The ACA and Me (By Jason Parker)

In an effort to further my SUP education, I wanted to get my next level of instructor certification.  As the sport of paddleboarding continues to explode, new associations continue to pop up every day.  I wanted to go with the BEST!  But who is that?

My Level 1 Instructor Certification is with the World Stand Up Paddle Association (WSUPA).  Back in April of 2013, I chose this association because of course location and availability.  Really it was the only one close to The Jerz, and ran before the Summer Season.  Turns out the Instructor Trainer, Dan Gavere, is a Paddle legend.  His roots were in river kayaking and was a long time Waterman, but now branched out to SUP, and was killing it!

The course was awesome.  I learned a ton, and was psyched to get on the water and spread the stoke.  Fast forward 700 lessons later…  I’m ready for the next step.  Dan had accepted the position of National Sales Director and Event Manager at Starboard.  The WSUPA, had lost its steam, and I need to find some new homies.

Research for some more SUP Ed, produced the American Canoe Association (ACA), and it turns out, these guys are BOSS!  The more I researched, I found out Dan Gavere was one of their highest ranking Instructor Trainers, and had gone out on his own.  I knew I was on the right track.

I signed up for a Level 1 & Level 2 Instructor Workshop and Examination.  The course was to take place over three days of 8:30-6, classroom and water time.  Prior to the class we were assigned topics for presentation including equipment, stroke instruction, group management, and rescues.

My class was made of 6 Instructor Candidates including myself, and 2 Instructor Trainers.  The night before, I barely slept, and when I did, I had dreams of swimming with sharks.  Competition was going to be tight! 

When I arrived, early of course, the class did introductions, and then got right to work.  The Lead Instructor, Matt Hite, established his fair but strict demeanor, and jumped right into it.  The classroom time was filled with presentations, feedback, and critique.  Each day also consisted of at least 4 hours of water time, where we performed stroke presentations in the IDEAS format (Introduce, Demo, Explain, Activity, and Summary).  To be honest, it was very intense. 

 I really made a connection with the second Instructor Trainer, Omar Ramos.  Omar is the ACA State Director for Puerto Rico, an excellent SUP and Kayak paddler, and really awesome guy.  Padding with him really pushed me to the next level.  His perspective was different, but complimentary to Matt’s which completed the package. 

After 3 exhausting, concentrated, and fun days, it was time for the final exam.  We were on water, performing all we had learned.  My heart was in my throat; I went first.  We were supposed to say our names into the camera, but I was so focused, I just went…

We had an opportunity to review our footage, and I got minimal critique from Matt and Omar.  I was really pumped after seeing my progress in the videos from days 1, 2, and 3.  When it came down to our exit review, the moment of truth, they asked, “How do feel you did?”  I replied, “I think I got it!  It was really, really tough, and if I need to do a continuation I will, but I gave it my all.”  Matt and Omar rose and said, “You got it!!!”  I was euphoric.  I had worked so hard, and it had paid off.  Matt told me he wasn’t sure of my footwork, but when he saw me practicing right before the final, I proved my worthiness.  It really showed me you have to give it 100% to the very end.

What’s next?  I have signed up for Level 3, Surf Instruction, in April, and I’m in the processes of applying for the ACA NJ State Director.  I am so pumped I found this association,  they have been in business since 1880, and I’m super proud to be part of it. 

You can join the ACA, as a member or look for Instruction classes here:



Jason Parker
Jason Parker