In my dream world, I would spend the New Zealand summers soaking up the paradise of Okere Falls and escape to a warmer side of the planet when the town turns into a cold, damp swamp during the winter. Unfortunately, plane tickets cost money, money requires work, and work means less time for play, aka kayaking. I lucked out on the best-case scenario these past couple of summers when Rob (Robadile) Collister and Sam (Juicy) Ricketts set up New Zealand Whitewater Academy (NZWA), and now they pay me to go kayaking! (And teach kids). I've also been doing a bit of kayak instruction through Kaituna Kayaks, which my dad set up when I was little but is now run by Mr. Bradley Lauder.
Last month was a busy month with NZWA teaching high school groups on the Aniwhenua River. Technically I was there to work, but I love camping, beautiful rivers, and paddling with friends, so it never felt like work at all and rather a heap of fun camp trips with cool people. On a typical day there, I unzip my tent door to the soft morning light, climb the hill over Lake Aniwhenua and cross the dewy grass to the NZWA marquee for some breakfast. After that, it's time to load up and head to the put-in. Five minutes drive, and a couple of new additions to my Spotify playlist later, we give the kids a quick safety refresher and help them put on the river. Once all the kids are happily on the water, we take turns running back and get a quick lap of ‘Aniwhenua Falls’, which drops into the pool where all the kids sit waiting. It's hard to beat a day of work that starts like this!
Below the falls the river is a gorgeous mixture of mossy green, tumbling springs, and chiselled rock cliff. One of my favourite things about teaching people to kayak here is being able to get people into a place like this and show them how pretty everything is down there!
The kids were all awesome humans with hilarious chat. Most of them sign up to learn to kayak as part of their outdoor ed class at school, so they tend to be pretty enthusiastic about the whole experience. It's pretty cool getting to show kids down their first rapids and see how excited they are at the bottom. Lots of these kids finish the camp with a new love for kayaking and want to do more which is awesome. Personally, I have a lot of happy memories of learning to kayak as a kid, so my main goal when teaching is for everyone in the group to have the most fun possible on the river.
Instructing has been a learning curve for me as well. My barrel roll has never been better and my deep water rescues are a lot more productive these days.
All in all, Instructing has been a sweet addition to my summer jobs and I'm looking forward to doing a lot more!