Commodores / Presidents
2019 – presentRead More
2019 – present
Robin Pope, Ph.D., PA-C, Fellow, Academy of Wilderness Medicine lives with his family in Sylva, NC, where he works as a physician assistant. His medical interests include allergy and asthma management, injury prevention and wilderness medicine. Robin is an instructor trainer educator in swiftwater rescue (level 5), river kayaking (level 5) and prone paddling (level 3); and an instructor in coastal kayaking (level 2) and canoeing (level 1). He currently serves as the Secretary of the Safety and Rescue Committee. In the past, he has served both as President and Secretary of ACA’s Board of Directors, and Chair and Vice-Chair of SEIC. He has received a Higgins and Langley Special Commendation award in swiftwater rescue and ACA’s Excellence in Instruction award. Robin represents paddlers and the ACA to the National Boating Safety Advisory Council, the National On-Water Standards program, and the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators Education Standards Panel. He also serves as the paddle sport specialist for BSA’s Sea Scouting program and was recently appointed as Branch Chief of the USCG Auxiliary’s AUXPAD paddling program. In all these roles, he strives to ensure that ACA instructors are recognized as the best source of paddle sports instruction.
2017 – 2018Read More
2017 – 2018
After serving as Board Treasurer for several terms, Peter Sloan of North Carolina has been elected as the next President of the ACA. Peter has 14 years of experience in financial and operational management. He began his career in the Investment Banking Division of Robertson Stephens & Company, where he specialized in internet and e-commerce corporate finance. Peter then joined the strategy and business development group of an internet firm before earning his M.B.A. from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Following business school, Peter worked at Gillette in global brand strategy and served as a strategy consultant with Mercer Management Consulting. Most recently, Peter was a Principal with a middle market private equity firm in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he was responsible for sourcing investments and day-to-day management of portfolio companies. He was a Director of two portfolio companies. In addition to his M.B.A. from the Kellogg School of Management, Peter holds an A.B. in History, cum laude, from Princeton University.
2013 – 2016Read More
2013 – 2016
Just out of high school Anne purchased a used fiberglass kayak and started floating around on New England ponds, rivers, and shorelines. It was the start of a life long connection with watersports. Her rafting resume includes the Green (multiple sections), the Colorado, San Juan, Dolores, Chamas, Animas and Nantahala. Her kayaking has taken her to the Texas coast, Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland, California, and Washington. 33 years of retail management in the outdoor industry has helped her introduce hundreds of people to her favorite outdoor activities. During her retail career, Anne developed and sponsored multiple on-water events around the country and in 2006 she brought her passion for watersports to the ACA Board of Directors. Its mission of education, stewardship, and programs for paddlers resonates strongly with her personal interests. She continues to serve on the ACA board providing support and expertise in events and personnel and is excited to undertake her new role as ACA Board President.
2010 – 2012
Robin Pope, Ph.D., PA-C, Fellow, Academy of Wilderness Medicine
2010 – 2012
Robin Pope, Ph.D., PA-C, Fellow, Academy of Wilderness Medicine
Robin guided the association through several years of positive transition as both the President of the ACA Board of Directors and as the chair of the Safety Education & Instruction Council. He is an active and long time member of the Carolina Canoe Club and resides in western North Carolina with his family where he works as a physician assistant. His medical interests include allergy and asthma management, injury prevention and wilderness medicine. Robin is an instructor trainer educator in swiftwater rescue (level 5), river kayaking (level 5) and prone paddling (level 3); and an instructor in coastal kayaking (level 2) and canoeing (level 1). He currently serves as past chair of ACA’s Safety Education and Instruction Council, Vice Chair of ACA’s Board of Directors, and Secretary of the Safety and Rescue Committee. In the past, he has served both as President and Secretary of ACA’s Board of Directors, and Chair and Vice-Chair of SEIC. He has received a Higgins and Langley Special Commendation award in swiftwater rescue and ACA’s Excellence in Instruction award. Robin represents paddlers and the ACA to the National Boating Safety Advisory Council, the National On-Water Standards program, and the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators Education Standards Panel. He also serves as the paddle sport specialist for BSA’s Sea Scouting program and was recently appointed as Branch Chief of the USCG Auxiliary’s AUXPAD paddling program. In all these roles, he strives to ensure that ACA instructors are recognized as the best source of paddle sports instruction.
