Since January 2018, I have been fortunate to be a member of the American Canoe Association (ACA) River Kayak Discipline Committee. Prior to being on this committee, I served as an ACA State Director of South Carolina, ACA Director of North Carolina, and then as a member for the ACA – Washington Executive Council. The ACA River Kayak Discipline Committee is responsible for curriculum development and implementation of ACA programs. To read more about the program: https://www.americancanoe.org/page/SEIC.

Prior to this ACA volunteering, I was a paddler and volunteered to instruct and lead kayak trips for Outdoor Recreation Georgia Tech (ORGT). I could probably write an entire novel about my wonderful experiences at ORGT. Since the beginning of my paddling, I have tried to “pay the debt” for all the joys and fulfillment I have received from paddling. Paddling changed my life. I now live a healthier lifestyle, I manage my stress more appropriately, I appreciate my life more, I gained friends, and I learned a lot about leadership.

ACA River Kayak Committee

I thought of the ACA as just one of the paddling organizations out there. I took a lot of the hard work of others for granted. I just loaded a boat on the roof of my car and went paddling, plain and simple. Every now and then I’d lead or help teach on a paddling trip. I thought of public lands as a free thing I get to enjoy, but I didn’t realize how much of a fight it takes to protect these special places. There are so many passionate paddlers in the ACA fighting for educating new paddlers, waterway access, environmental protection, and saving us all from making poor decisions on the river. The ACA has been around since 1880. Then I took my first ACA course at Sea Kayak Georgia on Tybee Island. It opened my eyes to the skills that would help me to be more effective and efficient while on the water. There were so many skills I didn’t know and there was a lot of risk I was taking not knowing these skills. I was able to take these paddling and rescue skills and bring them back to my community.

Through the ACA, I have been fortunate to meet some of these heroes and they helped me to realize that I needed to do more for the sport. I wanted to help others to transform their lives just as I had. I wanted to help others to see the beauty of the outdoors, the challenges that can be found and pursued, and being an environment where there are no winners or losers, just outdoor enthusiasts.
Being an ACA Instructor, I love seeing the joy on a new paddlers face as they accomplish something new. Whether it be nailing that first roll, having a dry hair line through a tricky rapid, or doing something fun and active, it’s all amazing. Being an ACA Instructor helps me to educate the next generation of paddlers and paddling educators. My primary hope is to teach students one skill that will keep them safe, their friends safe, and their family safe while on the water. Whether it’s a partner or self rescue technique, how to throw a rope, or just wearing a PFD every time you’re on the water. It’s so hard to look at the accident reports every year and see how many victims were not wearing PFDs.

ACA River Kayak Committee

Being on the ACA River Kayak Committee has opened my eyes to the international impact that kayaking is having. The ACA has been involved in ramping up programs in Asia and South America. Within those countries, you can see a passion for the water. This passion could one day help to keep waterways running freely, clean, and bringing life to riverside communities. By showing that the paddling community is responsible and respectful, we will be embraced by communities around the world. In order to be responsible, we need to educate communities and set a high standard with regard to safety and skill. As part of the ACA River Kayak Committee, we review the standards for Instructor certification, the curriculums used as a guideline for Instructors to teach students, and the policies put in place to protect Instructors, students, and the environment. I am surrounded by brilliant minds in paddling and it’s fun to just nerd out about paddling. Our goal is to add smiles and save lives.

Twice per year, the ACA River Kayak Committee meets with other paddling disciplines (e.g. raft, SUP, sea kayak, canoe, prone, adaptive, universal, safety & rescue). We exchange ideas, we propose new ideas, and we work toward a brighter future for paddling. We reflect on previous decisions and we do our best to learn from history in making future decisions. We want everyone to be able to enjoy paddling. We want everyone to have a safe and enjoyable experience. But how do we do that? How do we know it worked? How do we keep pace with the constant changes around the globe? We try to be the best versions of ourselves. We try to represent paddlers by listening to what they have to say and what they want to see happen. We learn from what we have experienced. Accidents happened and they are often devastating. When there is a lesson learned, we try to get that information out there to educate people. When there are advancements to gear needed, we try to pass that knowledge to industry. We want that person who is heading to the water to wear that PFD, to paddle with a plan, and to paddle in a safe environment with a safe group. But we need more help, we need more volunteers, we need more resources.

ACA River Kayak Committee

I share this blog to encourage you to find your way of giving back to the sport so that others can continue to enjoy the sport we all love. Whether it’s through teaching others to kayak, attending a river clean up, helping an outdoor company to build their website, or putting in the manufacturing effort to create the amazing gear we have today. Everyone is important in our paddling community, and I appreciate everything you all already do. I’m afraid of losing magical places like the Grand Canyon one day. I’m afraid of rivers becoming too polluted to kayak (some already are). I’m afraid of land owners putting barbed wire across rivers to block access. More than anything, I hope someone who needs paddling in their life can find it. I hope that we can help each other to be best selves and protect these special places and this special sport.