Josh Barza, also known as “Pickles” joined Wet Planet as a lead kayak instructor in 2019. An integral part of the kayak instructor team, Josh loves teaching kayaking to everyone under the sun. Josh can usually be found on the Klickitat River teaching beginner kayaking lessons for Wet Planet most days. In fact, after his first season at Wet Planet he was dubbed “King of Beginner Kayaking Lessons” because he taught them so frequently! To get to know Josh a little better, we took the opportunity to interview him after he got back from a winter of paddling in Ecuador!

kayaking ecuador

Taking a break on the Rio Quijos in Ecuador

Tell us about you! What’s your background?

I was born and raised in Northern California. I discovered my love for kayaking and the outdoors when I moved to Maryland for college. My college offered an outdoors Pre-Orientation program for incoming freshman and I signed up to go whitewater kayaking because I thought it sounded the coolest. I instantly fell in love with the rivers, and became an instructor, started teaching kayaking and led the Pre-Orientation when I was an upperclassman. It’s been nine years since then and I haven’t stopped kayaking since!

kayaking gauley river

Surfing Diagonal Ledges on the Lower Gauley River in West Virginia

What do you do in the winters?

After graduating college, I worked as an Environmental Engineering doing stream restoration work to reduce the amount of erosion and pollution that would end up in the Chesapeake Bay. This winter [2019-2020] I was very lucky and got to travel around the world and go kayaking! I visited some friends (and fellow Wet Planet Employees!) in Big Bend National Park, TX and paddle on the Rio Grande. I spend 20 incredible days in the Grand Canyon in December. And I just got back from 5 weeks of paddling in Ecuador!

kayaking Grand Canyon

Going through the waves of Granite Rapid on the Grand Canyon

Why do you like kayaking? Do you have a favorite river?

I love kayaking because I get to experience the river and the outdoors in new, unique ways. You get a much better sense of the rivers power and beauty when you are paddling on it. I have been able to travel all over the world and see places that you can only get with a kayak. Some of my favorite rivers are the Upper Yough in Maryland, Rio Machin in Chile and, of course, the White Salmon!

great falls washington DC

Running Great Falls near Washington D.C.

Why do you like teaching kayaking?

I like teaching kayaking because I love getting new people excited about paddling and show them how much the rivers have to offer! I also like seeing people progress and be able to style a rapid that they previously didn’t think they could accomplish.

kayaking camp

Josh, far right, posing with the group on Day 1 of a 3-Day youth kayaking camp!

What’s your favorite course to teach at Wet Planet?

My favorite course is First Descents, a 5-day whitewater kayaking camp for young adults ages 18-39 who have had cancer. It is so incredible and inspiring to see how much each person can overcome and accomplish and the joy that they bring each and every day to the river.

teaching kayaking

Teaching “Underwater Comfort” in the Hood River Marina during a First Descents Course

What are you looking forward to this season?

I am most looking forward to getting back outside and be able to safely meet and teach new people how to kayak! COVID-19 has definitely thrown off everyone plans, so I am excited to get back to doing what I love, teaching kayaking, and sharing the stoke with others.

kayaking gauley river

Surfing Diagonal Ledges on the Lower Gauley River in West Virginia

You can join Josh on a 2- or 3- day Beginner Kayaking Course, Novice or Intermediate Kayaking Instruction, or Private Kayaking Instruction all summer long! In fact, he’ll even give you an intro to beginner kayaking in this video!