The Northwest attracts the world’s most experienced and committed kayakers. A strikingly beautiful collection of river gorges, a wide variety of whitewater and a twelve-month paddling season might be a few of the reasons why.
Finding a good kayak instructor, however, can actually be difficult.
Knowing how to kayak is only the first step to becoming a quality kayak teacher. We at Wet Planet are lucky enough to receive applications from river professionals all over the country for our kayak instruction team. From this, we are able to select the cream of the crop.
Before our kayak instructors even get here, they already have Swiftwater rescue certifications, ACA instructor certifications, competition awards and decades of combined experience. They are the kayakers who have been immersed in the paddlesports industry for years, as leaders and professionals.
Beyond certifications, our staff have all taken whitewater paddling and turned it into a passion that makes every day an adventure both on and off the water. Ask us why we’re smiling all the time and we’ll probably relate it back to paddling in some way.
Wet Planet’s high expectations and standards mean better instruction for you.
Meet the Wet Planet Instruction Team:
For more information on each instructor, check out their full staff bio on the Wet Planet Staff page.
Whitewater kayaking is a part of Heather’s life 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Even on the days when her dry top stays hanging on the line, Heather is busy working on promoting the sport and the Wet Planet Kayak School in other ways.
“With my immense love for kayaking, it just makes sense to me to share my passion, create new paddlers and help grow the industry,” says Heather.
Residing in BZ corner, Heather and her husband chose the Pacific Northwest as their ideal home for one reason: the rivers. For Heather, whitewater feeds her passion for a complete and balanced body, both physically and mentally.
Heather spends the entire year working on new programs, clinics and instruction methods for the Wet Planet Kayak School. Her leadership helps the entire instruction team come together to share ideas and learn from each other.
“We feel that a strong staff is crucial to the quality of instruction given. All staff at Wet Planet hold safety and fun in high regards. A strong instructional team will guarantee top-quality instruction in a safe environment, and that’s important to us,” comments Heather, our kayak program manager.
Join Heather for a kayak course at Wet Planet and you will probably walk away with a new favorite activity.
Brian might be the most mellow and genuinely happy kayaker you’ll ever meet. It permeates through his wide smile.
While his stature-at exactly 2 meters tall-might seem intimidating at first, you will instantly find his sincere kindness and easy-going attitude an asset to your kayaking course. Brian can turn any scary situation on the river into a relaxed and fun adventure.
Coming to us from Colorado, Brian began teaching adventure sports on the slopes. Receiving the “Peak Performer Award” for his work as a ski instructor, Brian has proven his ability to teach seemingly scary and difficult sports to others. As a kayak instructor, Brian transfers these teaching skills to the river.
While skiing might have been a big part of his life before, Brian now finds himself traveling the world with legendary rivers as his destination. Instructing and guiding on Wet Planet’s Costa Rica and Peru trips allows Brian to take his passion for cultural exploration to the river.
Armed with his ability to make anyone relax and smile, you’ll find Brian to be an incredible asset in any awkward foreign travel situation.
Kayaking took an obvious hold over Susan’s life when she decided to squeeze in college semesters in West Virginia and Ecuador into her Penn State coursework, just to be closer to rivers. Now, after nearly 10 years working in the industry, Susan still makes major life decisions based on the ebb and flow of her favorite rivers.
After spending a year teaching and coaching with World Class Kayak Academy, Susan moved to the Northwest in 2009. Immediately finding a home with the folks at Wet Planet, Susan found that the Columbia River Gorge might be the best-and most fun-place to teach kayaking.
Living in BZ Corner in the summer and Portland in the winter, Susan also contributes to the river community as a freelance writer. Wet Planet, Save Our Salmon and American Whitewater are just a few of her clients. No matter what, she finds a way to live and breath whitewater kayaking.
Susan and Heather have been working to develop more training and resources for the Wet Planet kayak school for the 2011 season. Seeing the incredible talent the school has to offer has inspired these two instigators to make the Wet Planet kayak school the Northwest’s best resource for whitewater instruction.
