Welcome to the

New Zealand Kayak School

We are a world-class, kayaker-oriented operation based in the South Island of New Zealand, one of the world’s premiere white water destinations. Heading into its’ 29th year, the New Zealand Kayak School in Murchison is owned and operated by two of New Zealand’s top white water instructors – Daan Jimmink and Jess Matheson.

We run residential white water kayak courses for beginners, intermediate and advanced kayakers. We have a range of other courses available including river rescue, instructor training, Grade 2 Certificates, guiding and custom training. Each course is tailored to meet your white water needs. The New Zealand Kayak School also offers a lodge, accommodation, training pond, shop, rentals, repairs, local advice and river information.

Our courses are delivered by a passionate team of instructors and staff, who are some of New Zealand’s absolute best. NZOIA-qualified, professional, trained educators and keen adventurers, the team clock up hundreds of days on the water each year.

Murchison is home to five beautiful rivers, tucked away in our immediate back yard. These rivers and their tributaries vary from Class I to Class IV, with more than 15 different sections within a 30-minute drive. Regardless of weather or flows, there is always something to paddle, and something for everyone.

Murch-is-on.

River Logo

Meet the Team

2020/2021

NZ Kayak School entrance

Daan, Jess and Finn

Your Hosts

The New Zealand Kayak School is owned and operated by Daan, Jess and their son Finn. Daan and Jess both started work for the NZKS in the summer of 2009, and kayaking became life. Hundreds of rivers and thousands of kayaking days later, Finn joined their tribe in 2018. In a nod towards adult-hood Daan and Jess officially took over the NZKS reigns from Mick and Pam in 2020.
Daan Jimmink

Daan Jimmink

NZOIA Kayak 2 Instructor

Daan lives and breathes kayaking. He grew up in Geraldine and studied outdoor education at Aoraki Polytechnic (where he met Jess). Daan worked in a few outdoor centres before starting to chase summers between New Zealand and California. He has a preference for multi-day kayaking - preferably hard and steep with lots of boofs. Daan has more kayaks than anyone, is a kayaking encyclopedia (second only to Mick) and has a photographic memory for rivers. He is passionate about instruction, works for NZOIA as a Kayak Assessor, is a keen adventurer and is busy teaching Finn about the outdoors. Daan makes kayaking look easy, so if you follow him anywhere take an extra stroke or three!
Jess Matheson surfing

Jess Matheson

NZOIA Kayak 2 Instructor

It took Jess a wee while to love kayaking, and then it was all on. After studying outdoor education, she had some outdoor work then began chasing summers between New Zealand and California with Daan. Jess loves technical creek boating, multi-day trips and has an absolute passion for teaching kayaking. She has paddled in Nepal and Mongolia, holds NZOIA Kayak 2 and is an NZOIA Kayak Assessor, is the one that is most likely to have read the guidebook and always has spare food. Jess stepped sideways to work for the New Zealand Defence Force (Army) before becoming a mum to Finn, teaches kayaking when she can and is regularly on the hunt for the next family adventure.
Mick Hopkinson

Mick Hopkinson

NZOIA Kayak 2 Instructor

Mick is Kayaking. He has a lifetime of first descents, adventures and achievements to his name - the stuff that legends are made of. Mick nurtured the NZKS into a world-class kayak school through 28 seasons, along with Pam and their son Liam. Originally from Yorkshire, Mick arrived in New Zealand in 1978 and made his life here. He helped shape the outdoor industry in New Zealand, and has made significant contributions across many other disciplines including rock, cave, alpine and bush. Mick was inducted into the White Water Hall of Fame in 2008, has paddled some of the wildest rivers in the most remote corners of the globe, has been invited to tea with Her Majesty The Queen and every second day can be found running humble laps of the Lower Matakitaki River in Murchison.
Pam Weiss

