Posts Tagged ‘Kayak Safety’

Warning not all shops have trained instructors.  I am not going to rat anyone out but there is a reason why I am writing this post.  I wanted to bring this to your attention.

With hard economic times some shops are claiming that they uphold a level of safety by claiming that they hold an ACA certification.  Now, I know several instructors who are honest about why they do not belong to the ACA or associate themselves with the BCU.  And these people do not pass themselves off as ACA or BCU members (we can debate their whys in the comments)

I am only focusing on the liers. I think they are claiming that they are members of the American Canoe Association and or the British Canoe Union to compete with other retailers and local ACA / BCU instructors.  A person can still be safty minded if they do not belong; however, if an instructor starts with a lie can you trust them with your safety?  I think safety should always come first and I question just how safe these people are on the water.

Most ACA and BCU Instructors adhere to the guidelines of the organization that certified them for paddling knowledge and water safety.  This means that they teach in a prescribed manor.   The ACA and BCU want their instructors to teach a particular way to increase the safety of the student.  It is the same philosophy behind being taught CPR by a certified instructor.

I think all Certified ACA Instructors and BCU Coaches should always teach by a set of guidelines.  I do not want to see a retailer put the safety of the paddling community in jeopardy by claiming that they are safe because they are certified by the ACA and yet do not see a need to teach ACA classes.  If you find a shop claiming to have certified instructors and do not teach ACA  or BCU classes, run.

An instructor claiming to be certified should be able to produce their membership card, instructor card, and CPR card.  It is now required of ACA instructors to be CPR trained.

American Canoe Association

ACA Instructor Maintenance Requirements: BY the end of the 4 year certification period, the following minimum maintenance requirements must be met in order for the certification to be renewed for an additional 4 years:

  • Maintain annual ACA membership and SEIC registration
  • Teach a minimum of two (2) properly reported courses at the appropriate level of certification
  • Participate in an Instructor Update during the certification period.

Instructor Updates can be accomplished by one of the following methods:

  • Participate in an actual Instructor Update course at¬†your highest certification level
  • Assist with an IDW or ICE at the highest level of certification (with the pre-approval of the facilitaint IT) and complete a review of ACA Policies & Procedures with the IT
  • Complete an approved Endorsement (check¬†with the¬†SEI Department beforehand)
  • Co-teach a skills course at your highest level of certification under the supervision of¬†an IT in that discipline and complete a review of ACA Policies & Procedures with the IT.

In six weeks we will be paddling the Suwannee River.¬† And the question from our friends is “Jeff…Sean how is the back?”¬† The answer is “today it is good” ūüôā


Sean and I both have suffered from lower back pain.  Some people have theorized that the pain comes from kayaking.  Our pain was due to doing stupid things on dry land…And we now practice what we preach when it comes to back health.

Kayaking can improve a person’s core muscles and flexibility.  The more we stretch, exercise, and paddle (with a safe degree of rotation) the less we experience back pain associated to disks putting pressure on nerves.

Next weeks post will go into depth on what exercises were prescribed to us from physical therapists and a spinal surgeon.

Occasional I have a student in one of my classes talking about their back pain.  Before I see them on the water I ask them to consult with their doctor about their pain.  And then I request that the student brings me a letter from their doctor informing me that it is safe for them to be on the water.  Then after an evaluation of their technique, and looking inside of their cockpit, the plausible reasons for the pain turn out to be…

  • slouching
  • arm paddling
  • no rotation
  • strangling the paddle shaft
  • no padding within the cockpit
  • too much padding within the cockpit

Too much padding and high seat backs do temporarily mask back pain.  Unfortunately, this type of outfitting can lead to the weakening of abdominal and low back muscles.  It works similar to a doctor prescribed corset used to stabilize the back after an injury or surgery.

I wore such a corset to help mend a bulging disk.

When a corset is used, the patients have to wean themselves off it through therapy because the muscles have lost their strength and flexibility.  It is these muscles that support our spine and keeps or disks in a healthy position.

The best solution to surviving or preventing back pain is practicing proper techniques.  Seek out qualified ACA instructors or BCU coaches who will help you develop a fitness-paddling plan.  Hopefully the instructor / coach will also have a background in physical therapy.  Do not fall into the retail trap of fancy paddling gadgets.  Most gadgets promise to minimize pain without focusing on improving core muscles and flexibility.

– Jeff

PS.  Qualified ACA instructors or BCU coaches should be able to show you their membership card.  If they act oddly when asked, they maybe claiming to be certified to increase their chances of making money.

