New Ontario Kayaking Program Details Released

Tuesday, 01 January 2008
Evan Spinny gathering up his class.
Evan Spinny gathering up his class.
Ontario Instructors have long been aware of the long and ongoing spat between the National Certifying body, Paddle Canada and its provincial counterpart, the Ontario Recreational Canoe & Kayak Association (ORCKA). Like most arguments, it focuses on territory and money.

Here is the two sentence summery on the long standing (and ugly) dispute. Paddle Canada doesn't feel that it has been fairly compensated for the national program that is run and administrated locally by ORCKA. ORCKA (along with several other provincial Associations) feels that they have been pushed away from the decision table by when PC voted to streamline it governance structure this past fall.

ORCKA has decided to stop offering the National program and offer its own Provincial program instead. They already have a strong and well established canoeing program so it's easy to implement. Over the past 4 months though, there have been a lot of rumors and questions around ORCKA developing its own sea and white water kayaking program.

Yesterday we finally got a confirmation to some big changes coming in the spring. Yes, they are going to be offering their own program and officially backed out of the National vision for a unified program across Canada.

I don't have specific details on the course curriculum yet but the sea kayaking program is going to be similar yet quite different to the current National program. They have split up sea kayaking and developed a coastal kayaking and a kayak tripping streams with level 1 and 2 for each streams. There is a specific focus towards tripping/guiding compared to the national program which is primarily focused towards skill development. Another new change is the addition of a Camp Kayaking Instructor certification specifically for children's camps.

You can see a progression below taken from the press release sent out:

Skill levels to be offered are:

  • Safe Kayaking Program (abridged)
  • Flatwater Kayaking
  • Flatwater Kayaking A
  • Flatwater Kayaking B
  • Coastal Kayaking Level 1
  • Coastal Kayaking Level 2 (Day Trip Leader)
  • Moving Water Kayaking Level 1
  • Moving Water Kayaking Level 2
  • Kayak Tripping Level 1 (Trip Participant)
  • Kayak Tripping Level 2 (Multi-day Trip Leader)

The following Instructor levels will be available:

  • Camp Kayaking Instructor (for kids Camps)
  • Flatwater Kayaking Instructor
  • Coastal Kayaking Instructor 1
  • Coastal Kayaking Instructor 2
  • Moving Water Kayaking Instructor 1
  • Moving Water Kayaking Instructor 2
  • Kayak Tripping Instructor 2
Below is an overall program description taken from the press release:

Ontario Recreational Canoe & Kayak Association LogoCoastal Kayaking is really furthering the progression of kayaking skills with more difficult water conditions (sea states and coastlines) and more expertise in the paddling and rescue skills. The Coastal Kayaking Level 2 will actually be a Day Trip Leader who needs good paddling skills and enough leadership and group awareness skills for day trips which are very common with kayakers. The Kayak Tripping discipline is for overnight kayak trips at the trip participant and leader levels. More risk management and camping skills are included. Coastal Kayaking is a pre-requisite which provides the paddling skill component for the Kayak Tripping Level 2.

The way I see it:
I haven't seen the actual pedagogy or curriculum so I can only speculate as to what will be in the new program. On a whole, I am quite excited about it I like the stronger emphasis on guiding and look forward to see how that program will play out.

I'm a little cautious about the new Camp Kayaking Instructor level. The pressure to develop this program comes from camp directors who feel that it takes too many resources to get their staff certified as instructors. Under the current system, students need to pass their Sea Kayaking Level 1 (12 hours) and then take the Flatwater Instructor course (16 hours). Directors want something that they can put their staff through in just a day or two.

I'm concerned that directors will feel that their staff and campers are just as safe with a quickie program. Under current kayaking program you can get certified as a Flatwater Instructor in approximately 28 hours. Compare that to a Lifeguard (40 hours), ORCKA Flatwater Canoe Instructor (64 hours), Ontario Water Ski Instructor (16 hours) and Sailing Instructor (47 hours). How much can be possibility cut out before it starts to compromise safety and quality of instructors out there? Again, I haven't seen the actual program yet so I am working hard to keep an open mind.

I am also very interested to see how things will play out with instructors who want to teach both programs. ORCKA has publically stated that there will be a grandfathering period where current Paddle Canada Instructor can be transferred over into the new system. Paddle Canada hasn't made any public statements yet if they will be offering a similar program for those who will be certified under the Ontario program down the road.

My suspicion is that when the two programs are up and running there won't be much ability to transfer over as the program are fundamentally different. With the extra program competition, it will force students and instructors to choose a program fairly early on and stick to their decisions lest they want to start over in their certification path. Time will tell how that works out.
David Johnston

David Johnston

David Johnston has been introducing people to the sport of sea kayaking for the past 15 years. He is a senior instructor trainer with Paddle Canada and teaches for several paddling schools in Ontario, Canada. Full Bio.

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