We recently welcomed high school student, and family friend, Tess into our canyons as a trainee guide for a few weeks. We wanted to hear a little bit more about her experience, so we brought her into the ATC base to ask her a few questions.
Hey! Thank you for having me. My family are Dutch and so we met Toine through a Dutch family friend a few years ago. Since we were first introduced we’ve spent lots of time together, having dinners at their house or at ours, going tramping together and celebrating Sinter Klaas (a Dutch tradition which happens on the 5th of December). Toine and I get along really well because we both enjoy outdoor activities and love being out in the natural environment.
Oh wow, so you’ve known each other for quite a while. Do you and your family live nearby?
At the moment I live with my family in sunny Nelson. During the holidays or long weekends we go on sailing adventures to Abel Tasman. My family and I used to live on our 43 ft. yacht for half a year, but before that owned a small farm near Kaikoura which had a creek running through the property; therefore not only did I grow up sailing, snorkelling and being around marine wildlife, but also rabbit hunting, building huts down at the creek and helping out on the farm. I had the ultimate childhood.
You certainly have! What is it that you love best about Motueka and the Abel Tasman?
What I really like about Motueka is that there are heaps of adventure activities to do nearby. There is skydiving, scenic plane flights, kayaking, awesome tramping, canyoning and you have the Abel Tasman National Park on your door step. What more could you want? Motueka is also close to the mountains, the sea and stunning beaches; it truly has everything. However, there is one thing that I particularly love about Motueka and that is the delicious real fruit ice creams. I’m convinced I get one every time I visit Motueka.
Ah, the real fruit ice creams are hard to resist. Now let’s talk about the canyoning – What was your favourite part about being in Torrent River as a trainee guide?
There is so much I enjoyed about being a trainee guide for Abel Tasman Canyons. Having native birds fly over your head while making your way down a mind blowing granite canyon, filled with pure water in one of New Zealand’s most beautiful National Parks is just an unbelievable experience. So I’d say that one of my favourite parts of being in Torrent River is being amongst nature while doing something active. However, and I never thought I would say this but, also meeting a diverse range of people that are all keen on canyoning in Torrent River was also one of my favourite parts. A few years back I used to be a rather quiet person and a bit reserved, however talking to the clients and having intriguing conversations has helped me a lot with leadership and being more open. I have met so many people from different countries that have such interesting lifestyles and come from fascinating backgrounds.
“…talking to the clients and having intriguing conversations has helped me a lot with leadership and being more open.”
What do you think has been the hardest or scariest part about being in the canyons with the guides as a trainee?
Near the end of the Torrent River trip there is a little two metre jump that we use for freestyle jumps. On my first trip I started front flipping off of that ledge landing in the aerated pool. Trip after trip I would do the same front flip off the ledge, landing them perfectly. However, on roughly my fifth trainee guiding trip I was standing up the top of the six meter jump with a very experienced, admirable and cheeky guide called Mark, while all the clients were looking up at me. As I was staring at the ledge considering what pose to strike in the air, Mark whispered to me: “Do a front flip. Show them what you’ve got.”
I had never really considered doing a flip off of the six meter before, even though I had seen many of the guides conquer this epic masterpiece. Anyway, as soon as Mark said to do a flip I instantly had butterflies in my stomach. I turned around to Mark and shook my head, better safe than sorry – or at least I used that as an excuse and just didn’t have the guts. Instead I did the usual professional looking foot grab, side tuck jump. As I swam away from where I landed I swivelled around to see Mark doing a faultless run up back flip and a split second after he resurfaced he gave me a quick wink. What made that hard, and scary, was thinking about doing the flip, but then turning it down – which was surprisingly hard. One day I will defeat the flip off of the six meter jump, but for now I’ll save it for another time.
Good for you, you’re sounding like a canyoning guide already! What was the most important thing you learnt when in the canyon with the guides?
The most important thing I have learnt from helping out with guiding would be realising that everyone works as a team while making your way down the canyon, even though they have only met a few hours ago. We also tell the clients to check the person in front if they have clipped onto the safety rope correctly, and if not just remind them how to. Using team work brings everyone together which leads to having a way better trip. Not only is there excellent team work between the clients but also between the guides. All the guides work together so that the group can move through the canyon efficiently, for example: one guide could be setting up the ropes while the other already briefs the clients on what’s going to happen next. The guides are more than just co-workers, they are friends and will always look out for one another.
What would you like to learn more of in the canyon?
After becoming an assistant guide I think it would be wicked to continue to get my level one in canyoning. I am always up for learning more of the knots/rope work too, which is required for canyoning.
Is there anywhere else that you would like to go canyoning?
I hear stories about canyons in Japan, France, Iceland and so many other places that sound spectacular. Being a trainee canyoning guide has truly opened my eyes towards this new developing sport. I have even found myself searching through YouTube, watching extreme canyoning videos which have been filmed in Croatia.
Do you think you would you like to be a canyoning guide in the future?
Most definitely! I think it would be a very cool job to be doing in between semesters while studying at university. I am considering studying Marine Biology or Oceanography at university once I have left school; however, it would also be wicked to achieve my assistant canyoning guiding after school, and then carry onto achieving my level 1. Then I could work overseas in a canyoning business, it would be like a dream come true.
That’s awesome. Thank you so much Tess, you’ve been great! We wish you all the best with your future canyoning career, and no doubt we’ll have you back in Torrent River soon.
Woohoo, can’t wait!