Dr. Kirk Havens
2006 – 2009Read More
Dr. Kirk Havens
2006 – 2009
Kirk was tossed into a canoe at the tender age of 3 as part of his family’s long standing involvement with paddling. His great uncle, grandfather, uncle, and father were all Olympic paddlers. He enjoys all forms of paddling from outrigger to whitewater and in the late 1980’s founded the Mid Atlantic Paddlers Association. He served on the ACA Board of Directors as chair of the National Competition Council and later as Vice President of the ACA. In 2005 he became President and Board chair and was elected to two terms during a period of difficult financial times for both the nation and the ACA. During his tenure as ACA President, Havens facilitated the relocation of the headquarters of the ACA from a landlocked industrial complex to the vibrant riverfront community of Fredericksburg, Virginia along the banks of the Rappahannock River. He expanded the ACA’s presence nationally by negotiating with the federal government to allow placement of an ACA safety and instructor information message on US Geological Survey stream gage websites nationwide (over 7,000 sites) and on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) tide gage website. He facilitated the ACA’s connection to NOAA’s Marine Debris Program that formed the foundation of the ACA’s “Stream to Sea” stewardship effort in river and coastal cleanups. He initiated the ACA’s effort to increase paddling access by advocating for transportation departments to consider providing pull-off parking access when constructing or repairing bridges. Havens was a strong advocate for increasing the ACA’s involvement with youth, particularly with colleges, and initiated the ACA National Collegiate Downriver Canoe & Kayak Championship series. He formed a partnership with disabled veterans and children groups and started the Power of Paddling Initiative (POPI) which teams skilled disabled veterans as instructors in paddling to serve as teachers and role models for children with similar disabilities which laid the groundwork for the first National Adaptive Paddling Summit. In an effort to bring together all forms of paddling, he facilitated the initial meetings between the ACA, the US Olympic Committee, and USA Canoe/Kayak to re-engage a partnership to promote paddling from local recreational clubs to elite performance athletes and he continues to work on the ACA PaddleStar Initiative. He championed the ACA presence on the international stage by facilitating the ACA’s involvement with the famous Hawaiian navigator, Nainoa, and the Worldwide Voyage (WWV) of the double-hulled sailing canoe Hōkūle‘a’. The Worldwide Voyage of the Hōkūle‘a’ will last approximately 36 months; travel more than 45,000 nautical miles; and visit at least 26 countries, with 62 stops. During the WWV, crews will connect with classrooms and educators and with community and indigenous groups who share the Hawaiian Mālama Honua (care for island Earth) values and the vision of navigating toward a healthy and sustainable future. Havens’ passion, however, is with the history of the ACA from its roots in New York and Sugar Island to the banks of the Rappahannock River. He promotes the importance of the ACA’s rich heritage and stresses the significance of historian Daniel Boorstin’s quote “trying to plan for the future without a sense of the past is like trying to plant cut flowers”. Havens holds a PhD in Environmental Science and Public Policy and donates his time on various national, regional, and local boards. He lives in rural King & Queen County in Virginia with his wife Karla and son Kade, two dogs, two cats, and a bunch of bantam chickens where he faithfully holds to the ACA’s original mission of paddling comradery and exploration. The Havens family can often be found entertaining paddlers of all abilities on the back creeks of their property.
Jeff is an ACA L2 Certified Instructor Trainer in Touring Canoe, L3 FreeStyle Canoeing Instructor, and L2 Kayak instructor. He is the Managing Partner of Counterpoint Consulting, a Buffalo based management consulting firm. Jeff also spent six years as the COO of a nationally branded outdoor and snow sport accessory manufacturing company. He is a licensed New York State Guide and a member of the Board of Directors of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail (NFCT). He served on the national board of the American Canoe Association including a year as president and is currently the Chair of the Northern New York Division of the ACA. Previously he chaired the Waterways Committee of the Niagara Frontier Chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club. Jeff graduated from Gannon University with a BS/BA in Marketing.
