Policy News - ACA

Policy & Stewardship

Policy News

Paddlers need access.

The ACA is the voice of paddlers at the local, state, and federal levels on a range of public policy issues that affect paddlers.

The ACA’s core policy efforts are aimed toward proactively defending, promoting, and safeguarding a regulatory environment for the paddling community that is fair and equitable. This includes legislation related to access to public lands and waterways, mandatory education standards, life jacket wear regulations, and how paddlers financially contribute to infrastructure that supports safety, access, education, and conservation.

This page features the latest updates about policy news and happenings.

June 16, 2023

In the past five years growth in entry-level (recreational) paddle sports has been meteoric.

Since 2010, every year there is close to an additional one million paddlers on the water, and half of these paddlers identify as recreational paddlers.

  • As participation grows, there is unfortunately a growth in paddlesports fatalities.
  • Since 2010, paddlesports fatalities, as a proportion of total boating fatalities (including motorized), has grown by almost 7%.
  • Regulatory agencies are noticing and responding.
    • Rhode Island recently passed a mandatory life jacket wear law
    • Washington and Florida proposed legislation for mandatory education
    • Arizona is offering paddling instruction programs to residents

Given the rapid growth, it is important that the ACA works hard to address the needs of this unique paddling community and create the educational experiences that provide the knowledge and skills to keep these paddlers safe on the water.

Three-quarters of boating deaths occur when vessel operators have had no boating education. The ACA is the leader in paddlesports education, but to ensure our paddlesports education programs are accepted by regulatory agencies and our instructors are able to teach courses recognized by regulators, three distinct entry level, recreation-focused classes are being  proposed.

The ACA is proposing three courses to ensure that we are well prepared to offer curriculum in any state that makes legislative moves to require mandatory paddler education. It is vital that our curriculums are written in accordance with standards (ANSI and NOWS) recognized by regulators.

Without this effort, the ACA – the leading paddling education organization in the US and the US NGB for Olympic and Paralympic paddlesports – will not have a program that meets regulatory requirements for potential future mandatory education legislation.

Because ACA does not have an approved course offering, even a level five instructor certification workshop will not meet regulatory standards whereas existing online paddling courses from BoatEd and BoatUS already meet these standards. This is an unacceptable position for ACA’s instructor cadre.

Perhaps most importantly, in addition to meeting regulatory requirements, the creation of this new suite of entry-level, recreation focused courses allow the ACA to best meet the needs of the growing recreational paddling community.

These courses will:

  • Align with initiatives found in our Strategic Plan
  • Meet the recommendations of a recent third-party review of our curriculums
  • Proactively position the ACA to be a leading voice in the creation of regulatory environments that are fair and equitable for paddlers in every state
  • Do not change existing curriculums in ways that require substantial changes to ACA instructor pedagogies

The ACA is doing its best to work on behalf of paddlers to ensure regulatory environments are fair and equitable for all paddlers. The important work of developing these courses will position us to not only be well-prepared in the face of future legislation, but also allow us to best serve the steadily growing recreational paddling population in the United States.

ACA curriculums are currently being adopted by other agencies, including NASBLA officials in certain states, to offer paddlesports courses that comply. Our instructors are missing out on the opportunity to teach courses to the widest potential audience if we do not have courses that fit the necessary criteria.