Portland Paddle offers American Canoe Association sea kayak instructor certifications in partnership with Pinniped Kayak!
Maine Sea Kayak Guide Training
Prepare to Become a Licensed Maine Sea Kayak Guide in this four-day course
This intensive course is designed to prepare students for the state testing process involved in becoming a licensed Maine Sea Kayak Guide. Although our course is focused on the goal of passing the state guide exam, we also intend for students to develop skills and knowledge that will make them better paddlers and more competent outdoor leaders. The course is designed to be enjoyable and educational for anyone with prior sea kayaking experience who is interested in topics ranging from marine navigation to effective paddling instruction. Please keep in mind that if you successfully take this class and pass the exam that does not necessarily mean you are a competent guide. Many individuals may need additional practice and study before they are ready to professionally lead trips.
Roughly half of the course will take place on the water and the rest will take place in a classroom setting at the offices of the Maine Island Trail Association. Portland Paddle can provide kayaks, PFDs, sprayskirts and paddles for students to use during the course at no extra cost, or students can use their own. Students will need to wear a wetsuit or drysuit while on the water, and wetsuits are available to rent for an extra $20 for the duration of the course.
2024 Course Schedule
Saturday, May 11, 8:30am-4:30pm: Meet at the offices of the Maine Island Trail Association
Sunday, May 12: 8:30am-4:30pm: Meet at the offices of the Maine Island Trail Association
Saturday, May 18, 8:30am-4:30pm: Meeting location TBD
Sunday, May 19: 8:30am-4:30pm: Meeting location TBD
Intermediate or advanced paddling skills are required for this course. It is important that students in this course have a certain level of comfort and control in a sea kayak.
Students should have each of the following skills or experiences prior to showing up for the course:
Prior sea kayaking experience. Please note that sea kayaks are very different from recreational kayaks (the most common kayaks found on lakes and rivers); lots of people who kayak regularly have never been in a sea kayak. You should be comfortable paddling a sea kayak through small waves on open water, using a sprayskirt, and using core paddling strokes such as the draw stroke and sweep stroke.
Wet exit & capsize recovery experience. You should have experienced capsizing in a kayak (doing a “wet exit”) and doing a capsize recovery before taking this training. If you would like to gain or brush up on these skills before the training we recommend attending one of our Winter Pool Sessions!
Some familiarity with using a compass. If you have no prior experience using a compass we recommend taking our Ocean Skills series before your guide training. (It is offered several weeks prior).
The state of Maine requires that all professional wilderness guides in Maine (including sea kayaking guides) have a guide license from the state Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. This requirement, which is unique to our state, helps to maintain a high reputation for Maine guides and to encourage best practices. Earning a guide license can open up many professional opportunities. Every year many outfitters and other organizations throughout the state seek out licensed Maine guides to lead trips. Beyond Maine many outfitters also recognize a Maine guide license as an indicator of experience and competence.
When you become a Maine guide you become part of a long history of guiding in Maine. The earliest guides in what is now Maine were people of the Wabanaki Confederacy who led white clients on expeditions through the lands their people had inhabited for centuries. Once a guiding industry dominated by white people emerged in the 19th-century, after the Wabanaki were largely dispossessed of their former lands, the state of Maine created a licensing system. In 1897 the legendary Cornelia “Flyrod” Crosby became the first licensed Maine guide.
There are several specializations within the state guide licensing system (hunting, fishing, whitewater rafting, etc). Our course is specifically focused on the sea kayaking specialization, and it will only prepare students for taking the sea kayak guide exam. This license can only be used to lead paddling trips (sea kayak or SUP) on Maine’s tidal waters.
You are welcome to contact us by email or phone if you are considering registering for this course. We can discuss your past paddling experience and offer you guidance on applying for the state exam. Click the button on this page when you are ready to register and pay the 50% deposit. Remember that this only registers you for the training — not the guide exam. Read the following section to learn how to apply to take the Maine guide exam.
Our course prepares students for the state exam, but we do not administer the exam or have any control over who passes or fails the exam. Students are responsible for applying to take the exam (which involves a criminal background check) and traveling to Augusta on the date they are assigned by the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. The state charges a $100 fee to take the exam. If you pass you must pay an additional $135 for a 5-year license.
Overview of the Guide Exam Process
- Apply to take the criminal background check
- After 30 days, send in an application to take the guide exam
- Receive a test date from the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
- Drive to Augusta on your test date to take the exam.
We Recommend Applying to Take the Exam As Soon As Possible
If you are planning to take our guide training course, and you would like to work as a guide during the following summer, we recommend that you apply for the exam as soon as possible. Get started now! The amount of time it takes to get scheduled to take the exam can vary from several weeks to several months, and if you fail your first time you are required to wait 30 days before taking the exam again.
Visit this page on the state’s website to learn how to take the Maine Guide exam and learn more about the content of the exam. Our course will prepare you for the exam, but you must register with the state to actually take the exam. The state’s process begins with getting fingerprinted and undergoing a criminal background check. Once that is completed, you are able to apply for a test date. In the meantime, you must also receive a basic First Aid certification if you don’t already have one.