What's the best way to get into the sport of paddling, kayaking, canoeing, sup, sea kayaking, I think that all of them. There are many ways to skin a cat but what's the best way? Go out with friends, endless you tubing, take a course. Surely taking a course is the safest most efficient way to gain skills and knowledge needed to step into liquid. Paddle Canada is just one option in the paddling industry of established organizations that certifies instructors. So why chose Paddle Canada over your local club or a regional organization? This is similar to who do we pay to teach and certify you on wilderness first aid or swift water rescue? Where is the best value? Who has the best information? The simple answer is no one. The complicated answer is, it’s complicated.
Any organization in this space is likely passionate and engaged in the sport and will have experienced instructors with a love of sharing. A smaller or more regional organization may have a more focused approach to pedagogy based on coaching or racing principles, with a stiffer and more discerning instructor vetting process. Where a larger national body may have a softer approach to certifying their instructors and coaches. However they have a much larger pool of talent to draw from. There are many variables to consider including where you live, what available and the type of paddling you want to do. Applying this to more experienced paddlers they may want to hire a coach privately who has spent years running slalom gates or who has trained close to thousands of clients.
But really, what does it matter? Well coming from a primarily canoe instructors place there are some things that I would say set Paddle Canada apart from the others. Some strengths and some weaknesses. I have some experience with other groups, my first instructors course being an ARCA (Alberta Recreational Canoeing Association) Moving Water Instructor level 1, then CRCA, then BCRCA, then ORCA then AWA and really the acronyms and levels or disciplines don’t matter but the point being there a many groups trying to teach the same thing different ways. Now I've held a Paddle Canada certification for over ten years and I feel like sharing some perspective.
Paddling courses are fun, they push every student to new levels of the sport and provide broader connections to the dynamics of our chosen element. They should also push the instructor or coach. Your Instructor should love the opportunity to share in their passion, to be humble and eager to find answers to questions or to help others be safer, and in essence, prevent horrible things from happening. Paddling courses accelerate and elevate the progression into the river. Learning by brail, feeling your way through things, trial and error is a process that we all need. In a cold, unrelenting and unforgiving medium, jumping in with both feet needs to be supported. With the right progression, the entrance into the world of river running, ocean touring, lake paddling can be safe and speedy.
As a Paddle Canada instructor I have to be able to relate the difference between a s-turn from a ferry, and where a ferry stops being a ferry and becomes an s-turn. I have to somehow get my student to understand how to apply MITH to an eddyline. I have to teach using outlined processes and established pedagogy. I can also include all of my own experience and personally established progressions. Paddle Canada provides many things to their instructors, liability insurance, pro purchasing programs, massive resource materials etc. But I think one of the best things, however onerous, is the confidence to know that every single Instructor Trainer is held to a standard. Annually there are requirements, a record of continued competencies and involvement in providing courses and professional development opportunities. For skills instructors there are learning opportunities every year from the instructor trainer PDC courses. And the other massively beneficial side to Paddle Canada is the large base of passionate instructors who pull from each other.
I feel I could write more, I could go on for another five or six paragraphs. But I think most people stopped reading after the fifth sentence. Honestly any of the organizations out there will provide that springboard forward. Paddle Canada has a lot of passionate people, and politics. Just remember this, its just boating. A paddle through the water moves you forward and to the horizon.