ACA Partnerships Conduct 43 Volunteer-Led “Kayaking 101” Classes in 7 States to Kick Off National Safe Boating Week - ACA

Jul 9, 2024

ACA Partnerships Conduct 43 Volunteer-Led “Kayaking 101” Classes in 7 States to Kick Off National Safe Boating Week

Kayaking 101 2024 cover

On May 18, in what may have been the largest ACA led safety training event in ACA history, the ACA Regional Activity Council rallied the paddlesports community across seven states to train 471 people in one day to kick off National Safe Boating Week.

This year marked a significant expansion of an already successful volunteer-led initiative to offer low-cost kayaking instruction on the Saturday before Memorial Day Weekend. Nationally certified ACA instructor volunteers and representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary joined forces with 10 state agencies, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and 59 other local stakeholders including paddling clubs, outfitters, retailers and other paddlesports leaders to offer 43 simultaneous “Kayaking 101” classes. After successful initiatives in Tennessee and North Carolina in 2022 and 2023, this year the ACA partnership expanded to include Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Texas and Missouri. 

Classes cost $15 per person including a free kayak rental for training that often retails for $75-$150. Each park’s event was limited to 15 people. In returning states, Tennessee and North Carolina, there were also a few specialized classes for Adaptive Kayaking, Kayak Fishing, and Stand Up Paddleboarding.

During the lead up to the event, the 2023 implementation of this partnership was recognized by the National Safe Boating Council with the 2024 IBWSS Community Impact Award. In 2024, 184 volunteers including instructors, safety boaters and photo/social media volunteers came together to bring this event to life with support from 94 uniformed boating safety professionals ranging from U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary members, State Park Rangers, and Wildlife Resources/Department of Natural Resources Officers. 

In addition to the positive vibes and great skills gained by the students attending the in person classes, media messaging about these partnerships resulted in 46 news stories including national coverage in Paddling Magazine and among state boating educators in their trade newsletters, as well as reaching 123,000 paddlers through ACA state social media channels in addition to social media posts by state agencies, local partners and volunteers.

Seventh Coast Guard District Recreational Boating Program Specialist and ACA Instructor Trainer, Scott Szczepaniak, served as a member of the national core team coordinating the partnership event across all 7 states and served as an Instructor in South Carolina. “This event is perfectly aligned with the Coast Guard’s national strategic plan for recreational boating safety,” says Szczepaniak. “We simultaneously built powerful partnerships for safety training and influenced entry level paddlers to wear life jackets.”

Roland McDevitt, Paddlecraft Safety Division Chief for the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and an ACA Instructor, also served on the national core team and  served as an Instructor in North Carolina. “Kayaking 101 creates phenomenal opportunities for the paddlesports experts in the Coast Guard Auxiliary to cross pollinate with other ACA instructors and paddlesports leaders in their communities,” said McDevitt. “It is also a great way to introduce other Auxiliarists to the kinds of paddlesports training opportunities that we are growing and expanding within the Auxiliary and with our partners. After attending one of these events, they get it.”

“At the surface, this event marks an incredible opportunity for ACA instructors and the paddling community to come together to offer community-based training as a special one-time per year opportunity and energize the community, but for the ACA, this event is much more than that,” said Andrea White, Chair of the ACA Regional Activity Council and co-founder of this event. 

“ACA leaders in seven states connected with their paddling community leaders to make Kayaking 101 happen and to help put the ACA brand and the message about how much fun a day of training can be into the general market awareness. That promotes organizations doing ACA training all year long and demonstrates the value of being connected with the ACA.”

White continues, “Additionally, offering a common event template across seven states gives us the ability to do standardized event management and reporting and then transfer the successful relationships we have between ACA leaders and state officials in one state to build confidence about partnerships with officials in another state. This kind of transferable experience is invaluable.”

2024 marks the first time the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has served as a public lands partner, enabling the ACA to bring the “Kayaking 101” event to Georgia. “Being able to mobilize this many nationally certified ACA instructors to help beginners is a very powerful way for the community to come together to reinforce safety while we are having fun!” said Ranger Rusty Simmons, Chief Ranger of Park Operations at Allatoona Lake.