“Kayaking has been the ultimate teacher for me,” says Susan. “It has been my avenue for world exploration and strong character development. It might be the best-kept secret to life-long happiness. It’s true, trust me.”
Her joy and enthusiasm will inevitably wear off on you during her clinics, so be prepared to leave your course fueled with more passion for life than you can even imagine.
Whitewater rivers-complete with technical rapids, incredible scenery and riverside camping facilities-course through Drew’s veins instead of blood. Ask him about the theory behind running a complex rapid and you’ve won his heart. Prepare to be entranced by his simple, yet profoundly complete, description of the rapid. It’s impossible to leave a conversation about rivers with Drew and not possess an equally large appreciation for flowing water.
Drew calls the Pacific Northwest home for almost half of every year. Arriving early in the season–despite less work available–Drew establishes his goals of paddling as much as possible by getting out on the rivers immediately. If you are around, he’ll do his best to encourage you to join him. As the sun comes out and more guests arrive at Wet Planet to venture down the river, Drew is there with open arms.
The rest of the year Drew calls Asheville, NC home. His ability to build a community around his passion for whitewater also allows him to feel at home on the Russell Fork River in KY and Gauley River in WV, where he makes an annual trip for the fall festival season.
Drew teaches several different courses for the Wet Planet, but enjoys multi-day immersion clinics the most. His students will agree; spending 5 days on the Wild and Scenic Rogue River with Drew Austell is just about the best way to build a solid foundation of skills and an insane passion for this incredible sport.
Another West Virginia transplant, Lance began his exploration of rivers on the east coast. After learning about the Pacific Northwest’s steady river levels and spectacular scenery, he made the move out west.
Now, Lance’s emphatic sense of humor keeps his students and fellow staff members rolling with laughter. Lance’s ability to make any situation fun makes taking a kayak course with him a guaranteed entertaining experience. It just goes to show, when you find something as fun as whitewater kayaking, it is hard to not want to share it with others.
“Kayak instructing to me is all about paying it forward. Ten years ago a teacher at my high school in Bridgeport, West Virginia pulled me into his classroom to show me a video. It was the first time I had ever seen people kayaking on whitewater and only a few weeks later I was sitting in a kayak for my first time,” says Lance.
“Kayaking is now a big part of my life and it has taken me to some amazing places. So it only seemed logical to me that I pay it forward by teaching others about the sport I love.”
Once Ryan experienced the thrill of whitewater kayaking he, like so many of us, reevaluated priorities and changed his life to accommodate the new addiction.
While rivers have been a part of his life since early childhood, raft guiding was just another fun summer job until he sat in a plastic boat. Suddenly the river became a simultaneously intimate and team experience, as he grew more comfortable on harder whitewater with the help of fellow Wet Plant Instructors.
Now, as a true steward for living out one’s dreams and ACA-certified whitewater kayak instructor, Ryan passes along his knowledge to eager kayak students. His supportive nature allows many hesitant students to discover strength and confidence they never knew they had. With a calm and simple approach, Ryan helps students understand the basic techniques easily. His presence on the river can transform anyone’s experience into a positive one.
Keep an eye out for his White Suit Chronicles, a collection of tales of a white suit, a kayak and a world of opportunity. Most recent edition to the chronicle: Africa’s Zambezi River.
Hailing from the east coast, Curt fell sick with the kayaking bug back in college. It has developed into a chronic disorder of fully experiencing the adventure and joy in life through the flow of the river.
“I love kayaking because I prefer seeing the world from river level. I enjoy the places it allows me to go and the people I can go there with,” explains Curt.
Once Curt realized how much kayaking positively influenced his life, he decided to start sharing this knowledge with others.
“My goal in instructing kayaking is to help others get to the point where they are also able to go out and enjoy being on the water. That might mean perfecting eddy turns or learning to link up moves in more complex, technical whitewater.”
