Your Hosts

The New Zealand Kayak School is run by Mick Hopkinson and Pam Weiss.




Mick is originally from Britain where he raced kayak slalom for ten years before putting his energies into exploratory boating.  Mick was a member of a small team that made first descents of the river Inn in Switzerland and Austria, the Blue Nile in Ethiopia and the Dudh Khosi in Nepal.  He was also a member of the Karakorum Kayak expedition, The Karnali expedition and the "Taming the Lion" team which made the first descent of many of the huge rapids on the river Indus in Baltistan.  In August 2008 he was inducted into the International White Water Hall of Fame in recognition  of his exploits.  But don't worry he was released in time for the start of the next season!

More recently he has been getting his thrills watching Liam paddling the big rapids on the Colorado  and racing on the North Fork of the Payette.   


Pam is a native of Jackson Hole, Wyoming and for many years was a member of the US Cross country and Biathlon ski team.  Recently she was inducted into the US Biathlon Association Hall of Fame.  When she retired from competition she took up kayaking and climbing as therapy and has paddled the Grand Canyon, much to her satisfaction.  Pam is the CFO, the brain of the Kayak School and in charge of Mountain bike purchases.


Liam our son.  He is now bigger than his mum and dad and is studying, we hope, at Massey University in Wellington.  He has cleverly sidestepped "boatslavedom" by taking  a holiday job as a sea kayak guide in Antarctica.


The Instructors


New Zealand has a professional instructors association... The New Zealand Outdoor Instructors Association. This governing body sets very high standards and all our staff hold NZOIA kayak instructor awards.  Mick, Peter Kettering and Daan Jimminck have worked as national assessors for NZOIA.  Mick and Pete both commute to the USA each year - Mick to Wyoming, and Peter to California, where he works for Otterbar Lodge and Tarkio Kayak School out of Missoula, Montana.  Both Mick and Peter are ACA (American Canoe Association) Qualified.  Peter spends most of his time in Hokitika  but we occasionally get the pleasure of his company for short stints.




Daan Jimmink is back for his tenth season at the kayakschool.  He has been spending his New Zealand winters in the Northern Hemisphere paddling in the USA, Iceland and Norway.   Daan is an NZOIA Kayak two and an Assessor.  He is our Senior Instructor and Multi Day Class 5 Trip Guru.  Daan makes sure our Rescue Courses are state of the Art!


Sophia Mulder is back for her tenth season at the kayak school.  She had been enjoying the back to back summer lifestyle, splitting her time between New Zealand and another kayak instruction position in North Carolina until she took up deer farming as a winter activity in Murchison.   Soph has completed a degree in Outdoor Education and Adventure Recreation at Christchurch Polytechnic and is also holds the NZOIA Kayak Two award.  A member of the magnificent six!   She recently partnered Jess on our Nepalese venture and is one of the anchorwomen of the Bullerfest.


 Jess Matheson, not the old Jess, but the new Jess on the scene…  Jess has received her call up papers  and is doing her National Service with the New Zealand  Army.   Jess spent her time chasing summers.  She mixed paddling and teaching kayaking in the USA and New Zealand.   Jess’s background in Outdoor Education began at Aoraki Polytechnic and working at The Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre.  She has been paddling for 17 years and holds  NZOIA Kayak Two, making her one of an elite group of six women who hold this award.  Daan and Jess publish an online whitewater magazine: "Dreaming of Whitewater".   Jess and Soph ran  an instructor training programme in Nepal, another country she has added to her international list.


Jono Smith is our newest signing and another North Islander who has discovered the pleasures of the South Island.  After two years at Tai Poutini and a season as a boatslave he is our newest NZOIA kayak one and secretly our best slalom paddler.


Ben Jackson is no longer the team youth and Rodeo head.  He is a Kayak Two and has a degree in Outdoor Education.  Living the trans-Pacific trans Atlantic lifestyle between NZ the USA and Denmark, he is sponsoring several airline companies!  He has also paddled in Uganda and the Indian Himalayas.   Recently he has begun to explore ‘other’ aspects of kayaking in the Arctic and the Antarctic and is currently an Antarctic Cruise Ship Expedition Leader, accompanied by his beloved Pernille who is still trying to teach him Danish.


Jess Brown  has finally “settled down” and now is resident in only one place, Nelson, where she is applying her second degree, in Forestry.  But we haven't given up on her yet. 


Zak Shaw is working at Tai Poutini Polytechnic.  Along with his wife Sal they have built a beautiful house which they are filling with children.  If you need info on paddling in  the Peruvian Andes, Tibet, Bolivia, India and Africa then its probably not too late, before parental amnesia sets in. 


 Trying to keep tabs on this motley crew is Janette Kear.  Janette lives in Christchurch and takes all our mail and telephone bookings and provides the organization that makes it all happen!   Janette's has run both the Middle Fork of the Salmon River and the Main Salmon River in Idaho with us and can speak american as a result!