Alaska Sea Kayaking

Leadership & Guide Training Course
(12 & 20 days)




The IWLS Alaska paddling centers,  located in Gustavus, AK and Haines, AK, offer access to expedition paddling that is unrivaled in North America. It offers unparalleled wilderness access for students on the Alaska sea kayaking course. IWLS is one of only two organizations permitted by the National Park Service to lead multi-day courses and expeditions in the park.

Students on an IWLS Alaska sea kayaking course will explore the incredible land and seascapes that make up Glacier Bay National Park and the surrounding areas including the Lynn Canal, Icy Straight, Chichagof Island, and White Sulfur Hot Springs. Icy Straight is one of the best places in the world to view humpback whales due to converging currents at Point Adolphus. Chichagof Island has numerous islets and coves for incredible kayaking. White Sulfur Hot Springs, a unique natural wonder situated on the outer coast of Chichagof, is an unforgettable experience for IWLS students kayaking in the area.

Glacier Bay is a gem among the national park system and a perfect classroom for learning sea kayaking skills, developing as a leader and discovering the rich natural history of Alaska. Tidewater glaciers descend from surrounding snowcapped peaks and plunge into the ocean. Tidal currents, stemming from one of the largest tidal exchanges in the world (at times over 20 feet), bring richness and biodiversity to these majestic fjords. Bare rocks and cliff faces, recently uncovered by receding glaciers, speak volumes of geologic history.

You’ll have the opportunity to navigate through a maze of islets, develop your group management techniques in rough seas, and practice teaching kayak rescue techniques to your fellow students. You may be lucky enough to paddle placid waters amidst a pod of orcas or humpbacks, watch in awe as a serac of ice plummets off the face of a glacier into the ocean, or spot a lone wolf loping across a pebble beach. As an IWLS student you’ll play an active role in the curriculum of the course, step into a leadership role, and learn effective tools for teaching and leading in an outdoor environment.

The sea kayaking in this part of the world is truly unrivaled and provides an ideal location to develop leadership skills and sea kayaking expedition skills.

THE INSTRUCTORS AND GUIDES OF IWLS are widely recognized as some of the very best in their field and have practical leadership experience from around the globe. They are well trained and have an uncommon enthusiasm for sharing their skill and knowledge, borne out of a passion for outdoor exploration.

The International Wilderness Leadership Schools’ educational model nurtures leadership development and creates an awareness of the guiding mentality that is essential for leading safe, fun adventures in the mountains. The combination of technical skills training, experiential education and practical leadership experience make the IWLS curriculum world class.

THE IWLS GENERAL CURRICULUM outlines the essential components for effective outdoor leadership. Here are a few points that the course will focus on.

  • Weather: Will the storm arrive in the next 12 hours or the next 48? Understanding weather patterns and trends will help you plan successful trips in a wilderness setting.
  • Leadership: You’ll have the opportunity to lead the group in a variety of activities and objectives.
  • Environmental Ethics: As adventurers in some of the most pristine environments on the planet, it is our duty to respect the natural landscape. All of our courses practice and teach Leave No Trace® principles.
  • Safety and Risk Management: Safety is always the #1 consideration. As the course progresses, you’ll develop an awareness to appropriately asses risk and make safe decisions.
  • Communication Skills: Speaking in public, managing a personal conflict, or leading a group in the wilderness, all of these situations require effective communication. You’ll gain confidence in your communication abilities as you develop your personal leadership style over the length of this course.

IWLS KAYAKING CURRICULUM is oriented to providing students with a solid skill set of paddling techniques to be safe and confident in a coastal environment. Here are a few of the topics students will learn on the course.

  • Braces: Paddling in rough conditions requires solid bracing skills. We’ll learn and practice the low brace, high brace and sculling brace in a fun, controlled environment.
  • Rescues: What happens when you’re paddling with clients in the frigid waters of Southeast Alaska and a boat capsizes? We’ll learn everything from the paddle-float rescue to the assisted bow rescue to kayak rolling.
  • Towing: Whether you are pulling an injured kayaker away from booming surf or lending a helping hand to a seasick client, you’ll learn the finer points of a towing system and the criteria for towing.
  • Tides and Currents: Southeast Alaska is home to some of the largest tidal changes in North America. We’ll learn about tide charts, the “Rule of 12’s”, and how to identify and avoid strong currents.

EXPERIENCE LEVEL No previous experience is necessary for this course. However, with a desire to learn and an enthusiasm for adventure, you’ll develop the skills necessary for a lifetime of wilderness exploration.

CERTIFICATIONS upon completion of the course, participants may qualify for the following certifications:

ACA Certificate of Completion
American Canoe Association


ACA Assessment Levels 1 – 5
American Canoe Association

Guide Training Certificate of Completion
International Wilderness Leadership School


DATES & PRICES Please see our schedule for current dates and price information.