Participating Marquee Sponsors for this event include:

  • American Canoe Association’s Regional Activity Council
  • U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary
  • Georgia River Network
  • Tennessee State Parks & Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency
  • North Carolina State Parks and North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission
  • South Carolina State Parks and South Carolina Department of Natural Resources
  • Florida State Parks and Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission
  • Missouri State Parks
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Allatoona Lake, Trust for Public Lands/Chattahoochee Riverlands, and Georgia Power Company

State by State: The following core planning team members rallied their communities to make this event possible and partnered with these local partners in each state!

Watch the highlight video here!

Tennessee: Kayaking 101 Tennessee Volunteer Coordinator Kim Abney, ACA Tennessee State Director ANDe Demetriou, and Tennessee State Parks Interpretation & Recreation Manager Laura Franklin served as the Tennessee planning team, supported by contributions from Appalachian Paddling Enthusiasts, Blues City Kayaks; Bluff City Canoe Club; Catalyst Sports; Chattanooga Therapeutic Recreation Services, Chota Canoe Club; East Tennessee Whitewater Club; Nolichucky Outdoor Learning Institute; Team River Runner-Atlanta; Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association; Tennessee Valley Canoe Club; University of Tennessee Canoe and Hiking Club; and Tennessee RiverLine.

North Carolina: ACA North Carolina State Director William Holman worked with State Park Ranger and ACA Instructor Trainer Jake Vitak and Coast Guard Auxiliary Paddlecraft Safety Division Chief Roland McDevitt served as the North Carolina planning team, supported by contributions from Carolina Kayak Club, Get Outdoors Pedal and Paddle, Carolina Canoe Club, Paddle NC, Outdoor Women by Jo Proia, Catawba Riverkeepers, Cape Fear River Adventures, Kitty Hawk Kites, Frog Hollow Outdoors, Great Outdoor Provision Co., Team River Runner Pineland Chapter, Foothills Conservancy, Rock Outdoors, Liquid Logic Kayaks, Lett’s Go Watersports, City of Raleigh Parks and Recreation, City of High Point Parks and Recreation, Twin Rivers Paddle Club, Paddling 4 Pennies, Yadkin River Keepers, REI

South Carolina: Kayaking 101 South Carolina Event Coordinator Bev Cosslett, ACA South Carolina State Director Geoff Chambers, South Carolina State Parks representative Dia Hitt, South Carolina DNR representative Denetta Dawson and Coast Guard Auxiliarist Walter Runck served as the South Carolina planning team, supported by contributions from Low Country Paddlers, Augusta Canoe and Kayak Club, America’s Boating Club – Charleston, and Edisto River Canoe and Kayak Commission.

Georgia:  ACA Georgia State Director Erin Evans, Georgia Canoeing Association President Diane Windham, USACE Ranger Christopher Purvis, Georgia River Network leaders Andrea White and Rebekah Clark as well as Coast Guard Auxiliarist Daniel Vaccaro served as the Georgia planning team, supported by contributions from Georgia River Network, Georgia Power Company, Trust for Public Lands, Georgia Canoeing Association, The Outdoor Foundation, Savannah Coastal Ecotours, Middle Georgia Kayaking, Miller Kayak Trips and Training, REI Co-op and REI Co-op Experiences, Tennessee Valley Canoe Club, Half Moon Outfitters, Westbrook Supply Co., and Southern Conservation Trust.

Florida: ACA Kayaking 101 Florida Event Coordinator Kevin Hawkins, ACA Florida State Director Tatiana Cox Lopez, Florida State Parks Assistant Director Brian Fugate, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission Boating and Waterways representative Brian Rehwinkel, Past President of Florida Paddling Trails Association Dorsey DeMaster, and Coast Guard Auxiliarist Don Rice served as the Florida planning team, supported by contributions from Kaku Kayaks, Tampa Bay Kayak Anglers, Florida Paddling Trails Association, Kayak Adventure Group out of Tampa Bay, and St. Augustine Paddle Sports.

Missouri: ACA Heartland Regional Chair Perry Whittaker and Missouri State Parks Recreation Section Chief Rebecca Young served as the Missouri planning Florida planning team, supported by contributions from team, supported by contributions from The Alpine Shop.

Texas: Texas Parks and Wildlife Boating Education Manager and ACA Instructor Trainer Kim Sorensen, ACA Texas State Director Chris Arceneaux, ACA Gulf States Regional Chair Dave Holl served as the Texas planning team, supported by contributions from Houston Area Sea Kayakers, Kraken Kayak Outfitters, and Champions Outdoors.