About Us - ACA


About Us

The American Canoe Association was founded in 1880 and is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that serves the broader paddling public by providing educational programs, supporting stewardship initiatives that affect paddlers, and offering competition opportunities to athletes of all abilities.

The ACA has over 15,000 members and 300 paddling clubs and affiliated organizations. The ACA provides insurance to hundreds of events and races every year. The ACA education program has an estimated reach of over 800,000 people per year. ACA members reside in all 50 states and over 35 countries worldwide.

Since 2017 the ACA has served as the National Governing Body for paddlesports (Sprint, Slalom and Paracanoe) for the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee and as the U.S. National Federation to the International Canoe Federation.

The heart of the ACA is the people who paddle, cherish and protect the rivers, lakes, streams, bays and oceans of the United States and beyond.

Our Mission

We build inclusive paddling communities, support excellence, and foster safety and stewardship through paddlesports education, competition, and recreation.


To engage millions of paddlers with safe and healthy opportunities for challenge, learning, service and enjoyment.

Core Values

Every paddler has the right to define their path on the water, from close-to-home recreation to remote exploration, and from entry-level to high-performance activities. To that end, we share these  core values:

Enjoyment: We develop programs, events, and education that provide satisfying, and rewarding experiences.

Safety: We create programs, policies, and procedures to ensure that safety is a top priority for all paddlers.

Inclusion: We promote a culture and atmosphere of integrity and camaraderie. We maintain an environment of respect, fairness, and kindness and embrace the value of diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives.

Teamwork: We work collaboratively with our members, clubs and partner organizations.  We nurture connections throughout the paddlesport community.

Excellence: We enthusiastically support the pursuit of excellence at the individual, club, team, and organizational levels. We strive to provide our members and the paddling community the best possible service to our members and the paddling community.


A member-elected Board of Directors governs the American Canoe Association. The 15 directors have a wide range of skills and expertise, including legal, financial, environmental and boating safety, and live throughout the United States. Directors are elected for a 2-year term. Elections take place in the early fall, electronically and as part of the Annual Membership Meeting.

In addition to the Board of Directors, the Safety Education & Instruction Council, the Competition Council, and other standing and ad hoc committees and working groups serve in advisory role to the Board and can make policy recommendations for the Board to consider.

The Competition members of the ACA  elect a Representative and Alternate Representative to the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee’s Athlete Advisory Council. The representatives serve a 4-year term.

ACA members have general powers and authority to vote on and conduct certain affairs of the association as described in the Bylaws including changes to the Bylaws. All ACA members are encouraged to participate in the Annual Membership Meeting each fall.

Strategic Plan

As both a national non-profit organization and the National Governing Body for Olympic Sport in the U.S., the ACA is uniquely positioned to advance paddlesports. The overarching purpose of this strategic plan and our work over the next five years is to promote the fun of paddling,
include all who are interested, build community, support excellence in instruction and competition, foster stewardship, and save lives.

National Awards

Each year, the ACA presents a series of prestigious national awards to individuals and organizations who have illustrated exemplary leadership, service, and dedication to various aspects of paddlesports.

Legends of Paddling

Presented to one or more individuals each year for their legendary contributions to paddlesport. Recipients of this prestigious award will be inducted into the ACA Paddlesport Hall of Fame.

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Excellence in Instruction

The prestigious Excellence in Instruction Award is presented to an ACA member for his or her outstanding contribution to paddlesports education and instruction. The recipients names are placed on a perpetual plaque that is prominently displayed in the ACA National Office.

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Sanctioned Event of the Year

Presented to the top ACA sanctioned event as nominated by the paddling public.

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Green Paddle for Waterway Conservation

Presented annually to an individual or a group that has made an outstanding contribution to paddlesport by protecting America’s waterways.

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Joe Pina Volunteer of the Year

Presented to one or more volunteers each year for extraordinary service at the local,  regional or national level.

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Stroke of Achievement

Presented to one or more ACA Affiliated Clubs each year for superior performance and program development.

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J. Henry Rushton

Presented annually to an organization or other group for outstanding achievements in advancing paddlesport and the mission of the ACA.

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Outstanding State Director

The Outstanding State Director Award is presented to one or more State Directors each year for their contributions to enhancing paddlesports in their state.

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Havens Leadership Award

The Havens Leadership Award rewards individuals whose practices and behaviors best serve the interests and success of USA paddlesports athletes.

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National Canoe Slalom Award

The National Canoe Slalom Award, presented by Team Colorado, annually goes to the individual coach, athlete or volunteer who best upholds high standards for the sport of Canoe Slalom and who consistently inspires and supports others to meet those high standards.

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President's Award

Given by the President of the Board of Directors to individuals for outstanding service to the ACA on a national level.

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Land Acknowledgement

The ACA National Office is located in Fredericksburg, Virginia. We honor the Fredericksburg land itself, the water of the local Rappahannock river, the Indigenous peoples who shaped it for millennia, their continued care today, and into the future. The ACA shares the city of Fredericksburg with the Patawomek, Manahoac, and Rappahannock tribal lands. These tribes steward this region with history and practices which benefit our shared ecosystems. Inclusion of this knowledge can build resilience across communities.