2001 – 2004Read More
2001 – 2004
Charlie Wilson left the University of Illinois with Masters degrees in Outdoor Recreation and Organizational Theory to enter the outdoor sports industry. He operated a small chain, then a retail shop before designing portage packs and sewn accessories for paddlesports application. He was a principal in Bell Canoe Works, developing many of the companies solo and tandem paddlecraft with David Yost, a relationship that continued when he co-founded Placid Boatworks. While at Placid he introduced infusion lamination techniques and developed an integral gunwale system. Retired from manufacturing, Charlie continues as an industry consultant on marketing, hull and trim design and infusion processes. Charlie has written articles and submitted images on paddling and camping for CanoeSport Journal, Paddler and Canoe & Kayak Magazine, co-authored FreeStyle Paddling and contributed chapters to several other books on paddleport topics. Charlie become involved in FreeStyle paddling in the mid ’80s and helped promote Conclaves, a series of paddlesport industry events which eventually brought him to the ACA as FreeStyle became an ACA discipline in 1990. Chairing the ACA FreeStyle Activity Committee placed him on the ACA Board of Directors and the National Instruction Committee.The National Instruction Committee was transformed into the Safety Education & Instruction Council (SEIC) via the ACA National Bylaws revision of 1995 which came from a Board Committee Charlie chaired. While Board Secretary and SEIC Vice-Chair under Kim Whitley, Charlie chaired SEIC sub committees that rewrote SEIC Bylaws and policies to bring them into line with the national initiatives and to improve function through simplification. The 32 page policy document was reduced from 32 to 8 pages. Elected SEIC Chair in 1997, Wilson encouraged the Council to embrace the broader paddlesports market, specifically by developing instructional programs for recreational kayaking, touring canoe and kayak, and emerging groups of multi-sport enthusiasts. The broad acceptance of the essentials programs is, perhaps, the most visible result of those initiatives.After serving his second term as SEIC Chair, Charlie was elected President of the ACA Board of Directors for two successive terms, continuing the philosophy that the ACA needs to address the needs of all paddlers. Charlie was an inclusive chair who could run a meeting and initiate structure and programs, but his most important contribution to ACA instruction was a green coconut curry scallop dinner served over soba noodles to the SEIC one Friday evening at the Washington Suites in November 1999. For once, everyone smiled.
1999 – 2000Read More
1999 – 2000
Bill grew up in Florida and served in the U.S. Navy in the early 1960s (both of his children were born in the Philippines). Bill was one of the first staff hired by the new Bureau of Outdoor Recreation, created in 1965. He was one of the authors of the first Nationwide Outdoor Recreation Plan and a prime strategist for urban national parks. In 1988 he was instrumental in establishing the NPS’s Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program, and was also a key player in strengthening the NPS National Trails System program. Bill was the principal inspiration in 1990 for Trails for All Americans, which laid out the vision of a trail within 15 minutes of every American home. Typically, the report was a joint Federal/state/local/private effort. Bill’s signature was collaboration and collegiality. Bill was also a key player in strengthening the whole National Trails System, building base budgets for most of the 17 established national scenic and historic trails. Bill was a unique blend of visionary and pragmatist. He believed in partnerships and grass-roots advocacy but scorned half-baked ideas that he sensed would never fly. His first rule was “only get involved with programs and projects that have strong public support.”
1995 – 1998Read More
1995 – 1998
Janet Zeller had been paddling canoes and kayaks for over 25 years when she was injured in a work-related accident resulting in paralysis including in all four limbs. Despite being a quadriplegic, she was determined to keep paddling. In 1990 she developed the Adaptive Paddling Program for the American Canoe Association (ACA) and co-authored the book Canoeing and Kayaking for Persons with Disabilities. Janet has worked in the field of accessibility since the mid 1980s and joined the U.S. Forest Service in 1991. She is the National Accessibility Program Manager for that federal agency. In addition to managing the accessibility program for the Forest Service, she also represents the agency working on accessibility issues with organizations and other federal agencies and is currently serving on a committee of the U.S. Access Board developing guidelines. Janet makes presentations and instructs accessibility and universal design of programs and facilities at a wide range of training sessions nationally. She is also an ACA Instructor Trainer Educator, teaching adaptive paddling workshops around the country
1991 – 1994Read More
1991 – 1994
As Commodore, Don Sorensen steered the ACA Board of Directors as the organization transitioned into a modern volunteer organization. Under his stewardship, the ACA established a more representative governance with the adoption of the 1994 bylaws and developed award programs including the Joe Pina Volunteer of the Year award. During his tenure, the ACA first developed its ongoing partnership with local paddling clubs through the Paddle America Club program that continues through today. In addition, the ACA purchased Paddler magazine which was a valued member benefit for over 25 years. Don is also known as a C-2 slalom competitor (with canoe partner Ray McLain) and an early promoter of the Wisconsin’s Wausau Whitewater Park.
1989 – 1990Read More
1989 – 1990
Dave Mason is a past commodore of the ACA who has been a member for over 30 years. This guy bleeds ACA through and through and always finds a way to lighten the mood. Getting started: My parents sent me off to a summer camp, Camp High Rocks, where I fell in love with canoeing. When I graduated from high school, my father bought me my first canoe. That was a big mistake. I chose Sewanee because it was located in the Tennessee mountains near good white water. Reaction to induction into the American Canoe Association Paddlesport Hall of Fame: “I was honored and flattered. I was honored that the ‘higher ups’ had noticed the years of training, racing and instructing that I’d done, along with serving on the boards of all the national governing bodies. To now have my name alongside some of the ‘who’s who’ in the U.S. paddling world is very moving.”
