Sam and Rob are friends who want to share their love of whitewater kayaking with others. The have experienced the powerful impact and influence that rivers can have on people’s lives and their friendships. They have travelled the world to kayak on rivers and, through their journey as whitewater kayakers, they have created lifelong friendships, made a living on the river and experienced some of the most naturally beautiful and powerful places on Earth. Whitewater kayaking, and the community within it, has influenced Sam and Rob’s lives in such a profound way that they now want to pass their love and passion for the sport on to others in New Zealand. They hope to influence and inspire people, to teach as many as they can the safest way to enjoy these amazing and wild places.

Sam Ricketts

Sam was born in British Columbia, Canada and moved to New Zealand at the age of five. He  started his whitewater journey at Te Awamutu College, through its outdoor education programme, and he has been pursuing the dream of whitewater kayaking ever since, chasing, working and living on rivers.

Since finishing school, Sam has travelled from one hemisphere to the other, season by season, following the summer. From his two “home bases” of Whistler, Canada and Okere Falls, New Zealand, Sam has constantly progressed his skills on the many creeks and waterfalls that British Columbia and NZ offer to every enthusiastic kayaker.

Sam has also spent time over the last decade and more traveling to many storied paddling destinations, including Chile, Argentina, Colombia, the Pacific Northwest (Washington and Oregon, USA), Malaysia, Indonesia, Laos, North Sumatra and Australia. He is a co-organiser of Toba Wild – Asahan River Festival, which was held in North Sumatra for four years. Sadly, due to large-scale damming of the river, this festival was forced to discontinue.

Outside of kayaking, Sam has significant experience working with youth in the outdoors. He has been working as a river guide for multiple rafting companies throughout the years and studied music at Wintec in Hamilton. When not on the river, he can be found mountain biking, surfing and making original music.

Now, Sam is ready to apply his passion, knowledge and experience gained on the world’s rivers to the paddling community of New Zealand; to give back to the community that sparked his lifelong love of kayaking.

Robert Collister

While studying Outdoor Education at Aoraki Polytechnic in 2010, Rob found his passion for whitewater after being dragged out for a three-day kayaking trip with some friends. Since that excursion, he has dedicated his life to rivers. It’s a journey that has taken him all over the world and shaped him into the person and skilled paddler that he is today.

Rob decided early on that Okere Falls, New Zealand was the place he wanted to call home. β€˜The Falls’, as it is known in whitewater circles, is home to many of the world’s best kayakers and has consistent, year-round whitewater, which is more than perfect for honing one’s skills.

While he calls New Zealand home, Rob has also spent many seasons chasing whitewater in Austria, Colombia, North Sumatra (Indonesia) and multiple states in the USA including California, Idaho, Washington and Arizona.

Since 2012, Rob has worked as a raft guide for many companies around the world, honing the skills that have now allowed him to make his whitewater dreams come true. For quite some time now, Rob has been wanting to help others begin their own whitewater journey. With a natural ability to teach whitewater kayaking, Rob is excited to begin using his skills to help the people of New Zealand to learn more about the wonderful world of whitewater.

new zealand whitewater academy

Drawing on almost three decades of experience, NZWA helps you get outside and enjoying the wild rivers of Aotearoa. Send us a message at info@nzwhitewateracademy.com

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