If you’ve never done it before, you may consider paddling sports to be fairly straightforward. Sports like kayaking, canoeing, and paddle boarding seem like you can just jump right into them.
However, if you have done one of these sports, you probably recognize the difficulty behind them. If you’re like many that did just jump into one of these sports without any formal instruction, it’s likely that you recognize areas of your performance that could use improving.
Whether you’re looking to learn how to kayak, or looking to improve your strength while canoeing, or looking to learn anything about a paddle sport, this guide should show you the benefits of using a paddling instructor.
Paddling Instructors Help You to be Safer on the Water
If you feel like you have the essentials of kayaking, canoeing or paddling down but aren’t sure about your safety while on the water, a paddling instructor can teach you some rescue essentials.
Many of the rescue techniques you can learn from a paddling instructor will be self-rescue techniques as these are the most commonly applicable in paddle sports. Though paddling with a friend or two is always safer, you’ll likely find yourself going solo at some point.
The Key to a Good Paddling Instructor – ACA Certification
Not all paddling instructors are created equally. One of the most important things you will want to keep in mind when looking for a paddling instructor is their certification. ACA certification is the industry standard.
The ACA is the American Canoe Association. The group provides certifications for instructors to provide safe and accurate advice regarding
- Adaptive paddling
- Safety & rescue
- Stand up paddleboarding (SUP)
- Prone paddling
The mission of the ACA is self-proclaimed.
“Founded in 1880, The American Canoe Association (ACA) is a national nonprofit organization serving the broader paddling public by providing education related to all aspects of paddling; stewardship support to help protect paddling environments; and sanctioning of programs and events to promote paddlesport competition, exploration, and recreation.”
The Dangers of Unsafe Paddling
Paddlesports are not turnkey. Without proper training and education, participants can easily hurt themselves.
There are dangers lurking for kayakers, canoers, and paddle boarders alike – some that you may not have ever considered. Some of the most common mistakes paddling enthusiasts make have to do with proper attire, proper technique, and proper gear.
If you plan on paddling, proper attire is everything. If the water is cold, you should dress accordingly. Additionally, it’s great practice to take a change of clothes in case of emergency. Hypothermia is a very real possibility, especially when your clothes are wet. It’s also important to remember that being quickly submerged in cold water can cause shock.
For hot weather, you’ll also need to take special precautions. Make sure you stay hydrated, wear appropriate clothes, and bring sunscreen. Dangers of hot weather paddlesports include heat stroke, heat exhaustion, dehydration, and other issues caused by excessive sun exposure. Some expert tips for extremely hot days include wearing white or light-colored clothing, sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat, and to make sure to bring plenty of water.
Once you’re dressed properly, you need to learn good technique. This largely means avoiding what is known as “sweepers” and “strainers.” These are two types of submerged or semi-submerged obstacles that can prove troublesome, especially if you’re craft becomes submerged near them. They create cycles that can trap you underwater if you are not careful.
Many paddlers are unaware of the presence of sweepers and strainers so education on the lurking danger is quite important.
Proper gear is just as important as proper apparel and technique. One of the most commonly overlooked pieces of gear is actually one of the most important – a lifejacket. In the paddling world, these are often called PFDs, short for a personal flotation device.
Important to note in regards to PFD id their rating for size and weight. Ensure that your PFD is properly rated. Also, you should always have a friend or family check the fit on your PFD.
As we mentioned, courses through a certified ACA instructor can help clarify any questions you may have regarding proper paddling apparel, techniques or gear.
With the Proper Education, Paddling is a Sport that the Whole Family Can Enjoy
Paddling sports are a blast for all ages and skill levels, but under the wrong circumstances can be very dangerous. If you’re unfamiliar with the sport and want a strong foundation or if you’ve been paddling for years and need specific refresher courses, finding a paddling instructor could be very beneficial.
You should never attempt a sport that you are unsure about or not completely educated on. As with any skill, paddling sports take time and you should be realistic with yourself about your skill level.