Irwin Guides Takes Stand Up Paddle Boarding to the Next Level

By: Billy Rankin


The sport of Stand Up Paddling (SUP) has exploded in the last several years and Irwin Guides has kept their fingers on the pulse of this sport. Though we have been offering guided and instructional SUP trips for a few years, we have now taken it to the next level. Irwin Guides just sent four of our guides to take a level 1,2 & 3 ACA stand up paddleboard instructor course. The American Canoe Association (ACA) is a long-standing organization that has been setting the bar for paddle sports (canoeing & kayaking) and training instructors to their standards for a long time. A few years ago they identified the need to incorporate the discipline of stand up paddling into their organization due to the increasing popularity of the sport. Even though the sport has recently seen expediential growth there is quite a rich history. Did you know that stand up paddling dates back several centuries? Hunters, warriors, and explorers from ancient times travelled oceans, rivers, and lakes standing on boards or watercrafts. Locations such as Peru, Croatia, Africa, Indonesia, and the Aleutian Islands indigenous people were stand up paddling. It was Duke Kahanamoku who was the grandfather of modern stand up paddling and helped popularize it in Waikiki, Hawaii around 1920 when they would stand to see incoming sets and help surfers launch onto waves. It was then the combination of Laird Hamilton, Jeff Schneider, Corran Addison, and many others who helped popularize it into modern times on oceans and rivers. 
The 5-day course was broken into two sections. The first three days were the Level 1 & 2 spent on Trout Creek Lake near Buena Vista and the level 3 was 2-days and spent on the Arkansas River in Salida Whitewater Park. The lead instructor was Charlie MacArthur who is a pioneer in the SUP world and helped bring the sport onto rivers and whitewater. Not only is Charlie an incredible and inspiring paddler he is an amazing educator and renaissance man. He has a long history working for the PSIA (Professional Ski Instructors of America) teaching and training instructors just like he does for the ACA. You should Google him. 

My expectations of the course were far exceeded. I have been a boater for 20 years on long sea kayak expeditions and whitewater kayaking on class 5. I have been certified in all levels of the ACA kayak instructor series. I have been stand up paddling for several years and felt this was going to be just another certification hoop to jump through. When the course began I was immediately surprised to see how comprehensive the curriculum is and how strict the standards are. I thought I knew all there is to know about paddling, and was soon receiving detailed feedback on my forward stroke. We learned how to maximize every paddle stroke and demo, teach, and perform over a half dozen different paddle strokes. The forward stroke, the sweep stroke, draw strokes, braces, wet and dry paddle recoveries, sculling, C & J strokes, the information was overwhelming at times. We learned the different phases of stroke, which is the catch, power, and recovery. The concepts of torso rotation and staying in the box are paramount to the ACA curriculum. We learned the art of dynamic balance and different stances from neutral, staggered, and surf stance, and the pivot turn. I ended up in the water a half dozen times getting the pivot turn dialed. We trained in rescue on both the lake and river performing rescue drills. 
We learned about the different types of boards, paddles, and life jackets, and this was just level 1 & 2. On day 3 we hit the river and immediately began committing our boards on edge while ferrying, catching eddy’s, and peeling out of them. The C-turn, the S-turn, eddy hoping, and even surfing were all part of the level 3 course. A perfect progression was followed through the course from teaching never evers on a lake to advanced river maneuvers and surfing on the river. 
Irwin Guides looks forward to a great summer of Stand Up Paddling. We have a brand new fleet of SUP boards, freshly certified instructors and guides, and are offering guided and instructional stand up paddling trips to every experience and ability level. With Blue Mesa Reservoir, the Gunnison, and Slate Rivers in our back yard we are well poised for a variety of great trips. Please inquire about custom trips, multi-day workshops, and even surf specific clinics. See you on the water!

Filed under: Colorado Summer

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