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. But knowing how to kayak is only the first step to becoming a quality kayak instructor. Before our kayak instructors even get to Wet Planet, they already have River Rescue certifications, ACA instructor certifications, competition awards and decades of combined experience. They are the kayakers who have been immersed in the paddle sports 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. We at Wet Planet are lucky enough to receive applications from river professionals all over the country for our kayak instruction team. Meet the instructors who you might be spending time on the river with this summer!

New Members of the Wet Planet Family

Paul Butler

Paul was born in Chicago and raised in Kansas City where he graduated college with a Business degree.  After College, Paul Moved to Knoxville, Tennessee where he, for the first time, had unlimited access to mountains and rivers.  Having this access triggered a passion for the outdoors and later for whitewater kayaking.  Since then, Paul continuously follows the rivers and has been kayaking for over 25 years. Paul has had the opportunity to explore all that the southeast had to offer, kayaking extensively in the southeast and mid Atlantic regions. In 2014 he moved to Colorado where he stayed for 7 years, but after his corporate accounting job ended in 2017 (and with 2 children raised), he decided not to spend the rest of his life in an office.  Paul bought a van to live in and obtained his ACA Kayak Instructor certification at Rocky Mountain Outdoor Center.  For the past 3 years, Paul has been teaching kayaking, guiding inflatable trips,  and guiding mountain bike rides. Paul really enjoys teaching and sharing his appreciation of the outdoors with others. In the off seasons, you can find Paul mountain biking through Colorado, floating down the Grand Canyon, or hiking the Pacific Crest Trail! Paul has his ACA level 4 kayak certification, Basic first aid and CPR/AED, and his furthering his education with various rescue courses. Needless to say, we are excited to have Paul joining the Wet Planet team as the new Kayak School Manager!

Morgan Hatchet

Morgan grew up on the Eastern outskirts of Washington State near Spokane, which is responsible for where his love for the water started. He grew up spending all of his summers camping on the shores of Lake Pend Oreille which inspired him to save up enough money to buy himself a lake kayak, which he immediately tried to flip upside down and roll back up. Morgan would eventually go on to take his first river job as a river trip photographer which then moved into a multi-day guide role, sharing his time between The Wild and Scenic Hells Canyon section on the Snake River and The Wild and Scenic Main Salmon River. Morgan is a Wilderness First Responder and Level 4 Swift Water Rescue certified. When Morgan is not working on the river he can be found playing guitar, taking pictures and videos, and doing personal river trips. In the wintertime, he works as the Lead Technician in the High-Performance Center Ski Shop at Mt. Hood Meadows with aspirations of joining the Ski patrol. Morgan enjoys all things outdoors and is excited to see all that the PNW has to offer!

Mattie Healey

Originally from central Maryland, Mattie found whitewater in the spring of 2012, training and guiding river trips on the New and Gauley rivers in West ByGawd Virginia. Four years later she packed and checked her kayak Blue Bell on an international flight and worked commercially on the Sjoa and Otta rivers of Northern Norway. Mattie and her partner moved to the Columbia Gorge for year round living in the fall of 2016. After migrating bi annually from the south eastern rivers of the country to the western mountain ranges of Montana she decided to try to find a location that “had it all.” If you ask her today if she’s found “it” here in the Gorge she’ll give a half cocked smile and often times quote Kurt Vonnegut, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is!” If you don’t see Mattie kayaking the Hood, White Salmon or on her annual Middle Fork Salmon expedition, you’ll find her peddling up the 100’s of miles of mountain biking trails in the region, skiing pow in the Mt. Hood National Forrest, or even taking a leisurely float down the Klickitat via inter tube, soaking in the sun with a beverage in hand. She’s a firm believer in time spent adventuring is time well spent which is exactly what she will be spending her time on this season with Wet Planet!

Todd Wolfe

Todd grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah, and was introduced to river rafting in high school when his family joined a trip down the Middle fork of the Salmon River. After returning home, Todd bought a hard-shell kayak from his former piano teacher and was immediately hooked! When Todd began college at Montana State University, he began to avidly pursue kayaking and got a job as a raft guide in Idaho to supplement his addiction to whitewater. Now, wanting to diversify his rafting experience he has decided to call Washington home for the summer and join the Wet Planet team! Learn More about Todd

Andy Roundez

Andy is a Wet Planet alum who we are lucky to have making a celebrity appearance this summer! Andy started kayaking at a young age, and when he realized he could turn his passion into a career, he never looked back! While honing his skills on the rivers of the UK, Europe, New Zealand, and the Himalayas, Andy became a certified instructor in kayaking, sailing, rock climbing and caving, later making a decision to focus his teaching career on kayaking as he enjoyed teaching kayaking the most. Andy has continued to teach throughout the States and South America while continuing his river adventures all over the world. Learn more about Andy.

Andy Roundez Kayaking

Returning Kayak Instrusctors

Dylan Benson

Dylan was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico – the land of enchantment, but better known to the locals as the land of perpetual droughts. It was this lack of water and the abundance of dry dirt that helped build the foundation for a love of water for Dylan. Dylan began kayaking in middle school, but it wasn’t until Dylan moved to Bellingham, WA, that he got more into kayaking; he met the Torryd crew at Western Washington University, who lent him the gear and a boat to get back on the river. The abundance of magical creeks in NW Washington and the river community reignited his love for kayaking. He began kayaking as much as he could as long as there was water, which luckily Washington has a ton of! Wanting to share the river with others and bring people to places only accessible by kayak is why Dylan chose to start guiding and teaching kayaking. He fell so in love with guiding that he even changed majors from finance to Outdoor Recreation Management and Leadership to continue chasing this love for the outdoors. After raft guiding in Northwest Washington for a season, Dylan loaded all his kayaks and gear into his truck went to Colorado for a season to chase creeks and rivers all over the state while being a certified ACA Kayak instructor and teaching on the Arkansas River before joining the Wet Planet team in 2021.

