ACA Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiatives - ACA

ACA Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiatives

ACA DEI Statement

The ACA strives to be an association in which participants, members, guests, and the organizations they represent, feel a sense of belonging and are treated with dignity and respect. Our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is fundamental to our organization and organizational partnerships. We will continue working to decrease barriers, and increase access to paddling opportunities within communities that have been underrepresented and historically marginalized.

Initiatives to date:

Inclusive Paddle Collective: an ACA community dedicated to fostering inclusivity and supporting underrepresented communities in the paddling world. We believe that by coming together, we can create a stronger and more diverse paddling community. The Inclusive Paddle Collective meets once a quarter to discuss best practices, create a sense of community, and explore ways in which the ACA can better support groups and individuals who are working with historically and systemically marginalized communities. Marginalized communities can include but are not limited to, anyone who identifies as LGBTQ, disabled, racially underrepresented, folks who identify as an underrepresented gender, and lower socio-economic status. We believe that by sharing our experiences and knowledge, we can create a more welcoming and equitable environment for all paddlers.

Equity and Access Donation Fund: Developed to support ACA’s commitment to expanding access to paddlesports. The fund aims to help remove financial barriers to participation for underrepresented groups or individuals to pursue paddling education, leadership development, competition, and/or instructor certification.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Training: The DEI Board Committee has offered multiple training and peer sharing opportunities to ACA leaders and members in an effort to grow a common understanding of inequity.

L.L.Bean Club Fostered Community Grant: Provides grant funding to ACA member organizations, clubs, and volunteer groups for their ongoing activities, projects, and programs which illustrate substantial and quantifiable efforts at inviting and including a diversity of new community members. The goal of these intentional efforts to invite diversity into established club events and programs creates a welcoming environment for new paddlers to get involved and the opportunity to create lifelong connections to their local waterways and to the larger paddling community. Click here to learn more.

Leadership Exploration and Development (LEAD) Initiative: This transformative program is specifically crafted to empower and uplift individuals of color by providing them with the necessary training, education, and skill development to make a positive impact in their local communities through paddlesports. The program is a 4-day immersive experience that includes comprehensive coursework and ongoing mentorship, ensuring that participants are fully equipped to achieve their goals and bring representation to the paddling world. This initiative is an opportunity for individuals to enhance their leadership skills on the water, build community, while simultaneously creating a ripple effect of increasing paddlesport accessibility and participation in their home communities. 

In 2022, we were able to host four programs across the country this past summer alongside our organizational partners, Hudson River Riders/Yonkers Paddling and Rowing Club in New York, REI Co-Op in Washington D.C. and Los Angeles, California, and Iowa Rivers Revival in Des Moines, Iowa.

In 2023, we hosted a program in Tampa, Florida alongside Tampa Bay Kayak Anglers, Sun Coast Youth Conservation Center, and Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network.

Universal Paddling Program: Since 1990, the ACA has led the adaptive recreation industry through the of training instructors and program providers in the best practices of inclusive paddlesports. 

The Universal Paddling programs enhance the skills and knowledge of ACA Instructors and the general public by teaching how to outfit equipment and modify teaching styles to allow people of all abilities to participate in paddlesports activities as safely, as comfortably, and with the same performance potential as all others. The Universal Paddling Program currently features Advanced Communications Programs to enhance paddlesports instruction to better integrate individuals with vision, speech, or hearing impairments into paddling programs and Adaptive Paddling Programs for paddlesports leaders to gain confidence teaching paddlesports and outfitting equipment for individuals with physical disabilities. For more information, visit the Universal Paddling webpage.


Cover Photo Credit: Chris Farris – Team River Runner, California / American River Chapter

LEAD Testimonials


LEAD Program - California

LEAD Program - Iowa

LEAD Program - New York

LEAD Program - Washington, DC

LEAD Program - Florida

DEI Resources

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Won't Work Without Antiracism