1987 – 1988
1985 – 1986
1981 – 1983Read More
1981 – 1983
Sue is retired from a career as an architect and project manager spanning 30 years. She received her B. Architecture from Cornell University in 1966 and worked for a number of architectural firms in Philadelphia, PA. After relocating to California in 1985 with her husband Steve she received an M.B.A. from the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley with an emphasis in real estate and public policy. She worked for the City of Oakland’s Redevelopment Agency for six years on a variety of public/private projects. She is a member of the Urban Land Institute, licensed in Pennsylvania and California, though no longer actively practicing architecture. She was a lecturer in land use issues at the Haas School for seven years. She was an active whitewater canoe/kayak competitors for a number of years and she has served on the boards of the American Canoe Association and International Canoe Federation. She was active as a judge at national and international whitewater competitions and has officiated at two Olympic Games. She is also a skier and sailor. In retirement she has served on the boards of various art organizations and is currently on the Board of Trustees of the Oakland Museum of California where she chairs the building committee. The museum is three quarters of the way through a $62 million renovation project.
1975 – 1976Read More
1975 – 1976
Larry has been involved in all aspects of canoeing from safety instruction to designing and building canoes and kayaks, to competing in and winning whitewater, flatwater, and canoe sailing races. He has been paddling and canoe sailing for over 76 years. He started the ACA Rocky Mountain Division in 1955 and established the ACA National Slalom Committee. He hails from a family dedicated to the betterment of the ACA and paddlesports. His father was Commodore, which we now call President, of the ACA in 1950 and Larry has been attending the ACA’s Sugar Island Encampment since 1924 when he was just one year old. His friends recall many a day when Larry, as a child, helped his father measure sails for the canoe sailing races. He traditionally sounds the bugle at the opening of the Sugar Island Encampment. Larry has served as a division committee chair, an activity committee chair, on the board of the directors and, in 1975, as President of the ACA. He designed the ACA sail and rig as well as designed and built the highly successful Dragonfly canoe made of super-cored lay-up of carbon fiber for sail racing. He served as an International Olympic Committee (IOC) Official in Montreal in 1976 and was the Sailing representative to the International Canoe Federation (ICF) in 1981. In 1980, Larry managed the 100 Anniversary of the ACA events and produced the 1980 Centennial Yearbook. He also has a Sugar Island Sailing Trophy named in his honor. In 2012, at Larry’s induction as an ACA Legend of Paddling, past president Kirk Havens wrote, “There are many people who have been great instructors, who have won many races, who have designed excellent boats, and who have written articles and books, but in addition to having done all that, Larry has always done those things in a way that promotes, serves, and represents the ACA in the highest manner and the best light. But his true passion and immense talent lies not on his exploits on the water – which are many and varied – but in the recording and telling of the rich history of the ACA. Historian Daniel Boorstin once wrote that ‘trying to plan for the future without a sense of the past is like trying to plant cut flowers’ and Larry has been there for the ACA as our gardener tending the deep roots of our heritage. Our founders envisioned the ACA as a nationwide community of paddlers forged on the anvil of shared values and Larry has served for decades as our smith at that anvil, helping shape the ACA into a compelling gift from one generation to the next. And he helped lay the foundation for an association that is now well into its third century. We are a great Association today because of the great bridge builders, smiths, and gardeners of generations past and Larry has filled all of those roles for the ACA. He has prepared, inspired, and empowered paddlers everywhere. He is one of the Keepers of the ACA Flame.”
1973 – 1974
1970 – 1972
1968 – 1969Read More
1968 – 1969
Tom was the first kayak designer to make the leap from fiberglass to plastic with the River Chaser manufactured by Hollowform. His River Chaser design, the first rotationally molded plastic whitewater kayak, was responsible for the growth of plastic kayaks into all paddlesport markets today. Tom has also been an advocate and supporter for slalom for more than forty years both locally and nationally. He continues to paddle and instructs on occasion while remaining involved in the Kernville whitewater racing community. Credited with building the first fiberglass canoe (1942). Designed numerous canoes, kayaks, paddles and other paddling gear for the whitewater industry (1940s through 1980s). ACA Commodore (1968-1969) and ACA Pacific Division Vice Commodore (1962-1967).• Assistant Coach: 1969 World Championships. Created Olympic training center on Kern River where 8 of 13 U.S. team members trained (1972). Manager Coach for ‘72 Olympic team. Designed first roto-molded plastic kayak, the “River Chaser” (1974). Designed numerous canoes, kayaks, paddles and other paddling gear for the whitewater industry (1940s through 1980s). National K-1 Wildwater Champion (1967). National OC-2 Champion (1972). National C-2 Masters Slalom Champion (1980).
1966 – 1967
1964 – 1965
1962 – 1963
For a list from 1880 to 1960, click here.
William L. Alden, 1881 (first Commodore)