History of Kayak Certification in Alberta & Canada

The Evolution of Kayak Leadership Certification

River Safety and Leadership Development courses address the issue of risk management and skill development within whitewater sport for the AWA.

Originally British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec developed their own provincial kayak instructor certifications in the late 1970's. The AWA has had a leadership & instructional program since 1978, based upon the work of Darryl and Dale O'Brien, Ray Sharp, Jim Archer and Chuck Lee. It included competency based instructional levels and curriculum skills taught by course conductors at all levels of whitewater kayaking.

In 1981, the Canadian White Water Association (the forecursor to CKC-W) began developing a national coaching program within the National Coaching Certification Program under the leadership of Chuck Lee, Eric Munshaw, Bill Richardson, Gary Barton and others. It became apparent early in the planning process that before coaching for advanced paddlers could be developed, fundamental skills needed to be taught to novice and intermediate paddlers. The original NCCP program focused on instruction at the lower levels in NCCP, WW Kayak 1 and NCCP WW Kayak II. Coaching was later addressed at the advanced levels with NCCP III and IV based upon the work of Sheryl Boyle. In 1985, the Alberta Whitewater Association program involving Basic Instructor 1 and River Instructor II merged with the National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP). The AWA still maintained the Trip Leader, River Leader and Whitewater Instructor III programs separately.


The NCCP program brought the 4 provincial programs together under the NCCP banner. NCCP Level I and Level II coaches were dually certified as Lake and River Instructors. NCCP Level III and IV coaches were recognized as Intermediate and Advanced Slalom coaches. One of the challenges with the NCCP was the requirement of Instructors to be trained in non-essential theory topics such as nutrition and energy systems.

While Canada was developing these programs, the American Canoe Association, the British Canoe Union and other national kayaking federations also began certifying leaders, instructors and coaches.

In 1998, Paddle Canada began certifying recreational kayak instructors as an adjunct of its recreational canoeing and sea kayaking programs.

The nature of our sport over the past 20 years continues to evolve and this has challenged our system of leader / instructor / coach certification. Recently the broader availability of sea kayaks, touring kayaks, puddle jumpers and other low-end recreational kayaks has led to a greater interest from Canadians to try kayaking. Kayaking in Canada continued to be fragmented and struggled to have a National Kayak Instructor certification program that was broadly recognized. This weakened the ability to service the needs of Canada's paddlers.

In 2001, the Coaching Association of Canada announced a new NCCP philosophy that required CKC-W to review the existing participant development model and leadership certification system. This review and redevelopment process took 8 years to complete. The new program is being rolled under the CKC standard as we worked through getting NCCP approvals.  The new program will provide quality kayak instruction that teaches young and old to properly paddle the boat of their choice.

CKC-W and Paddle Canada have agreed to amalgamate the Paddle Canada river kayaking program into a new NCCP program. Instructors certified in the NCCP program will be recognized as trained in the Paddle Canada kayak instructor program. In 2015  CKC has completed all the requirements to have full recognition of it's Instructor certification program including:

Pool Kayak Instructor    

Lake Kayak Instructor 1

River Leader 2

River Instructor 2

Whitewater Leader 3

Whitewater Instructor 3