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 Instructor Candidates a foundation in teaching and skills coaching, as well as the topic knowledge required to become an ACA 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 for coastal kayaking include:

 1 - Introduction To Kayak - Teaching novices on flat water in any type of kayak.

 2 - Essentials Of Kayak Touring - Teaching novices to paddle in near-shore  coastal environments.

 3 - Coastal Kayak - Teaching novice to experienced paddlers on coastal waters with sea conditions such as waves and current.

 4 - Open Water Coastal Kayak - Teaching skills for open water coastal environments such as larger crossings and bigger surf.

 5 - Advanced Open Water Coastal Kayak -Teaching skills required for paddling in more 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 personal kayaking experience and a developing but solid skill base. Following are some of the minimum attributes we suggest for candidates:

  • Ability to effectively use the paddle. This includes forward & reverse strokes, forward and reverse sweeps, draw and sculling draw, and high and low braces, in the sea conditions you hope to certify in. Can you effectively low brace in waves? What wind conditions can you make headway in? You need to know this from experience.

  • Knowledge & recent 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. (for level 3-Coastal Kayak Instructor 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.

  • Developing ability to paddle comfortably with grace and style, and to perform rescues efficiently, in the sea conditions you are wishing to instruct in.

  • 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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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.


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.


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

Level 1-2: Instructor Certification Workshop - 2021 dates TBD 

This certification workshop is a combined IDW & ICE.

Tuition: $325

Level 1-3: Coastal Kayaking Instructor Update 2021 dates TBD

This is a stand-alone update for Level 1 kayak instructors, and Level 2 & 3 Coastal Kayak Instructors when coupled with the kayak rolling instructor endorsement being offered the day after. 

Tuition: $115 Register Now

Level 2-3: Kayak Rolling Instructor Endorsement August 27th, 2021

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 & Update - September 13-15, 2021

New candidates must pass a level 3 or above ACA Trip Leader or Skills Assessment.

Development Workshop: $325 Register Now

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

Level 3: Instructor Certification Exam & Update - September 13-15, 2021

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: $225 Register Now

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

Level 4: Instructor Certification Workshop - October 21-24, 2021

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 - October 21-22, 2021

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 only. For those updating a current certification we occasionally have work-trade available. Contact us for details.) We also offer group discounts.

Required Materials

The ACA instructors manual is $22.50 (member price) and 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) For this class we offer a special rate of 50% off rentals for the duration of your course. 

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.

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.


Preparing For Your Course