It is boating season in Nepal, and as the Join Adventure’s team reunites leader Dipesh Gurung is excited to share a newly learned way of teaching with his fellow Nepali boaters and trip participants .
Gurung, Join Adventure’s co-founder and trip leader, has returned from two months at the New Zealand Kayak School where he trained for the New Zealand Outdoor Instructors Association kayak instructor qualification and learned a way of teaching kayaking that he hopes will give paddlers across Nepal the opportunity to become recognized on an international level.
Getting to New Zealand wasn’t easy for the Nepali kayaker, and it took support from across the globe to get Gurung’s visa applications accepted in order for him to travel to the country for two months, but Gurung is now excited to see how what others did for him will help the entire paddling community. “I’m going to bring the ideas from what I learned in New Zealand to the other paddlers in Nepal,” Gurung said. “We hope to bring their systems here and apply the technique with a few kayakers at first.”
Gurung doesn’t want to change the way Nepalis paddle or replicate the exact systems in New Zealand but he wants to share a different way of teaching and learning that could transform international recognition of kayak instructors in Nepal.
“They have a different system there for teaching how to kayak and how to roll,” Gurung said. “They were super supportive for any customer and I saw how they support on the river, the way they teach and how they understand each person’s weakness and try to fix that.” Gurung’s experience in New Zealand didn’t just teach him hard skills, but also showed him an inspiring group working together and supporting each other. “My favorite part of the trip to New Zealand was being able to meet the team and know one of the best kayak schools in the world,” Gurung said. “I was so glad we made that happen.”
It took support from across the globe to get Gurung to the training in New Zealand. Supporters stretched across continents from Join Adventure’s co-founder Laura Oakley, New Zealand Kayak School Instructor Sophia Mulder and Owner Mick Hopkinson, Rapidrunner Expeditions Pv Ltd’s managing director Birendra Lama, JA volunteer Amanda Gregory, and many others. “One of the most important things I have learned is how to become a supportive team,” Gurung said. “As soon as I arrived in the kayak school and met the team they were super friendly and heartily welcomed me.”
From the owners to instructors, junior instructors and trainees, and instructor Sophia Mulder (who Gurung knew already from her trip to work with the team in Nepal in 2016) they were the best team Gurung could have hoped to train with. Gurung said they showed him how to work as a team, respect each other’s talent, trust in people, find the weakness of customer and fix it, and the importance of debriefing and using your time effectively. “Always do something,” Gurung said. “Even we were out of work in free time we use to go paddling other new rivers.”
Now back in Nepal, Gurung and JA co-founder Laura Oakley are not only working to build up the skills of their own team, but want to expand that to kayakers across Nepal. Through discussions with the Nepal Kayak Club (NKC) president, Anup Gurung, the two groups are looking at how they can work together to create further reach to paddlers across Nepal.
Anup Gurung hopes the unity will help make it more sustainable to support other young kayakers.
“Dipesh has been well supported by Laura and the rest of the world,” Anup Gurung said. “Continuity of opportunity like this can rapidly change our kayaking scene to a world class level.”
Together JA and NKC offered a fully sponsored internationally recognized Swift Water Rescue course and a kayak introduction course in spring 2018.
The 2018 training programs have been sponsored by the Join Adventures Team (Nepal), Swiftwater Safety Institute (USA), Rapid Runner Expeditions (Nepal), and the Nepal Kayak Club (Nepal).
“Our small team at Join Adventures is really committed to sharing any knowledge that we gain and being a leadership team in taking responsibility for pursuing goals and dreams in a self motivated and sustainable way,” Oakley said.
After the challenges getting Gurung to New Zealand for training and qualifications, the team knows it is not realistic for all paddlers to be able to do the same. Instead, they hope to use the skills and teaching techniques Gurung and Oakley learned in New Zealand to train paddlers in the NZOIA style. The goal is to then bring NZOIA instructors to Nepal and host the exams locally.
“We are very grateful for all the assistance we have received from around the world to send Dipesh to NZ for training,” Oakley said. “We had never envisioned the visa to be so financially challenging or difficult to successfully apply for. Due to the kindness of people around the globe Dipesh was able to take the opportunity of training with the New Zealand Kayak School and now we have the responsibility and desire to share our skills locally and in expeditions allowing us to sustainably build our own funds for future opportunities.”
Birendra Lama, Managing Director, Rapidrunner Expeditions Pv Ltd, was one of many who helped to bring about this opportunity not just for Gurung but for the prospect of what it will mean for other paddlers in Nepal. “We wanted to support them because we are all working in Nepal to improve our industry and this team [JA] has been taking inchoative since 2014 to make a difference,” Lama said. “We became a main sponsor to help send Dipesh to New Zealand because this was a huge opportunity and we are proud to see him represent Nepal.”
The first step to sharing the skills with paddlers from across the country is to build a small highly skilled team that can run training courses in different parts of Nepal in conjunction with the Nepal Kayak Club, Oakley said.
“Personal skills are high in Nepal’s kayakers—it is developing the English teaching language skills and finer points of teaching that will take the most time,” she said. “The NZOIA structure is very different from the way most Nepali kayakers learn to kayak, but once the first small group is trained it will open the doors considerably for many kayakers to learn. Ultimately we are working with the Nepal Kayak Club to find a good way to build this first group of qualified instructors.”
Gurung will begin by leading confidence building programs and kayak clinics through JA’s supporting company Rapidrunner Pvt Ltd. “Dispesh’s experience in New Zealand has solidified our team’s leadership knowledge and strengthened our goals and resolve to move forward,” Oakley said. “Actual pieces of paper are not so important in the world of paddling, but the skill is the most important. We want to complete the qualification as a benchmark for brining ourselves to the highest standard we can find. If there is a gap in knowledge we want to learn about that gap and fill it. Worldwide we are all learning from each other.”
A huge challenge is helping Nepalese to understand the difference and importance of the NZOIA system compared to the main teaching styles in Nepal, Oakley said. “It can be taken as an insult that we want to bring a new system, and this truly is not our intention,” she said. “Nepali paddlers are amazing, there is no doubt on this and we want to promote Nepali paddlers by combining their amazingness on the river with world class teaching skills from NZOIA and the New Zealand Kayak School. Our whole team really hopes that in time, with training, other paddlers will understand and join with us in this quest for knowledge, sharing and growth.”
It will begin with sharing the knowledge with the other paddlers on the JA team. Subhash is a local paddler who Gurung hopes to train in the NZOIA techniques. Subhash started kayaking in 2013 and is looking forward to progressing his skills through what Gurung has to offer. “I think it will really help other Nepali paddlers and me to learn to be kayak instructors professionally—other Nepali paddlers and me, we want to work under Dipesh,” Subhash said. “When Dipesh went to New Zealand I felt proud because I never heard of any Nepali guide going to New Zealand for kayak instructor training. That is a proud thing for us in Nepal. Now he comes back to Nepal and we have a good opportunity to learn more kayak instruction.”
This is exactly what Gurung hopes to provide. The transformation is not going to happen overnight, but over time Gurung hopes to spread what he knows. “I hope one by one we will be able to teach the technique to other paddlers here,” he said, explaining that it is not just teaching the other paddlers the techniques but also teaching them how to teach each other. “Our goals will not happen right now but are my hope for the future.”