There are many reasons that one may want to get SUP certified when it comes to stand up paddle boarding. You might be working somewhere giving lessons, applying for a job that requires it, or simply want to be in on the know-how so you can share the info with your fellow paddlers and friends. There are a couple ways to go about getting certified. We will cover all the basics so you can make the best choice for your needs.

There are 2 main types of certifications that are used in the SUP world. A certification from the ACA (American Canoe Association) or the WPA (World Paddle Association). Each has their benefits and depending on why you want to get certified, it should be clear which one you would choose. In this article we will list the benefits of working with each organization so you can make the choice that fits your needs best.

ACA (American Canoe Association)


Founded in 1880, the American Canoe Association is the worlds largest non-profit paddlesports organization. Because of their long standing history, the ACA certification seems to be held to a higher standard than the WPA certification alone. The ACA is the nation’s recognized leader in the fields of paddlesport instruction and education. There are more than 6,500 ACA certified canoe, kayak, rafting, safety & rescue, and stand up paddleboard instructors in the United States. Collectively, these instructors teach ACA approved programs to over 800,000 people a year.  Internationally, the ACA also has members and instructors in sixteen countries.

A few pro’s and con’s of ACA certification:


  • The most respected certification when it comes to paddle sports
  • Extremely thorough course that covers many aspects of water safety and fundamental water sports knowledge
  • They offer both a stand up paddleboard skills course and stand up paddleboard instructor certification workshop
  • Within the skills course, they offer specific courses that cover River, Ocean Surf and Yoga


  • Since the courses are more detailed the training / certification takes longer
  • Due to the thorough nature, much more basic paddle sport knowledge is covered (whereas the WPA certification is SUP-specific). Some feel that they are required to retain info they may not necessarily need to use.
  • The pass rate is lower since this is a more detailed course

For more information on the ACA, here are some helpful places to checkout:

American Canoe Association Main Site

ACA Course Homepage

ACA Instructor Criteria Homepage

ACA Helpful Safety Tips

WPA (World Paddle Association)


Founded in 2010, the WPA was started by 2 paddling enthusiasts that wanted to see the sport continue to grow in the right direction. By forming the WPA, a “standard” of sorts was built around SUP racing, events and instructor certifications that relates specifically to stand up paddleboarding (compared to the ACA being less SUP-specific and more general paddle-sports specific). The entire board of directors and advisory board is made up of well known professional stand up paddle boarders, making the WPA highly respected in the SUP circuit. The WPA also sanctions races so paddlers can sign up to be members of the WPA and in turn can be included in national rankings of any WPA sanctioned race. This gives paddlers a chance to see how they compare to others and also keep track of their progression in various races.

A few pro’s and con’s of the WPA certification:


  • Since the WPA is SUP-specific, there is less “general” paddle-sport knowledge that you are required to know
  • The courses are generally shorter than the ACA courses since there is less additional information to cover
  • The WPA certification is highly respected in the SUP community
  • The WPA offers 6 instructor level certifications so you can take the courses as far as you need to based on your personal goals


  • Since the courses are generally done in 1 single day, many feel that it’s a lot of info to cover in a short amount of time
  • Pricing is pretty expensive for a single-day course
  • WPA certification is known as being “easier” than the ACA and therefore can be less respected in certain situations
  • The extremely high pass-rate can be looked at as a negative

Some important links to the WPA site:

World Paddle Association Main Website

WPA Certification Levels

Other WPA Requirements

WPA Regional Breakdown

Some Other Helpful SUP Certification Options

Paddle Fit

Another type of SUP certification that is offered is called Paddle Fit. This certification is for fitness-specific SUP classes. You can find more info about Paddle Fit here.

Local Chicago Training

Are you local to the Chicagoland area? If so, our good friend Mary Lou Cerami has an upcoming ACA Endorsed SUP Yoga Instructor Training course June 24-25th, 2016.



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