Kokatat Announces Team Paddlers for 2006

Thursday, 15 June 2006

Arcata, CA – Team Kokatat is comprised of a group of hand picked world class kayaking athletes, whose passion and perseverance in the sport has raised them to the top. These "down to earth" unique individuals are natural ambassadors who convey the ‘culture of Kokatat’ to the rest of the world by being themselves, by accepting nothing less than the best, and by exceedingly pushing the limits of their abilities. From holding World Championship titles and completing successful first World Records to helping kids with cancer achieve their dreams, Team Kokatat paddlers are extraordinary in sport, in personality, and in style.

Kokatat is proud to name the following athletes as members of Team Kokatat 2006:

Graham Charles
Graham is one of New Zealand’s most versatile outdoor performers. With over twenty years of professional outdoor experience and qualifications to the highest levels, he continues to share his passion for the outdoors with people all over the world. Graham was the Chief Instructor at the Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre for five years and has performed and instructed to the highest levels in all outdoor pursuits.
Graham’s vision and passion for sharing the values of an active lifestyle, personal accountability, and outdoor experiences lead to the formation of Adventure Philosophy and the successful world first expeditions to the Antarctic Peninsula, Darwin Cordillera and South Georgia. Graham has experienced many adventures over the years but claims "the biggest adventures are probably the ones not yet had!! Many plans and many adventures yet to complete – that’s an adventure."

Graham is also the principal of Image Matters Photography one of New Zealand’s premier resources for quality adventure, landscape and regional images. He is internationally recognized as a leading photographer/outdoor practitioner and his material has appeared in magazines and promotions worldwide. He spends his time now between the Arctic and Antarctic teaching photography and guiding sea kayakers in the icy waters. In between times he can be found teaching whitewater in NZ and the US, running steep creeks, exploring new creeks, writing, climbing, cycling or providing discourse on the philosophy of adventure.


Jay Kincaid
At age 29, Jay has been kayaking most of his life, having been introduced to kayaking when he was just 13. He grew up on the McKenzie River in Eugene, OR and decided to buy a kayak because it seemed to him to be the best way to get around the river.

In the beginning it wasn't really about kayaking at all for Jay, it was more about the river itself and it had to offer. Kayaking quickly added to the excitement of the river and it continued from there.

Jay has definitely proven himself to be one of the top freestyle kayakers in the world, winning the gold medal at the 2003 World Championships in Austria then taking the bronze medal at the 2005 World Championships in Australia. He trains hard to be the best, paddling 300+ days a year. He was the 2001 US National Freestyle Champion, 3-time US National Point Series Champion, 2002 Pre-World Championship silver medalist, and has won over 30 professional freestyle competitions world wide.

Although most consider Jay predominately a freestyle paddler, he is also an accomplished expedition paddler, having dozens of first descents and paddling rivers and creeks in 14 countries. "I like to get the most out of what any river has to offer. I pride myself at being able to do it all, and that’s what I am all about. There was a time in my career when everyone thought I was only a creek boater, and other times when I have been thought of as a play boater. It doesn’t really matter to me, as everyday on any kind of water is playtime as far as I am concerned. Some days you just have to take your play time a little more serious then other days."
Throughout all his travels and experiences, his biggest adventure still remains attempting the Stikine River with long time friend and paddling partner Taylor Robertson at approximately 30,000cfs. "I wouldn’t recommend it and I won’t be trying it again at that flow. Really though, every adventure is the most important to me at the time. I have had the opportunity to kayak all over the world and I wouldn’t give up any of those memories for anything."


Josh Bechtel
26 years old, and home based in Hood River, Oregon, Josh has been kayaking for 14 years and specializes in whitewater kayaking expeditions and extreme races.

Josh’s most memorable adventure to date was in early April of 2002 while filming for Twitch IV. The plan was to complete a first decent in one day of the South Fork of the Mekolumne river in California, which is 6 miles long and drops between 300-700 feet per mile. Figuring they had plenty of time to complete the run in one day, they casually got ready and put on the water at 11am. The river rapidly became quite steep and sieved out, not quite what they were expecting to find. They were no where near the take and it was rapidly becoming dark. Finding themselves with no food, water, or shelter, and no possibility of hiking out of the vertical gorge, they knew they were in for a cold night. They found a 40 degree slope for their sleeping area about 100 yards above the river. As the temperature continued to drop, the 5 guys spooned all night for warmth." It was the longest night of my life. I learned that night that survival on the river is much more important than pride."

Josh’s has achieved top finishes in some of the most prestigious events in whitewater kayaking including: 1st Teva Mountain Games 8-Ball Sprint, 2nd Gorge Games Time Trial Qualifier, 3rd Gorge Games Boater Cross, 3rd Oregon Cup Boater Cross, 2nd Oregon Cup Overall Champion, 2nd Canyon Creek Race, 7th Oregon Cup Surf Off, 7th Teva Mountain Games Extreme Race, and 8th in the Lyon Freestyle Competition, France.  A featured athlete in the Twitch kayaking series, and in No Big Names 4 released this year. Josh also holds a degree in Math from the University of Oregon.

Scott Feindel
Paddling for 18 years, 32 year old Scott spends home-time in Canmore, Alberta, Canada. His favorite paddling destinations are Norway for creek boating and Sturgeon Falls, Manitoba for play boating. Scott has nothing but great things to say about kayaking in his home country; "I've been lucky enough to travel to many great kayaking destinations; of those California and British Columbia have got to be two of the greatest places on earth for both amazing scenery and steep challenging creeks. For river running play, I think spring time in Alberta is pretty hard to beat. If it’s park and play you want, B.C. has got more than a few to choose from. Some epic examples would be the Clear Water's Pink Mountain, Brilliant Wave on the Kootenay River, Skookumchuck Narrows on the Sunshine Coast, and a good chunk of the Thompson River... As for play rivers that have it all, the Ottawa can be busy at times, but has warm water, big eddies, round rocks and every kind of feature a play boater could want.  The North West Territories’ Slave River also has more play features than any kayaker could have time to paddle, and is well worth the trip for its huge volume play.

