Do you enjoy helping others become better canoeists?

Are you ready to become an American Canoe Association Certified Open Canoe Instuctor?!

 The Canoe Guru is pleased to offer the following Course in Western North Carolina:

April 16th - April 21st, 2019

Level 1 - 4: Whitewater Canoe

Instructor Development Workshop and Instructor Certification Exam

Tandem and Solo

Welcome to The Canoe Guru's Interpretation of the American Canoe Association's Whitewater Canoe Curriculum.  The Canoe Guru and the ACA are excited to share this unique blend of whitewater styles with you.    

About your Instructor:


Eli Helbert is a current instructor trainer with the ACA, certified in Advanced Whitewater Canoe, Rafting, as well as Swiftwater Safety and Rescue.  He has been an active paddler since 1984 and an instructor for over 30 years. The Canoe Guru works, travels and homeschools with his family often in tow, as he circles from his home base in Asheville, NC to his favorite rivers around the world.  Eli is also a contract instructor at Landmark Learning where he leads wilderness medicine and swiftwater rescue courses throughout the US.  He is a lead instructor with the National Outdoor leadership School's - Wilderness Medicine Institute.  His additional river experience includes many years as a river manager, a trip leader, a safety boater, and a lead canoe instructor at the Nantahala Outdoor Center, the BSA at Camp Shenandoah in VA, La Ola in Austria, and Esprit in Mexico.  Eli has worked as a whitewater rafting guide on numerous rivers around the world, as a sales representative for Esquif Canoes, and a part time laborer manufacturing Watershed Drybags and Robson Paddles.  Eli holds 4 world championship titles in Open Canoe Freestyle Rodeo  and Open Canoe Creeking and he holds numerous National Championship titles in both Open Canoe Freestyle Rodeo and Open Canoe Slalom. Eli and his daughter, Sage, are the perennial defending North American Open Canoe Jr/Sr Slalom Champions.


Course Description


The Canoe Guru's instructor course begins on the 1st evening reviewing all paperwork aspects of ACA instruction.  We will review the website, waiver and expectations of the course.  We will spend the next three days in an Instructor Development Workshop (IDW) where paddlers will learn from Eli's methodology and practice modeling the skills and maneuvers they will need over the final two days during the Instructor Certification Exam (ICE).  The Whitewater IDW/ICE will last a minimum of 40 hours over the course of 5 days.  This is a certification course.  You are expected to exhibit good judgement and professionalism at all times during this course.  You are expected to arrive at this course with the knowledge and skills necessary for completion.  Please be on time and ready to perform.  There will be a limited amount of time to practice or effectively develop new skills.  You are expected to be able to paddle class III whitewater under control and be able to effectively execute any and all maneuvers with “demonstration quality” on class II whitewater.  If you have reservations about your abilities, please contact Eli at 540-908-6334 to discuss your options with additional instruction or certifying at a lower level.


This is an intensive course.  It will cover the following certifications for both Tandem (OC-2) and Solo (OC-1) Canoes:


Level 1:  Introduction to Canoeing Certification

Level 2:  Essentials of River Canoeing Certification

Level 3:  River Canoe Certification

Level 4:  Whitewater Canoe Certification


In order to receive an ACA certification at any of the above levels, you must demonstrate proficiency in  Teaching Skills, Technical Knowledge, Paddling Skills and Resue Ability.


You can be certified at any level in either Tandem, Solo, or both; however, you cannot skip a level.  So, in order to be certified as an instructor at the River Canoe Level you must have also demonstrated proficiency at the Introduction to Canoeing Level and the Essentials of River Canoeing Level.  We will work through a progression that is fun, engaging and informative.



