comfortable with. For this reason, instructor candidates will often wait up to a year before taking the exam.

Candidates in the exam should paddle comfortably with grace and style in the sea conditions you hope to certify in. You will be assessed not only on your personal paddling ability, but more importantly your ability to instruct on and off the water, your group management skills, safety & judgement, and knowledge of paddlesport topics such as tides and currents, navigation, and others as listed on the instructor criteria.

In order to pass a given level, ALL criteria for that level must be met. If your skills are lacking in an area you may be certified but at a lower level until you have demonstrated improvement in that area. This policy insures that instructors are well-rounded and able to meet the requirements of a diverse student population.

DSC_0101.JPG 2015-9-11-16:55:51

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 (& Level 2 Upgrade) - 2024 Dates TBD

This certification workshop is a combined IDW & ICE.

Tuition: $375 

Level 1-2: Coastal Kayaking Instructor Update - August 2024 Dates TBD

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

Tuition: $250 

Level 2-3: Kayak Rolling Instructor Endorsement - August 2024 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: $125 

Level 3: Instructor Development Workshop - May 17-19 2024

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

Tuition: $375 Registration Coming Soon

Level 3: Instructor Certification Exam & Update - May 17-19 2024

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: $375 Registration Coming Soon

Instructor Update (Days 1&2 only required): $250 Registration Coming Soon

Level 4: Instructor Certification Workshop - Fall 2024 Dates TBD. 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: $475 Register Now

Level 4: Instructor Certification Update - 2024 Dates TBD. 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: $250 Register Now

Course Information



Tuition covers instruction and course materials. We offer discounts to groups of 6 or more.

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

Kayak Tutorial Bow Rudder
The Proper Kayak Forward Stroke for All Kayakers

The Proper Kayak Forward Stroke for All Kayakers

Ken Whiting breaks down the technique for an efficient, comfortable and powerful forward stroke while paddling a kayak. Learn kayak tips from a professional kayaker. Other paddling gear I use and recommend: NOTE: These are affiliate links where I'll earn a small commission if you make a purchase at no additional cost to you, but it's a great way to show your support. Thanks! KAYAKS I recommend Sea Eagle 380x: Sea Eagle 393rl: Sea Eagle 385ft: Tucktec: Pakayak: Decathlon Itiwit: Oru Kayak Inlet: AquaGlide Chelan 120: Advanced Elements Advanced Frame: Star Rival Inflatable Kayak: Isle Switch Hybrid SUP/Kayak: Jackson Kayak Tupelo 12.5: Wilderness Systems Pungo 120: Perception Pescador: PADDLES Aqua Bound Manta Ray Carbon Paddle: Aqua Bound Tango Fibreglass Paddle: Aqua Bound Whiskey Carbon Bent Shaft Paddle: FOOTWEAR NRS Kicker Remix Shoe: NRS Boundary Boot: PADDLING SHIRTS / TOPS NRS Guide Long Sleeve Shirt: NRS Guide Short Sleeve Shirt: NRS H2Core Silkweight Shirt: NRS H2Core Silkweight Long Sleeve Shirt: NRS Hydroskin Short Sleeve Shirt: NRS Riptide Splash Jacket: NRS Flux Dry Top: PFD’S NRS Odyssey PFD: NRS Zen PFD: NRS Chinook PFD: OTHER PADDLING GEAR Zoleo Communicator: NRS Drylander Sprayskirt: WRSI Current Helmet: PADDLING SHORTS/BOTTOMS NRS Benny Board Short: NRS Hydroskin Shorts: SUNGLASSES WileyX: FOLLOW KEN Facebook: Instagram: Twitter: Blog: MADE POSSIBLE with the Support of: Ontario Creates: PRODUCED BY Heliconia: Contact:
Kayak Tutorial Side Slip