Our Educational Philosophy

Paddlesports instruction made accessible, informative and fun for all through student empowerment of the learning process. Inspiring a passion for paddling in the most authentic, genuine and lasting way we can achieve.

  • Opportunity for all regardless of ability or disability: Our instructors are endorsed through the American Canoe Association in Advanced Communications (e.g. working with visual and communication disabilities) and Adaptive Paddling (e.g. physical disability)
  • The student experience is not a talking point, but a guiding principal.
  • Deliver the highest caliber of instruction. Every time.
  • Safety in learning, safety in challenge, safety in risk: We define safety as being the physical, mental, psychological and emotional state of our students, in addition to what our students request of us to create a safe learning space.
  • Learning made fun!

The aperture of learning

Learning is a process, and one that never stops. There is always more to learn, and even though we may become “masters” of our craft, skills become dated, processes change and new and better methods become standardized. We define this as the aperture of learning. As we embark on a journey of learning, our ability to intake information (industry speak, “be a sponge”) is wide open. As we learn more and more, that aperture begins to narrow as we progress from student to a resource for others, to becoming an authentic instructor to becoming a master of our craft. We strive for mastery in all that we do while making every effort to avoid becoming a false master. Put another way, if our aperture for intaking new standards, new methodologies and new skills becomes so narrow as to become “dated” or irrelevant, we then become a “false master”. Therefore, we recognize that from time to time our skills need to be refreshed, we need to become students again ourselves, and our journey of learning and becoming higher quality kayaking instructors never ceases. Our aperture of learning becomes open again. This is one of our values in providing the highest standard of relevant and quality paddlesports instruction.

Guided discovery

Think about a skill you can do proficiently. Something that comes to you second nature, and that you just don’t do well, but excel at. Maybe it’s riding a bike, gardening, art, or cooking. Now think about how you achieved this proficiency. Through formalized instruction? Sure, that may have been a large part of it. But how did that skill become second nature? How did you develop an intimate familiarity with it? It was likely through self-exploration, trial and error and practice. We seek to educate each of our students to a skill’s core principles over specific technique, allow time for self discovery to see what does and doesn’t work and, more importantly, allow time for self-reflection. We are all students in something, and that learning usually starts as being “unconsciously incompetent” (wrong intuition) even though we may believe we know quite a bit. Eventually, we hope all of our students develop a complete and rich skill set that becomes “unconsciously competent” (right intuition) on their personal journey to becoming masters in their entire skill set.

Standards-based learning

Our standards are based on the resources put forward by the American Canoe Association, our own widening of our “aperture of learning” through professional development in the paddlesports industry, industry best practice and more than 20 years as outdoor educators.

Success as an individual metric

What does success look like? It’s a valid question. While our courses seek to impart knowledge, skill and value in a standards-based way where we can measure proficiency in performance, success often looks different for each student – and it should! Whether it takes us 3 minutes, 3 hours, 3 days, 3 weeks, 3 months or 3 years to learn a skill or be ready for the next level of conditions is equally valid, meaningful, and successful as the next person. What truly matters is that we are enjoying what we do. We want to pass along an appreciation for paddlesports and the wider marine environment to all of our students. What we strive to accomplish is meeting each and every student where they’re at, coaching them to their level of learning and seeing them progress and develop at their pace, to their level of comfort and to their desired outcome regardless of what our curriculum might dictate. That’s how we measure success.

Breaking down barriers to learning

What’s a barrier to learning? It’s the thing that is such an impediment that we can’t overcome it and the learning process stops. It has many shapes and forms. Think of a young child starting a new school with a lack of friends and social structure in place. A barrier to learning may be that social isolation they experience. Water sports? What we experience time and time again is a fear of water. Maybe it’s falling into water or being upside down in water in a kayak – there are many forms fear can take. We strive to address barriers to learning, encourage a safe space within our courses to address these barriers and educate our students to the difference between real and perceived risk so that our students may tackle additional challenges, benefits and rewards.

As an example, in our kayaking classes one of our risk management practices is to ensure every student is capable of exiting the kayak should it capsize during class. This “wet exit” is an inherent part of kayaking and essential to learning rescues and recoveries. We recognize being upside down in a kayak can be distressing – for many, it’s a barrier to learning. To address this, our first on-water lesson in most classes is seeing every student perform a wet exit, in waist deep water where we are standing in the water next to you should you need any assistance and to coach you on performance of this skill. Once comfortable, we’ll then leave the shore and proceed with the class. And all our programs are challenge by choice, so don’t want to do this? Give us a call! We have tricks and tools up are sleeve to help work with you and get you in a program right for you.

We have received highly positive feedback over the years at this approach to overcoming barriers associated with water.

Learning experientially and the development of knowledge, skill and value

Experiential education: Learning through the process of doing, hands-on experience and reflection.

Some of our lessons take place in a shore-based environment, with knowledge presented in traditional settings. In most of our courses, however, whatever we can teach on land we can teach on water. We want to give you the most time we can out on water, in a boat or on a board where you can being doing, experiencing and reflecting on your journey to becoming a lifelong paddlesports enthusiast.

We also believe that in what we call “Teaching without teaching”. For example, we might take the time in one of our classes to play a game in our kayaks. While fun, it’s also intentional programming on our part as that game might be designed to change up your balance and feel of your kayak, or perhaps that game highlights the blending of strokes. That may translate into being more comfortable overall in your boat when crossing eddy lines and more condition-based environments.