Course Overview:
The Essentials of River Kayaking course is designed to teach beginner paddlers to safely and enjoyably kayak on gentle rivers.

Essential Eligibility Criteria (EEC):
ACA courses are open to all individuals who acknowledge the ability to perform the following essential
eligibility criteria.
1. Breathe independently (i.e., not require medical devices to sustain breathing)
2. Independently maintain sealed airway passages while under water
3. Independently hold head upright without neck / head support
4. Manage personal care independently or with assistance of a companion
5. Manage personal mobility independently or with a reasonable amount of assistance
6. Follow instructions and effectively communicate independently or with assistance of a companion
7. Independently turn from face-down to face-up and remain floating face up while wearing a properly fitted life jacket*
8. Get in / out of a paddlecraft independently or with a reasonable amount of assistance*
9. Independently get out and from under a capsized paddlecraft*
10. Reenter the paddlecraft following deep water capsize independently or with a reasonable amount of
11. Maintain a safe body position while attempting skills, activities and rescues listed in the appropriate Course Outline, and have the ability to recognize and identify to others when such efforts would be unsafe given your personal situation*
* To participate in adaptive programs, participants must acknowledge only the first six EEC listed above.
Entry-level adaptive programs will involve teaching and practicing EEC #7-11.

Course Prerequisites: None
Instructors: ACA Level 2: Essentials of River Kayaking Instructor (or higher)
Course Duration: 8 hours or more, at instructor’s discretion
Course Location / Venue: Flat water and Rivers of no more than Class I difficulty

Class Ratio – 5 students: 1 Instructor; with an additional instructor or qualified assistant the ratio can be 10 : 2

Succeeding courses:
Level 3: River Kayaking
Level 5: Advanced Whitewater Kayaking
Level 4: Whitewater Kayaking

The following is a general summary of course content for the Essentials of River Kayaking course. The content covered and sequence of instruction should be adjusted to best fit the participant’s needs, class location and time allowance.

Course Content
Introduction, Expectations, & Logistics:
Welcome, introductions, paperwork
Student & instructor course expectations and limitations
Course itinerary & site logistics
Review waiver, assumption of risk, challenge by choice, medical disclosure
About the ACA
PFD policy (always wear on water)
Appropriate personal behavior
No alcohol / substance abuse
Proper etiquette on & off the water
Respect private property
Practice Leave No Trace ethics

The Paddling Environment:

Personal Preparation:
Personal ability
Swimming ability
Water comfort & confidence
Fitness, conditioning, and warm up
Safe paddle and boat handling
Safety and rescue considerations
Personal equipment (reviewed by Instructor)
Judgment. In addition to learning hard skills, the importance of developing personal judgment and group responsibility increases on more difficult paddling venues.

Getting Started:
Warm up and stretching
How to pick up a kayak safely
Car topping: loading and unloading, racks, straps
Launching and landing
Boarding, three points of contact, weight kept low, etc
Posture, safety, comfort, effectiveness, rocking, balance
Water comfort and confidence
Wet exits
How to empty a kayak
Basic Terminology
Types of strokes: power, turning
Stroke components: catch, propulsion, recovery (CPR), control, correction
Safe and effective body usage

Life Jackets (PFDs): types, fit
Kayaks: types, materials, parts (including safety features such as flotation)
Paddles: types, materials, parts, length, blade size & shape, hand position.
Spray skirts: types & material, grab loop!
Care of equipment
Personal equipment: water, food, shoes, hat, sunscreen, bug repellent, sun glasses, eyeglass straps, protective clothing for heat or cold, sponge, bailer/pump, whistle, knife, light
Optional equipment and outfitting

River Reading:
Current speed, direction and changes caused by streambed features

Safety & Rescue:
Exercising judgment, safety as a state of mind.
Principles of Rescue
Priorities: first people, then boats, finally other gear
Responsibilities of the victim
Responsibilities of the rescuers
Responsibilities of the group
Types of Rescue
Boat assisted rescue, towing or bulldozing a tired swimmer, towing or bulldozing a capsized boat
Shoreline Rescue: Extension rescues, use of throw ropes/bags

J-lean / Heeling the boat
Paddling in a reasonably straight line.
Eddy Turns
Peel Outs
Moving Abeam

Back (stopping)
Sculling draw
Sweep (including Stern Draw)
Reverse Sweep
Low / High Brace

Swimming in current
Boat Emptying
Assisted Rescue
From shore
Rescue ropes
From boat

Conclusion & Wrap Up:
Group debrief / Individual feedback
Course limitations
Importance of First Aid & CPR
Importance of additional instruction, practice, experience
Importance of appropriate level of safety & rescue training
Demo advanced maneuvers
Life sport / Paddling options
Local paddling groups / Clubs
Handouts / Reference materials
ACA Membership forms
Course evaluation
Participation cards

The American Kayaking Association (AKA) is in no way associated or affiliated with the American Canoe Association (ACA), whatsoever. However, the AKA offers ACA programs through certified ACA instructors; following the guidelines and protocal set forth by the ACA. our goals, passion and devotion to educating the general public is no different.