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.


To connect diverse communities by fostering a shared commitment to safety and stewardship, and by providing opportunities for challenge, achievement, and fun through paddlesports.

Our Mission

ACA provides paddlesports leadership, structure, and instructional resources to promote our sport’s many health and social benefits to fuel membership growth and enrich the experience of all participants.

Leadership Structure and Instructional Resources

Health and Social Benefits

Enriched Membership Experience

Core Values

We believe every paddlesport participant has a right to define their path on the water, from fun recreational activities to elite athletic pursuits, and we share these  core values:

Enjoyment: We develop programs, instruction, training camps, events, and competitions that provide a fun, satisfying, and rewarding experience for all. We paddle because it is fun.

Safety: We create tools, programs, policies, and procedures to ensure that safety is a top priority for all our members and other paddlesport participants. Paddling is fun when we’re safe and healthy.

Inclusion: We promote a culture and atmosphere of honesty, camaraderie, and sportsmanship to enrich lives and unleash the full potential of all participants. We maintain an environment of respect, fairness, and kindness and embrace the value of diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. Everyone is welcome in the paddling family.

Teamwork: We work collaboratively with our volunteers and partner organizations.  We nurture connections throughout the paddlesport community and with the US Coast Guard, the US Olympic & Paralympic Committee, the International Canoe Federation, the Outdoor Alliance, and other partners.  We cannot achieve our mission alone. 

Excellence: We are committed to the pursuit of excellence at the individual, team, and organizational levels. We strive to provide the best possible service to our members and the paddling community. We are accountable for how effectively we achieve that goal.


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.

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.