PS2 РIf you are experiencing leg numbness tell you doctor.  This could be a sign of a pinched nerve.  Consult your doctor  immediately.

The last few weeks I have been working with a guest that wanted to learn how to roll their kayak.¬† It is always interesting to learn why someone wants to learn this skill.¬† I have also been reading Pam Forsyth’s blog posts about her journy of learning to roll: Rolling as religion, Both sides of the story, . And these things got me thinking on my own evolution as a kayaker into a paddling coach.

Some people roll for attention, others roll for necessity, and a number of paddlers know how to lessen the need of rolling.  I roll for the body awareness, stretching, and abdominal strengthening that can occur when the maneuvers are done correctly.  It can be like yoga with a boat attached to you.  However, Sean thinks that the below cartoon is why I roll.  See, he does not know how to roll…


Bubble Street - 06 June 2006

…without a paddle float…LOL

I never thought I needed a roll until one day the motion of the ocean taught me humility.¬† I had been paddling for two years‚ĶI came out of my kayak in four foot breaking swells between Mullet Key and Egmont Key, Florida.¬† I was shocked because I had paddled in more challenging waters.¬† But this time I went over, came out of my boat, and could not get back into it without the assistance of Sean.¬† I doubted myself, and I was a little fearful of paddling again…

After that I put my energy into perfecting emergency reentries in rough water, and learning how to roll.  It took me a long time to learn to roll.  I just could not get the rhythm down and it was painful.  Then after several rolling instructors, I met a paddling  coach that told me a secret to rolling.  It was that rolling should not be painful; furthermore, rolling was not important.  A successful roll was a sign of an unsuccessful brace.  Hence, a brace was the key to having fun on the water.  For braces truly let you naturally move without thinking.

I practiced my brace in rough and confused waters near friends that could assist me with a bow, stern, or put-across rescue.  I practiced sculling for support with a modern euro blade paddle.  Then I discovered Greenland Qajaq traditional kayak techniques and learned how to perform side sculling and chest sculling with a Greenland paddle.


balance brace

After all of those hours of practice playing on the edge between clouds and sea grass I discovered that I had not had an unplanned capsize for over a year.  But I had also developed water on the brain.  I fell in love with the allure of Greenland kayaking because it rejects modern technology to embrace the technology of history.  I also think I could have been a seal in a past life… so I started to learn how to roll with a Greenland paddle.


Bubble Street - 12 Feb 2008

I can perform, as well as teach, twelve capsize maneuvers.  But I have realized that the perfect roll always looses against the perfect brace in real life applications.  Rolling improves balance, timing, and bracing.  And a perfect roll in eye shot of a non kayaker can scare off or entice them into trying out this lifestyle.

Nevertheless, playing between air and water does put things into an interesting perspective, and I always have fun when a guest learns how to lessen the chances of an unplanned capsize.


Hi Fellow Paddlers,

Kevin Reich

Picture from Bay News 9

Its been a very busy week in the world of news and info!!(Sun. Aug. 9th). I just wanted to drop this quick blog in about a 15 year old young man who we could all learn a little something from. Not only was he prepared beyond his years, but he was THANKFUL too!

To set the scene he was in local waters on his Waverunner(personal watercraft).

He was overtaken by a really strong and quick moving thunderstorm, as is the normal afternoon weather here in central gulfcoast Florida. The waves got big and his waverunner started to sink! Did he Panic? NO, not this well taught and simply prepared young Mariner! He quickly pulled out his cellphone that was in a 66 cent(at the most) plastic 10″x10″ Ziplock Baggie- which he had learned you can talk through and both parties can be heard; and called 911. He also remained very calm and collected on the phone with the 911 operator. They located him within 45 minutes of the call being made; by Sheriff Marine Unit Patrol/Rescue boat.

He also had with him a whistle, Personal Flotation Device(which he was wearing), and checks in with home at a designated time frame. Consequently, his mother said he had just missed the last call-in time and she was already in the process of setting into motion search boats herself!! The young man stated he had previous boaters courses and lessons his parents had taught him!! Lets all give a BIG Thank You to Mom/Dad for instilling Great Lessons to this neat young man! Like I said earlier, THANKFUL. No need to say more!!


This is an Awesome story in my opinion! Just think if a FAST moving waverunner can get nailed by BAD weather, what the heck would you do if out in your Kayak? There is never a substitute for being prepared for and trained to handle- BAD STUATIONS while on the water!!!!

And they lived Happily Everafter!
Sea Turtle Sean