Be Prepared, Be Flexible, Be Self-Contained


To Become Certified:

-       You must be at least 18 years old

-       Be or become a member of the ACA (

 (ACA membership is NOT included in the overall course fee)

-       Be or become a member of the Safety, Education, Instuction Council (SEIC)

(SEIC fee is NOT included in the overall course fee)

-       Successfully complete the course at the level you have chosen


What to Bring:

-       You will need a Tandem Canoe and each Instructor Candidate will need a solo canoe.  This should be a canoe in which you can properly demonstrate all of the required river maneuvers.  You will be certified based upon your performance in things like peel-outs, eddy turns, surfing, ferrying and back-ferrying.  If you cannot perform a back ferry in Class 2 water, you will not be able to be certified at the Level 4 certification.  We will not certify you in something you say you can do at home but cannot repeat in front of us at the course.  So, please bring a boat that you are comfortable paddling!

-        PFD’s are required to be worn properly while on any body of water.

-        Helmets are required to be worn on the moving water and whitewater portions of the course.

-       All other pertinent personal equipment associated with canoeing on a lake or river, including airbags, a throwrope, knife, 2 prussics, 2 locking carabiners, a waterbottle and a drybag with snacks and river clothes that can keep you warm if immersed in cold water for an hour.

-       Notebook, pens, pencils, highlighter, your personal instructional supplies.


In Western North Carolina, we often experience both warm, sunny days and cold, blustery weather.  Please be prepared for both.


To Be Prepared When Class Begins:

You’ll need to download the following forms from the ACA’s website and bring them with you in your three-ring binder:

-       Go to the ACA’s Website –

-       Click on the “For Instructors” link

In the “Instructor Certification Resources” paragraph, download and print the following:

-       Frequently Asked Questions about Instructor Certification

-       From this page, click the links to navigate to and print the “Become an ACA Instructor: Level 4 Whitewater Canoe Instructor Criteria”

-        Download and print the “Instructor Certification Brochure: Requirements, Maintenance, Insurance”

-       Download and Print All Entries in the “Required Texts and Materials” paragraph

-       You will need to buy, and READ, the “ACA Instructor Manual with CD” which is available at the ACA Store on the website. This Instructor Manual is a great teaching tool, and should be read before coming to class. In the back of the manual the CD contains a lot of great information.

-       From this CD, you must print out the SEI Policy Manual, and READ it before class!

-       Please look at all the areas of the ACA Instruction web site pages. We will discuss much of this in class.

-       The ACA wants all instructors to be familiar with their Web Site, so PLEASE take the time to navigate through and learn what is available (


Course and materials costs:

-       $700.00 (50% due 30 days before the course, the remainder is due on arrival the first day of the course).

       A $50.00 discount is available to candidates who pay in full before March 31st.

We accept paypal at the bottom of this page, or contact Eli for alternative options.

In addition you are responsible for:

-       $25.00 ACA Instructor Manual (or $15.oo for cd version)

-       $25.00 SEIC membership (paid to SEIC after certification)

-       $40.00 ACA Membership for US candidates (paid to the ACA) or $55.00 ACA Membership for international candidates


*Please note that while every student leaves a stronger canoe instructor, simply paying the course fee does not guarantee instructor certification.

**To become an ACA member, please call 540-907-4460 and speak with the ACA Membership Department or register online at


The required teaching presentations and further development of teaching skills will occur throughout the course.  There will be programs in the evenings.  Instructor Candidates should come prepared to give presentations at any point during the course.  Teaching topics will be sent upon registration so Instructor Candidates can prepare.  Be creative, dynamic and have fun sharing your knowledge!


Please note that the choice of rivers is subject to change depending upon water levels, weather conditions and the skill level of the group.


If there is any gear you will need to borrow, please contact Eli as early as possible.  A limited number of demo Esquif, BlackFly, or Silverbirch Canoes can often be available for this course with advance notice.


Additional information (assigned topics for presentation, paddling resources, and a pre-course quiz) will be sent to you via email upon receipt of payment for the class. 


Feel free to contact Eli at five-four-zero-nine-zero-eight-six-three-three-four or eli(at) if you have any questions or concerns.


To reserve your space in the next ACA L:1-4 Canoe Instructor Course (April 16 to April 21th, 2017), please make your deposit today!
ACA Canoe Instructor Course