People

Dave and Amy Freeman helped start The Wilderness Classroom ten years ago with the simple idea to improve students' core academic skills and appreciation for the environment by introducing elementary and middle school students to the wonders of exploration and wilderness travel. Since then they have been traveling around the world bringing the wilderness into the classroom setting. Back in 2010 they embarked on their largest expedition yet, a three-year journey, 11,700 mile journey acrossNorth Americaby kayak, canoe and dogsled. This May, they will start the last segment of their adventure where they will sea kayak from Grand Portage, Minnesota and arrive in Key West, Florida at the end of March next year. Before they loaded up their boats and pushed off from the shore, I met up with Dave and Amy to find out how they got into the outdoor industry and what keeps them going, and going, and going...   1) How long have you been in business and what got you started? The Wilderness Classroom actually just celebrated its 10th birthday. Although the organization got its official nonprofit status 10 years ago, Dave has been in the outdoor business much longer. His very first trip of this nature (traveling under his own power and updating a website for students out in the field) was 12 years ago. He skied theBorder Route with a sled dog named Tundra. Next came paddling theMississippi and then founding the Wilderness Classroom with good friend and educator, Eric Frost. What got Dave started? Well, he fell in love with wild places early in life. His first canoe trip to the BWCAW inspired him to return to northernMinnesotafrequently. As a high-schooler, he was employed by Sawbill Canoe outfitters. It wasn't long until Dave began guiding canoe trips. After college, he was looking for a way to share his experiences with students. In order to reach as many kids as possible, he chose to share the adventures online, allowing students all over the world to share the experience as virtual explorers. I came on board in 2006. My first Wilderness Classroom project was circumnavigatingLake…
Justine Curgenven is best known as the creator of the award winning and highly influential kayak film series, This is the Sea. Since she released her first paddling film around 10 years ago she has released several other films including, This is the Sea II, III and IV, This is Canoeing and brand new to the market, This is the Roll. When not watching paddlers through the lense of a video camera, Justine is off travelling throughout the world on major kayaking expeditions. Sea Kayaking has taken Justine to remote places such as Kamchatka, Tasmania, New Zealand, Sardinia and most recently Tierra del Fuego.   1) How long have you been working in the outdoor industry and what got you started?After studying geology at university, I had 2 'proper jobs' in the TV industry - a news reporter and then a multi-skilled programme maker taking me up to age 23. I was getting more and more interested in the outdoors for my own pleasure and decided I wanted to try to make a living from filming adventures. I quit my job and spent several years writing to TV companies with ideas, filming pilots at my own expense, picking up a few small bits of work but generally losing money and sometimes losing heart. I guess you could say I was working in the outdoor industry since then, although not very successfully to start with! Eventually I got fed up spending all my time trying to convince TV Stations that I could do a good job and I just went out and made This is the Sea DVD.   2) What’s the best part of your job?Working for myself and being in being able to make my own decisions. I have the freedom to be able to travel to some amazing places, have wonderful adventures and meet interesting people. Or I can have a lie-in if I'm tired!   3) What’s the most difficult aspect of the job?It's hard to switch off from work-mode. I sell DVDs internationally so there is always a customer awake at a computer wanting an answer to…
There are not too many people I know who are in love with canoeing as much as Darren Bush. I don’t know this for a fact, but the word on the street is that when he talks in his sleep it’s naming off canoe parts. One look at his boat rack confirms the obvious. To feed this passion for canoes (and kayaks) he runs the outdoor retail shop Rutabaga located in Madison, Wisconsin. If you haven’t heard of Rutabaga before, that’s ok though it’s quite likely you have heard of the other tiny event that his business runs every March called Canoecopia. It’s a paddling trade show that attracts roughly 22,000 people over one weekend. When not working in the shop or out on canoe trips, Darren spends time hammering steel into useful items in his own blacksmith shop as well as writing for his very interesting blog, canoelover.com. I recently had the pleasure to sit down with Darren to learn more about what makes working in the outdoor industry so wicked awesome. 