Pam Weiss

Pam is the other part of the team that successfully ran the New Zealand Kayak School, alongside Mick. She is a native of Jackson Hole, Wyoming and splits her time between New Zealand and the USA. Pam is an exceptionally talented skier and for many years was a member of the US Cross Country and Biathlon ski team. In 2019 she was inducted into the US Biathlon Association Hall of Fame. When Pam retired from competition, she took up kayaking and climbing – she is an excellent adventure buddy. Pam is also a keen mountain biker, makes a delicious cheesecake and is most likely to be found anywhere outside.
Janette Kear

Janette Kear

First Point of Contact

Janette is based in Christchurch and has a long history with the outdoor industry in New Zealand. She manages the NZKS enquiries, bookings and calendar, and is affectionately known as the “internet dating guru” – being able to match a group of individuals to the same course. A kayaker herself, Janette has a sizeable list of rivers to her name both here and in the USA. She is very fond of her Eskimo Duo kayak.
Jono Smith

Jono Smith

NZOIA Kayak 1 and Grade 3 Management Instructor

Jono hails from the North Island and has been paddling since 2010. He has a background in Outdoor Education (Tai Poutini Polytechnic), is our secret slalom weapon and is also famous for being chased down a rapid by a swimming grizzly bear while he was kayaking in Canada. In his free time, you’ll find him creek boating on the West Coast somewhere and in Jono’s own words: “I’m just here to go kayaking”.
Cait Disberry

Cait Disberry

NZOIA Kayak 1 Instructor

Cait dipped her toes into a range of careers before landing in the outdoors and hasn’t looked back. She studied at Whitireia Polytechnic before joining the NZKS team in 2018. Cait has travelled extensively and is quick to find her own adventures – she doesn’t sit still for long! She is inspired about teaching kayaking, makes incredible food and would be the first to admit that the learning never stops.
Peter Kettering

Petter Kettering

NZOIA Kayak 2 Instructor

PK has a long history with the NZKS – stretching back to the very beginning with Mick. He is a native of New York, lives in Hokitika and splits his time between his NZ home and California. PK has thousands of teaching days to his name across a range of disciplines and is on call for courses here in Murchison. He has a quick sense of humour, loves his garden, fishing and rock climbing, has recently taken up mountain biking and has a remarkable repertoire of stories.
Scarlett Manson

Scalett Manson

Operations Manager/NZOIA Kayak Leader Award

Scar is coming back for her second season as one of our operation managers and trainee instructors. She grew up in Rangiora and first stepped foot in the outdoor industry in 2016 when she studied outdoor education at Aoraki Polytechnic. Scar is busy training for her NZOIA Kayak 1 instructor qualification this coming season. She is looking forward to sharing her knowledge and passion through her teaching - she is also a goldmine of information about local flora and fauna. When Scar isn’t busy kayaking, you can find her rock climbing, playing guitar, patting dogs or out in the bush on multi-day tramps.
Poldi Waldmann-moloney

Poldi Waldmann-Moloney

Operations Manager/NZOIA Kayak Leader Award

Poldi is the most recent addition to the team, arriving last summer after a fortunate series of events landed him on the NZKS doorstep. He grew up in Hokitika and studied outdoor education at ARA in Timaru – he has been immersed in the outdoors since forever. Poldi has an insatiable passion for kayaking and is busy upskilling and preparing for his NZOIA Kayak 1 qualification this coming season. He will happily disappear into the rivers and bush for days on end, is a recognised bow-hunter, makes a wicked caramel slice and the next adventure is always on his radar.
Soph Mulder West Coast Kayaking

Soph Mulder

NZOIA Kayak 2 Instructor

Soph’s first course at the NZKS was as a high school student from Dunedin. She studied outdoor education at CPIT in Christchurch and joined the team in 2009 – lured to Murchison by the opportunity to join the “Boatslaving Hall of Fame”. Soph has worked her way up to being one of the few female NZOIA Kayak 2 holders. She has enjoyed many white water adventures around the world including the USA, Nepal, Tasmania and New Zealand. Soph has a calm and composed manner that lends itself well to teaching, adventuring, winning (she is our kayak racing queen) and balancing kayaking with farm life and motherhood.