Claire Simon

Claire started kayaking after she graduated high school, when she took a kayak roll class in a swimming pool on a whim and was instantly hooked on the feeling of paddling. Following her first kayak trip with her mom, Claire got so excited about outdoor recreation that she devoted an entire semester of college to outdoor education classes. A recent graduate in Outdoor Recreation Studies at the University of Utah, outdoor recreation completely changed Claire’s life for the better, helping her to become her best self and appreciate what she truly values in life. Claire went on to teach kayaking and guide rafts on the Colorado River in Moab, Utah. She loves teaching kayaking because it allows her to show others the joy to be gained from the experience of human connection in a natural, beautiful, rough-hewn outdoor setting. She hopes that she can help others find themselves through whitewater sports as she did. Claire’s favorite expression is, “We live here!” which she especially enjoys singing out when she’s extra enchanted with the world around her, and can’t wait to have “We live here!” moments with Wet Planet kayakers!

Haley Giannone

Haley originates from Pennsylvania, and began river running as a toddler. She went canoeing, camping, rafting, and kayaking with her family on rivers all around the Southeast throughout her childhood.  Haley became entranced by rivers, and loved learning to read the water and the feeling of being a part of its flow, imagining she was a fish or an otter. She began hard-shell kayaking in high-school so she could run more rivers and roll back up if she flipped!

Haley came to Wet Planet in 2018, after guiding on the Lehigh River for the 6 years. During the off-season she works as an Environmental and Outdoor Educator (Alabama and California previously) and then back home to the PNW to work once winter hits. She’s also had the opportunity to travel to Chile on multiple occasions, first as a student with Patagonia Study Abroad, and then to do a work-trade for the Pucón Kayak Hostel (now the Pucón Kayak Retreat) as an artist, guide, kayak camp coach, and all-around-organizer-up keeper-of-tidiness. Her next international river destination is to visit New Zealand for a winter. She is working to go back to school for a Graduate degree in outdoor leadership/education in the fall of 2021.

Learn more about Haley in her Staff Spotlight!

kayaking instructor

Sean Madden

When Sean was a kid, his mom signed him up for whitewater kayaking through a local outing club in northern New York, thinking it was a flat water kayaking program. It was all down river from there! His last two years of high school he attended World Class Academy, a private traveling high school that travels the world introducing students to international kayaking, kiteboarding, climbing, travel, and cultural immersion. World Class Academy kayaking students paddle daily, while also working on a rigorous classroom curriculum. This program enabled Sean to travel all over the world to kayak; Nepal, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Quebec, British Columbia, and all over the Pacific Northwest. After graduating, he knew that the PNW was where he wanted to call home, so he began his career as a guide on the Wenatchee River in Leavenworth, Washington. After a couple of seasons, he moved to White Salmon for better access to more varied and consistent whitewater, where he started guiding and teaching kayaking with Wet Planet in 2018. These days, he couldn’t be happier than he is while teaching kayaking and guiding on the White Salmon River – at least when he’s not busy completing his prerequisites for nursing school!

kayak instruction

Want to know more about Sean? Check out his Staff Spotlight!

Josh Barza

Originally from Northern California, Josh spent eight years living in Baltimore where he discovered his passion for the outdoors. While in college at Johns Hopkins University, he taught whitewater kayaking to other students on rivers in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast. Since graduating, he worked as an Environmental Engineer, restoring streams in Maryland that have been affected by excessive erosion in order to reduce the amount of pollution that can reach Chesapeake Bay. Despite working a 9 to 5 job, he continued kayaking on weekends and has traveled to Costa Rica, Chile, and Ecuador to paddle. He came to the Wet Planet team in 2019 as a full time kayak instructor. In 2021, Josh will be balancing part-time kayaking with full-time engineering.

kayaking instructor

Sharon Saltoon

Sharon grew up in the big bad city of Los Angeles, California, but the outdoors called her at a young age and was always a formative force in her life. She first fell in love with whitewater taking day trips on the Snake River in Jackson Hole with her family, which inspired her to move to Jackson for the summer at age 17. Sharon first started whitewater kayaking on a trip with First Descents on the Clark Fork River in the summer of 2015. Enamored with the sport and drawn to the community, she continued to pursue kayaking back in Colorado, where she was pursuing a BA in Communication at the University of Denver. After graduating in 2017, she became a raft guide on the Rogue River in Southern Oregon. The draw of year-round kayaking brought her to the Gorge in October of 2018. Sharon is now both a kayak instructor and the Reservations & Communications Director at Wet Planet, and is always stoked to share her love of whitewater with you from the office and on the river!

We are lucky to have such an awesome crew of professional kayak instructors at Wet Planet. Each instructor brings their own background and personality to their kayaking lessons, so you’re also bound to be in good company in addition to receiving high-level instruction! From beginner lessons to advanced instruction for experience paddlers, there are kayaking classes for everyone, and this is the team that makes it happen. If you’ve kayaked with us before, you can request your favorite instructor!

Not sure which kayaking course is right for you? Check out our skill level overview and the progression of kayaking courses for each skill level. 

Author Sharon is a kayak instructor and Reservations Manager at Wet Planet. She is always stoked to share her love of whitewater on and off the river and  and to be a part of the incredible team at Wet Planet!