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.
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, Peter, Daan and Jess 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 eleventh 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 taking a season off. She has decided to try parenthood as an alternative to instructing. 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! Only 6 NZOIA Women Kayak Twos.
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 18 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. She too has taken time out to raise our next generation of instructors. Finn, born this season, is almost as big as his dad, Daan and we have already ordered his first kayak... A Dynamo or is it the small Axiom?
Jono Smith is another North Islander who has discovered the pleasures of the South Island. After two years at Tai Poutini, a season as a boats lave and a season as our NZOIA kayak one he is coming back for more and is still secretly our best slalom paddler.
Cait Disberry last years boats slave, is slowly moving up the ranks and has been enjoying her first North American kayak tour. We hope to see her in September, more experienced and probably so penniless she is forced to work for us again!
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! Ben and Pernille have started their own School with the aim of training guides working in the Polar Regions.
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.
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!