Paddle Canada Certification – how does it work?

February 9th, 2020

Paddle Canada Stand Up Paddleboarding Certification

Paddle Canada is a national volunteer organization that sets the standard in Canada for paddling instruction in Stand up paddleboarding, kayaking, and canoing.

Paddle Canada certifications are nationally accredited and internationally recognized.


How does the Paddle Canada certification process work?

There are various categories of certification in the Paddle Canada program; skills certifications, instructor certifications, and instructor trainer (IT) certifications. Each level of paddling has a skills, instructor and IT certification associated with it.

Check out the Stand Up Paddleboarding levels below. The entry point for beginners is BASIC FLATWATER, progressing to ADVANCED FLATWATER, then the program divides into various streams; RIVER, TOURING, SURF. Each level of each stream has a SKILLS COURSE, INSTRUCTOR COURSE, and INSTRUCOR TRAINER (IT) COURSE.

For more details of each level you can see the full Paddle Canada SUP Manual here.

You can sign up for a Paddle Canada membership here.

How do the certification levels work? What are you certified to do?

Skills Certifications – This certification shows that the paddler is able to perform certain paddling skills, safety skills, and knowledge at the certification level. The certification is achieved by completing a skills course. Skills courses teach participants the skills and allow them to practice and demonstrate the skills through a hands on learning process; going paddling! Skills courses or equivalent experience are a pre-requisite to take an instructor course. To hold a skills certification participants do not need to be a Paddle Canada member (ie. they don’t have to pay the $99 annual membership).


Instructor Certifications – Certifies the paddler to teach their own skills courses with insurance provided by Paddle Canada or through a paddling school. Instructor certification is achieved by taking an instructor course where participant learn how to teach the skills. Another option is to apprentice with an IT (find out more about the apprenticeship process here). Skills courses or equivalent experience are a pre-requisite to take an instructor course. Instructors must be Paddle Canada members.

Instructors must complete the renewal requirements to maintain their certification. This includes:

  1. Maintaining an annual membership – $99 Paddle Canada membership fee.
  2. Every 4 years complete one or more of the professional development options below:
  • Option 1—Successfully complete a Paddle Canada Professional Development clinic in your stream, at your level,* or
  • Option 2—Successfully complete a higher Paddle Canada instructor course in that same stream, or
  • Option 3—Successfully complete a customized set of requirements set and evaluated by an appropriate instructor trainer (IT)*. The requirements must test paddling skills, teaching skills and current best practices and could include written or practical tests, video submissions and in-person evaluations. You can find a sanctioned Paddle Canada Instructor Trainer for your level anywhere in Canada to do this for you.



Instructor Trainer (IT) Certifications – Certifies the paddler to teach instructor courses. The IT certification is achieved through a four-step development and training process.

Step 1: Application – find the application form here

Step 2: Online Training – The training module consists of assigned readings and video viewings, followed by a test of the material.

Step 3: Instructor Course Apprenticeship – apprentice on at least two Instructor courses under the guidance of at least one Instructor Trainer.  After any course apprenticeship is completed, the instructor trainer(s) will submit an evaluation form online.

Step 4: Completion and Recommendation for Certification – IT submits approvals.


IT’s have additional responsibilities to the paddling community and Paddle Canada. These include meaningful contribution to the growth and development of the program, and to their local paddling community, as well as development of instructors and other instructor-trainers.

must complete the renewal requirements to maintain their certification. This includes:

Every year

  • Maintain annual membership in Paddle Canada ($99)
  • Attend an annual IT meeting via teleconference

Every 4 years

The IT has until December 31st of the fourth year following certification, or certification renewal, to complete the following:

  • Register, teach and report at least one Paddle Canada instructor course.
  • Complete two of the professional contribution options below. Instructor-trainers can complete two different options, or the same option twice provided they are distinct.
    • Option 1: Mentor an apprentice IT on one course.
    • Option 2: Register, teach and report a professional development clinic.
    • Option 3: Successfully complete another Paddle Canada instructor trainer certification.
    • Option 4: Create a relevant and approved (by the PDC) instructor resource (meaning an article or video dealing with skills applicable to that stream).


Minimum First Aid Policy (from p. 53 in the SUP Program Manual)

Paddle Canada instructors are required to maintain a minimum of standard first aid and CPR (14 hours), or wilderness first aid and CPR (16 hours). Some specific courses may require first aid certification that exceed the organization-wide minimum. Insurance is not valid, and courses are not sanctioned, unless all instructors on the course meet the minimum first aid requirements as outlined in the specific course syllabus.

Wilderness first aid and CPR is required by any instructor certified to teach a course where an overnight is built into the syllabus.

First Aid Policy for Courses Operating in the Wilderness

Instructors are required to have wilderness first aid and CPR (16 hour) training as a minimum whenever they are teaching in a location where it will take more than one hour to reach medical care. If you are uncertain how long it will take to reach medical care, get wilderness first aid certification.