Today we welcome a new contributor to Distressed Mullet. Tim McAuley is a copy writer and brand ambassador for SIC Maui. He writes about his experience taking the ACA instructor certification. Welcome Tim! Hope to see a lot more of you around!


You know how some things just unfold in your life all on their own?

You contemplate a course of action and it’s almost like a flood gate opens. Information pops up just when you need it.

Signs everywhere.

It’s as if that thing pulls you towards it.

It sounds weird, but that’s how it was when my brain decided to “become a SUP Instructor.”

Memorial Day Weekend Kicked it Off

My friend Spyros came for a visit.

First thing he wanted to do was try Stand Up.

And he went for it. Pushed himself into the water several times. After about 90 minutes, he looked comfortable on the board.

The next day, he suggested we paddle out again.

The wind was up and the lake was bit choppy for a second paddle. But, he insisted. So we went.

He nailed it.

I followed as he paddled from the dock and around the first island loop. He paddled hard. As he pulled the board out of the water, his face beamed with satisfaction.

Satisfaction morphed into full on stoke. I watched his face light up every time he looked out over the water. His stoke fed mine.

And that’s when it hit me; the idea to become a Stand Up Instructor.

Later that day, my girlfriend and I stopped by a local shop to pick up an extra leash. While we were chatting with the store owner, a woman came up to ask about renting a few SUPs. She looked nervous. The shop owner suggested that she haul the boards over to the park and start out there.

When she left the store I offered my services as a Paddle Instructor.

Offer accepted.

A few days later, the Mullet wrote an article about finding a qualified instructor, which Julie in the 100/100 Challenge posted it to our group.



I followed the links on that article. Read up on both organizations. Then asked quite a few people their opinion of each organization.

ACA won an informal poll by just a few votes. Ultimately the decision came down to the dates and locations offered. ACA offered a lot more options near Central Virginia.

I found the closest one and I contacted the instructor (Anna Levesque of Girls at Play). After a brief phone conversation with Ana, I joined the ACA, signed up for CPR Class and sent in my deposit.

The Outline for ACA Level 2 Scared Me

Even though this will be my third summer paddling SUP, I had to google almost everything on the ACA L2 Curriculum.

It never dawned on me to learn how to cross-step on a SUP, or to learn side draws, sculling, and full reverse sweep pivot turns.

Hell, I saw my first pivot turn at the Carolina Cup 2014.

Matter of fact the Carolina Cup 2014 was the first time I’d paddled next to someone that didn’t need instructions.

So, with the help of Youtube, I put myself through a crash course in L2 strokes, maneuvers and terms.

The moving pivot turns and cross steps challenged my balance and my patience. I got them down with my touring board, but on the SIC Bullet 14, they looked wobbly.

Since I’m a SIC Ambassador, I felt that I should take the Bullet. I don’t regret the decision, and to be honest I don’t know that it would have changed the outcome.

Day 1 ACA Instructor Course

8 AM: The steam rolled off of Lake Julian.

Two instructors, Anna and her co-instructor Jack Nelson, watched as seven people and I filled out release forms. Then each person introduced themselves and the lessons began immediately thereafter.

We talked about paperwork.

Anna ran down a list of things to come.

9AM: We launched into the water for the first time.

Anna pointed out a cove for us to paddle towards. I misunderstood, and paddled to the point. Oooops, my bad…

Next we made our way around the point into a little cove.

Anna broke down a few strokes for us to try ou

t. I forget which stroked helped me win the prize of first person in the water, but I think it was a reverse draw stroke on the move.

The next few hours were a blur. It went like this

….Now I want to introduce you to X stroke/maneuver.


We all try.

Review of the stroke/maneuver.

On to the next one…



That lasted about two and half hours. We paddled towards the launch area. Anna and Jack set a few buoys.

Time to put all of this into action.

We each paddled straight out to the first buoy, and then used a draw stroke to arch around both buoys, then we stopped the board in front of Ana. From there we demonstrated draws to both sides, a reverse sweep and finally a forward stroke to end the demonstration.

Ana stood on shore to video each of us.

11AM: Back on solid ground.

20 minute break. Continue lunch during the next lesson; a review and breakdown of the videos.

1PM: A few of the students demonstrated their teaching, then we went back on the water for another blurry 3 hours.

4PM: Solid Ground…

A few more lessons…

Done by 5PM…


DAY 2 ACA Instructor Course

Same schedule, but with more lessons/demonstrations by the students.

A fellow student (Josh) thought a different board selection would be helpful.

At some point during the first day, Josh tested SIC Bullet, and I paddled around on his board. My cross-step looked better on his board, and on the second day, he brought a different board for himself for similar reasons.

Day 2 covered most of the Level 2 Stuff.

I struggled a bit. While playing around with some of the maneuvers, I would get it. During demonstration, things would fall apart.

Anna did a great job of mixing in fun little games throughout the day, and my sense of frustration never settled in. She did her best to help keep everyone’s energy up.

The intensity of the course demanded a little levity.

A brief solo meeting with Anna and Jack brought closure to Day 2.

They told me what I already knew. I’d need to show up big time on the third day to get the level 2 Certification.

That night kind of sucked.

My energy was really low.

Back at the cabin, I stewed and studied a little.

Set my alarm for 5AM.

Exhaustion kept me from spending the entire night awake and worried.

DAY 3 ACA Instructor Course

We were headed onto a river!

I’ve only paddled SUP on lakes and once in the harbor at Wrightsville Beach, NC.

So, I was a little stoked to try out a different type of water.

6AM: Logged onto the wifi at Starbucks, found the Youtube video series and watched them all twice.

8AM: Watching the Cross-step video made me realize that there was no way I would leave today with Level 2.

It took the pressure off immediately. My focus shifted to just having fun out there. Do my best, and see what happens.

8:30 AM: We meet up at 12 Bones BBQ and caravanned to the drop in point.

Anna let me borrow one of her boards.

I’m not sure what time we dropped in the river. But, I am sure that I had the time of my life.

Anna’s board was easy to pivot. I even pulled off a few pivots from the nose. Unfortunately my cross stepping still looked a little shaky.

Day 3 was intense; a round robin of students taking charge, managing the group and teaching maneuvers.

Jack threw us a few curve balls here and there.

When my explanation wasn’t perfectly clear, he let it be known that my choice of words were potentially confusing.

They left no room for error.

Both Anna and Jack watched everyone with critical eyes throughout the day.

It was nervewracking

By the end of the river trip, a few people worried whether or not they would leave with any certification at all.

And the Survey Says…

Borderline Level 2…

I did nail the cross-step a few times while just goofing off, but in demonstration mode, not so much.

Three of the Level 2 strokes were the same; I can do them while playing around, but my demonstration is a little weak.

Anna and Jack both explained how I could improve these areas.

They’ve awarded me Level 1 with a continuation for level 2.

To be awarded Level 2 Certification, I need to send a video where I demonstrate and teach 3 different skills.

So, why am I stoked about failing to achieve ACA L2?

Because I love SUP.

I see shops popping up all over the place that offer no instruction at all.

I imagine that many people who rent a board just won’t “get it.”

They could spend the whole day toe-gripped to the board.

They may think it’s too hard.

Hell, they may even get injured.

The ACA did a service to the sport of SUP when they decided to give me a continuation.

They do a service to our sport every time they hold off a certification. It may not feel good, but it is the right thing to do. Our growing sport deserves high standards.


Please welcome Tim McAuley to the Distressed Mullet!