As a two time Canadian National Freestyle Team member, Scott placed 9th at the 2005 Worlds Freestyle Championships, 2nd at 2004 Western Canadian Team trials and 2nd at 2005 Canadian Team Trials.


Nikki Kelly
At age 18, Nikki became the first female to guide rafts on the class five, big water, Rangitata River in New Zealand. From there her river career has flowed non stop around the world to almost every continent. Now 30, she has proven herself to be one of the best kayakers in the world. Her reputation as an exceptional paddler with personal style has earned her well deserved coverage: In 2005, The North Face chose Nikki’s proposed expedition, the Rivers of Russia, as one of their expeditions to be filmed by Rush TV. "One of my biggest personal adventures was walking into the Children’s Cancer hospital in Russia. I met Vadim, our sponsored child, who was fighting for his life against Leukemia. Our first kayak descent on the Onot River in Siberia was dedicated to fundraising and bringing awareness to the plight of an under-funded cancer regime in Russia". To learn more visit www.boofingtheironcurtain.blogspot.com

Still the 7 Rivers Expedition in California is Nikki’s biggest adventure to date, due to the enormity of kayaking serious non stop class five white water for 50 plus days. "It was a monumental effort. Back to back rivers, pristine white water. This was a pinnacle to my kayaking career, as I have always strived to kayak to the best of my ability on rivers. The 7 Rivers Expedition gave me the chance to push my limits, to get the ‘groove on’, to not stop but carry on through, and finally at the end I felt like a true athlete. It takes a while to get that groove on and all too often a kayaking trip finishes before you really feel comfortable. www.7riversexpedition.blogspot.com

Nikki also is a fierce competitor, placing consistently in the top 3 at any freestyle event. She is also a 4-time world raft champion paddling for New Zealand. A stunning statistic is that Nikki holds first place in all extreme races she has ever entered, making her the best all rounded female kayaker in the world.

Nikki has been featured in a number of popular publications: featured athlete in Outside Magazines’ Faces coffee table book not to mention a full page picture of the first female descent of the Stikine in Kayak Session. Nikki also authors the ‘Nikki Kelly diary’ in each American White Water issue.

Tanya Faux
At 28, with just 6 years paddling experience, this Australia native is a force to be reckoned with on the freestyle scene, taking top finishes at the most prestigious events throughout the world. Tanya’s freestyle kayaking career kicked off by winning the 2004 Pre-World Championships. She also holds the Australian National Freestyle Championship title for the past 3 years. She took first place in the women’s freestyle competition 2 years running at the Reno Pro Invitational, as well as placing first at the Teva Mountain Games freestyle event in 2005.

Tanya is also an accomplished expedition paddler. Her biggest adventures to date include The North Face expedition to Siberia/Russia with fellow teammate and friend Nikki Kelly, and working with "Global Giving" and Rush TV to produce a documentary, combining awareness of funding issue with the Russian Children’s Hospital. During this trip the team completed the first kayak descent of the Onot River.

Tanya is truly an incredible athlete and excels in many sports, but it is in Kayaking that her true passion shines through. "Running my first rapid was the beginning of a love, a passion for whitewater. After being encouraged into slalom, I still found myself craving to explore new rivers and creeks or to go play-boating with my friends. I began to realize that I couldn’t be an elite slalom kayaker, so I decided to travel the world to just go kayaking for me. There is no one form of kayaking I love more than the other. I love freestyle for its creative artistic aerial movements and the zoom, zoom feeling when surfing a wave. I love creaking for the metal challenge, speed and precision required. I love expedition kayaking for the rawness and simplicity of a journey and the mystery an expedition brings being deep within the wilderness. To be on a river, on whitewater, to be connected, brings peace to my soul. The river is my home!"

Polly Green
Polly began kayaking 16 years ago in Colorado and kayaking has been her main focus ever since. She enjoys both freestyle and expedition paddling and was on the first all female first descent team in Bhutan in 2001. Her paddling has taken her around the world to over 20 countries. She’s spent more time over seas than in the USA, and has a hard time staying in one place for more than a few months at a time. Polly also takes time out during the year to teach kayaking for Tarkio Kayak Adventures, Otter Bar Kayak School, and The New Zealand Kayak School. In her spare time, Polly has just finished producing a documentary film about women in kayaking entitled ‘NOMADS’. It follows the travels of three women kayakers as they attempt the Zambezi and White Nile rivers of Africa. Along the way they are unexpectedly touched by a small village in Uganda struggling with the realities of malaria. The river has empowered these women to make a difference. Nomads has premiered at some of the most prestigious film festivals in the country such as Banff Film Festival and Telluride film Festival and is now available on DVD. www.nomadsfilm.com

Polly was a member of the 2003 US Freestyle team placing 5th at the 2003 World Championships, and was an alternate on the 2005 team. She most recently won the Nile Freestyle Festival in Uganda in October 2005


David Johnston

David Johnston

David Johnston has been introducing people to the sport of sea kayaking for the past 15 years. He is a senior instructor trainer with Paddle Canada and teaches for several paddling schools in Ontario, Canada. Full Bio.

Strategic partner

Paddle Canada Logo