On February 21st 2015, CanoeSport paddlers Jennifer Hurst and Casey Holmes (me) traveled down south in search of softer waters and a chance to earn their ACA Level 2 Coastal Kayak Instructor certifications.
Leaving the sub zero temperatures was tough, but once we hit the 70 degree weather, we both decided we would just have to live with this heat wave. We pulled into the parking lot of Sweetwater Kayaks located in Saint Petersburg Florida. Once the paperwork was all filled out and all our i's dotted and t's crossed, we drove to our hotel in Clear Beach.
The combination Instructor Development Workshop and Instructor Certification Exam started bright and early on Sunday February 22nd. We had over 20 perspective instructor candidates in the class. About half of the candidates were testing for their Level 3 Instructor Certification. Our group consisted of a wide range of paddlers and skill levels. We had everything from a college librarian to ex-military that were getting their certification so they could teach kayaking to their local girl scout troops.
The first part of the class on Sunday, mainly consisted of going over paperwork and learning more about the American Canoe Association (ACA). We learned about what the ACA is all about and what would be expected of us as new instructors. Later after lunch, we got to get out on the water. Previous to us getting down to Florida, each canidate had to prepare a 10 minute presentation that they would have to present to their class some time during the class. I had the pleasure of trying to discuss and teach about weather. Let me tell you, trying to squeez the basics of weather and how it effects kayakers in 10 minutes is not a simple feat! I ended up taking the full 10 minutes and only got to discuss pressure systems and fronts. The class then critiqued the presentation, and feedback was given.
After a few more presentations were given, we got to go out on the water. Our large group was broken down into 2 groups. Level 3 canidates went with one set of instructors, and level 2 went with another. In our level 2 group, we still had 12 people, so our group was split into 2 more groups. We learned the proper way to model forward strokes, reverse strokes, sweeps, draws with in water recovery, and sculling draws. We also got to play around with stern rudders while edging. After multiple tips, tricks, and capsizes, we were done for the day.
The following morning, we were going to cover rescues. We broke down into our 2 groups and started working on rescues. Some of our instructor candidates had never done rescues before so it was interesting to say the least. We practiced T-rescues, paddlefloat rescues, scoops, and hands of god rescues. Having not practiced the hands of god rescue for a while, this was a much needed refresher. I learned many tips and tricks to get paddlers back in their kayaks with minimum time in the water, and minimum effort. In the afternoon of the second day, we were video taped modeling of all the strokes. Later that night we all met back up at Sweetwater Kayaks and watched the videos, and critiqued ourselves and our fellow paddlers.
For the 3rd and final day, we met at a different beach. Heavy fog had rolled in and it made for some interesting scenarios. Our goal for this day was to lead our group on a journey. During this journey, certain paddlers would have an issue and the person leading the group would have to control the situation and keep the group safe. Of course during my scenario, the instructors decided it would be fun to not only have half of my group paddle out of range, but also 2 capsizes. One of the swimmers in the water had a shoulder injury, so a modified scoop had to be performed. During this rescue another paddler went in the water. All in all the rescues were quick and efficient, and no paddler was in the water for more than a minute. I had passed with flying colors.
After the day on the water was over, we went back to Sweetwater for our debrief, and to discuss if we had passed. I volunteered to go first. I had passed my level 2 and the instructors wanted me to stay for the level 3. Having previous certifications, I politely passed stating that I had some snorkeling to do the following day. The 3 days went by quickly. I learned a lot of things to incorporate into my classes, and well as things to avoid.
New ACA Kayak Instructors!