1) How long have you been working in the outdoor industry and what got you started? I grew up in the desert in California, pretty close to the beaches but still...there were two seasons, green (two months) and brown (the rest of the year). I took my first Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) Trip as an advisor to my church's young men's group.   The BWCA was like a different world for me, and it was all downhill from there.  I was smitten. I felt totally at home in a canoe from the first stroke. 2) What’s the best part of your job? You mean best parts, right?  So many things...I love providing jobs for really good and loyal staff.  We have very little turnover in the permanent full-time staff so they've become a pretty tightly-knit team.  I love seeing people go from beginner to participant and from participant to enthusiast.  That's our work: to move people along the continuum. I love working with really good people. After twenty plus years I have some wonderful friendships that will…
Michael Pardy has been active in the paddling industry for the past 24 years. Based our of Victoria, BC he is a sea kayak instructor, guide, author as well as co-owner of SKILS, a guiding and paddling skills development school that operates across Canada. Michael is also very active in the politics of paddling serving on the Paddle Canada Sea Kayak Program Development Committee as well as the past-president of the Sea Kayak Guides Alliance of BC. 1) How long have you been in business and what got you started?I started at camp when I was 12 years old.  At the time, I was living outside Canada with my family.  My parents recognized that I had very little contact with Canadian culture and they agreed that my transition back to Canada would be aided by some quality time at a children’s camp in Ontario.  That was over 30 years ago.  Since then I have transitioned from camping to canoeing, through white water paddling and out to the west coast where I took up sea kayaking.  Along the way I have worked as a junior leader, guide, sales associate, instructor and many other roles to keep at least one foot in the paddling industry. Currently, I run SKILS, a paddling and leadership training business based on Vancouver Island. My passion for paddling grew through my years at camp.  The summer I was 14 our counsellor took us on an extended canoe trip that included some white water on the Madawaska River.  This is my earliest memory of a deep passion for paddling.  The trip had its challenges; we ripped the nose off one boat and I had to be evacuated for a deep cut to my forearm.  Still, I was hooked.  I moved back to Canada when I was 15 and started at Rideau High School in Ottawa.  Rideau had an Outing Club and they offered regular white water canoe trips.  Those teachers were enthusiastic, patient, and dedicated.  They kept my passion for paddling alive through my teens and into my early adulthood. 2) What’s the best part of your job?The…
Simon Willis is the producer of the multi award winning Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown coaching films and the man behind SeaKayakPodcasts.com.  After years as a BBC reporter on TV and radio Simon started his business, Sunart Media. It produces videos for a variety of business clients and broadcast productions. 1) How long have you been in business and what got you started? I worked for the BBC in News and Current Affairs for twenty-five years before I started Sunart Media in 2009.  Previously in TV, most people specialized in one particular role, whereas I tackled a range of jobs; presenting live TV and radio shows, reporting, producing other reporters and directing documentaries. Journalism was always the common theme.  I even had a parallel career travel writing and taking photos for specialist magazines and The Sunday Times.     Nowadays it’s essential to be multi-skilled.  When TV cameras and computer-based editing became simple, I loved the freedom to plan, shoot and edit my own work.  The BBC was happy too, and for a year I had an open brief to bring stories to the screen.  The logical step was to take voluntary redundancy and use the skills to produce content for my own business. 2) What’s the best part of your job? The best part is that wonderful, special moment when I know what’s going into my camera is absolutely stunning.  As a reporter I’ve had it during interviews, when the guest drops their guard and answers from the heart.  Most recently, it happened during filming for Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown Volume 2 when Gordon started the swim-ashore sequence.  I simply couldn’t wait to play it back and check that I captured it all. Running that feeling a close second are those times when I’m in Scotland’s mountains, shooting for The Adventure Show on BBC-2.  I’ll look around the peaks and think, “This is where I work... what a lucky bloke I am!”  I was a mountaineer and cyclist long before I was a climber, and once even considered a career as a guide.  All these years later to find…
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