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Course Overview

The Flatwater Kayak Safety and Rescue workshop introduces essential flatwater safety practices and rescue techniques that can be performed with a minimum of equipment, in the first few minutes of an emergency.

Appropriately fitted PFD designed for paddling, protective clothing suitable for extended swims, appropriate footwear, boat, paddle, and whistle. Recreational, whitewater or coastal kayaks may be used, at the instructor’s discretion.

NOTE: The CCA brings throw bags and other items.

This is typically a one day class to be taught on flatwater.

ACA Official Curriculum: Flatwater Kayak Safety and Rescue

Introduction, Expectations, & Logistics:

Communication and Signals
  • Welcome, introductions, paperwork
  • Hand, paddle and whistle signals
  • Student & instructor course expectations and limitations
  • Cell phone or radio when appropriate
  • Course itinerary & site logistics


  • Review waiver, assumption of risk, challenge by choice, medical disclosure
  • Makes your trip safer and more comfortable
  • About the ACA
  • Clothing
  • PFD policy (always wear on water)
  • Kayaks with flotation or bulkheads
  • Appropriate personal behavior
  • Paddle float and pump
  • No alcohol / substance abuse
  • PFD
  • Proper etiquette on & off the water
  • Helmet (when appropriate)
  • Respect private property
  • Knife and whistle
  • Practice Leave No Trace ethics
  • First aid kit

The Paddling Environment:

  • VHF radio and/or cell phone
  • Wind

Swimming skills 

  • Waves
  • Basis for self-rescue; fundamental personal safety skill
  • Weather
  • Wet exits on-land practice, then inwater with one-on-one supervision
  • Water
  • Defensive swimming 

Personal Preparation:

  • Aggressive swimming 
  • Personal Ability
  • Swimming with kayaks 
  • Swimming Ability
Assisted Rescues and Tows 
  • Water comfort & confidence
  • Allows one boater to assist another; fundamental group safety skills 
  • Fitness, conditioning, and warm up
  • T rescue with and without sling 
  • Safe paddle and boat handling
  • Eskimo bow and paddle rescue 
  • Safety and rescue considerations
  • Contact tow and cowtail use 
  • Personal equipment (reviewed by Instructor)
  • Back deck rescues for swimmers 

Introduction to Basic Safety and Rescue 

Rope Handling Skills 
  • Avoiding trouble
Selecting a tow line 
  • Trip planning, competent leader
Handling tows in wind and current 
  • Rescue philosophy
Throw rope use 
  • The big 3 – near drowning, Cold
Rescue of Loose Boats and Gear 
  • Water Shock / Hypothermia and spinal management; need for further training
  • Self rescue, hold onto boat and paddle when appropriate − Group rescue, rescue people over boats, but don’t lose the boat in open water when adequate personnel available, split the load; one person rescues the swimmer, one the boat and one the paddle
  • Boat bumping / snowplow methods 
  • KISS
  • Boat over boat rescues 
  • Rescue organization
  • Towing – short line and short distance 
  • Reality of injuries and death