“What I like most about teaching kayaking is seeing students get to the point where they are able to feel comfortable in their surroundings,” describes Curt. “I enjoying helping students conquer their own fears and obstacles that keep them from having a positive experience on the river. Getting to this point is where learning begins, allowing any level kayaker to further progress in the sport of paddling.”
While Washington and Oregon might be a hotbed for kayaking, not many paddlers have spent there whole life here. Jonathan is one of the few.
With the river entering into his life at a young age, Jonathon found his stomping grounds around Eugene, Oregon to be ideal for developing solid whitewater skills. Since paddling the northwest classics made up most of his early paddling experiences, Jonathan felt the need to get out and explore the rest of the world. Name any country known for incredible whitewater, and Jonathan has been there.
However, more than his world travels and vast experiences with kayaking, Wet Planet is lucky to have Jonathan because he is a truly positive force in the whitewater community. In addition to kayak courses, he also teachers Swiftwater Rescue courses for Rescue 3 International. From setting up a mechanical advantage system to rolling your kayak, Jonathan can help.
Jonathan’s positive attitude and helpful teaching methods have helped other instructors at Wet Planet refine their own approach to kayaking. We hope that he continues to call the northwest his home for many years.
Not many of kayaking’s most talented figures is as humble as Andy Round. Just try guessing all the things he has done within the sport of kayaking. Chances are, you’ll never be able to come up with them all.
It might be the 20+ years of kayaking experience, the countless exploratory paddling missions, or the world-championship awards that makes Andy one of the most sought-after kayak instructors west of the Mississippi.
We, however, know differently.
Andy’s popularity as an instructor come from his ability to reach students and make drastic improvements to their paddling skills. He has studied kayaking long enough to approach teaching from different angles. He has evolved his explanations and tips over years of instruction, and with many of the industry‘s best instructors at his side. He has taught all over the globe, helped students of every age, and worked in a variety of settings.
Students return annually for their day on the river with Andy. From first-timers to advanced class V boaters, Andy has something to offer a paddler of any skill level.
Simply put, Andy is an incredible teacher.
One of the most experienced kayak instructors in the Pacific Northwest, Todd is also half of the genius behind Wet Planet Whitewater. After two decades working in the whitewater industry as a teacher, instructor and guide, Todd decided to take his idea of the perfect outfitter and turn it into a reality. Now, we have Wet Planet.
Without Todd’s kayak instruction expertise as an ACA-certified whitewater kayak instructor, we would not have such a professional, educated and enthusiastic kayak school based on the classic White Salmon River.
Getting Todd out of the office is not hard. He regularly teachers river rescue and advanced kayak instruction courses throughout the year. Ask him about a certain line through a rapid and you’ve got yourself an afternoon of juicy whitewater conversation.
Todd’s experience has been vital to the growth of the entire kayak program. He has helped instructors take on leadership roles and use different methods to reach students better. Good thing he isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
At Wet Planet, Steve has risen to legendary status. His years of experience instructing on rivers could fill a book. From West Virginia’s New and Galey rivers to the National Outdoor Leadership School, Steve has been exposed to a variety of teaching methods.
“I’ve been lucky enough to work with a lot of different kayak instructors with a diversity of styles, techniques, and philosophical approaches to teaching kayaking. I’ve been able to learn from them–as they have learned from me–and the result is that we’re all better instructors because of our exposure to different viewpoints,” says Steve.
Currently, Steve enjoys working with the First Descent kayaking camps every summer. During these week-long camps for young adult cancer survivors, Steve helps participants learn to cope with fear, obstacles, and self-confidence in a safe and controlled environment.
“The fight for their lives began when they started fighting cancer, and learning how to kayak is a positive way of keeping that fighting spirit going,” says Steve. “I really feel like I’m making a significant difference in these students’ lives.”
By learning whitewater kayaking technique and skills, these campers find ways to trust themselves and each other. The growth and friendships that come out of a week on the river with First Descents is practically inexplicable. No wonder Steve enjoys these clinics so much.