Our Instructors

Click on an image below for a bio.

Owner/Instructor

Eric Riley

Founding the Swiftwater Safety Institute in 2011, Eric was born and raised in Idaho and learned to kayak and guide rafts on the Payette River. Entering his 22nd season on the river, Eric has been teaching swift water rescue for 19 years. He is now anchored firmly in Jackson, WY and enjoys annual surf trips to Baja and coming home to ample snowfall in deep winter. Eric manages the military and FEMA trainings offered through SSI, and is a master trainer as well.

Operations Manager

Sarah Kilbourne

Sarah joins the SSI team as its first year-round Operations Manager. Originally from Virginia, she spent close to a decade living and working in France, Australia, Alaska and Antarctica. While working at McMurdo Station in Antarctica, Sarah volunteered with the Search and Rescue team, where she learned the ropes of mechanical advantage systems. Sarah’s passion for running whitewater was born when she was introduced to packrafting while working as a wilderness guide in McCarthy, AK. More recently, Sarah has been working in marketing and serves as the part-time Executive Director of the American Packrafting Association. Now based in Missoula, you can mostly likely find Sarah skiing, running whitewater or backpacking.

 

Instructor

Alex Nelson

Hailing from Maine, Alex began paddling and guiding the rivers of the Northeast before heading out to his current base of Jackson, WY. His passion for rivers and guiding have given him the opportunity to work in South and Central America, as well as New Zealand during the cold winter months in North America. Alex loves to share his passion for rivers with both other professionals and recreational boaters during courses with SSI. He has been teaching with SSI for the past five years and looks forward to inspiring more boaters to love and respect the wonderful rivers we all get to explore.

Email:alex.nelson16@gmail.com

Instructor

Ben Drew

Ben grew up listening to banjo music and swimming in the Chattooga River which runs along the border of South Carolina and Georgia. Since then he has chased flows around North America exploring new rivers in his kayak. Spending countless days paddling hard whitewater, he has experienced first hand the importance of having solid rescue skills. Regardless of how swift, Ben finds joy in moving water and loves to share his knowledge of how to enjoy it safely with others.

Instructor

Bram Role

Bram grew up in Idaho at the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater Rivers and began floating rivers with his family and friends around age 7. His passion for the outdoors and wild rivers led him to professional whitewater river guiding where he has been rowing and guiding rivers throughout the west for 25 years. His dedication to whitewater safety education and instruction grew from these whitewater roots and from experiences teaching geology to undergraduate students while obtaining a M.S. in Geology from the University of Wyoming. He says: “SSI has developed a curriculum for swiftwater safety instruction that combines simple, basic skills and hands-on techniques with in-and-on-the-water practice that is both fun to teach and effective in developing important up-to-date tools and skills for whitewater rescue.

Instructor

Brenden Cronin

Brenden Cronin or “Cronin” as we know him has worked for SSI for the past 8 years. He first learned about whitewater in college at the University of Maine where he took whitewater kayaking for credit, and got an A! He’s been hooked ever since. Cronin has worked as a river guide, river ranger, whitewater kayak instructor, sea kayak guide and swift water rescue instructor. Winters find him with his head constantly in the snow as a highway avalanche forecaster.

Instructor

Brian Chaffin

Brian’s professional passion is water–specifically moving water. Although he has guided commercial river trips on the Middle Fork of the Salmon and other Western rivers for 20 years, these days he spends most of his time on the University of Montana campus as an Assistant Professor of Water Policy. Brian leverages teaching strategies forged in both the classroom and the field to create enjoyable challenge that facilitates sustained learning of key skills and concepts. Brian is still passionate about river safety, and is able to teach a few courses each year for SSI. Brian also helped found and sits on the Board of Directors for the Redside Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the health and strength of Idaho’s commercial guides through education, training, and the provision of mental and substance abuse healthcare for guides in need.

Instructor

Dan Thurber

Dan has been a river professional since 2003 and has taught swiftwater rescue for over a decade. His experience has included guiding, safety kayaking, instructing, and expedition kayaking throughout the western US and South America. His attention has shifted to packrafting where he and his team have been pushing the limits of what can be done in inflatable crafts. His teaching style emphasizes understanding the river, your teammates, and yourself to effectively manage challenges on the river. He specializes in packraft and expedition training. Dan holds a master’s degree in river mechanics and modeling.

Instructor

Gerry Moffatt

A Scottish native, Gerry Moffatt is an internationally-acclaimed expedition kayaker and has spent 35 years guiding in the Himalayas and around the world. National Geographic considers Gerry to be the “most experienced river guide in the Himalayas”. He is the first person to descend all the major rivers in Nepal and Bhutan. As a professional athlete, Gerry’s been featured by Men’s Journal, National Geographic, Red Bull Media, Discovery Channel and Outside. Gerry was recently appointed Nepal’s first International Goodwill Ambassador for Adventure Travel & Tourism.

Instructor

Jake Miczulski

A native Idahoan, Jake is passionate about the people and places that make the Rockies such a unique place to live. Ever since his younger days of bad haircuts and high-mileage minivans, Jake has been roaming the west, appreciating the many faces of the region. His favorite place to share with people is the Middle Fork Salmon River, where he worked as a guide for seven years. Jake currently serves as an Outdoor Program Coordinator for Alzar School and the Associate Manager for Confluences River Expeditions. When not in the office you may find Jake out in the mountains appreciating water in all of its forms. Jake has been practicing swiftwater rescue for nearly a decade.

Instructor

Jay Healy

For the last 24 years Jay has been guiding whitewater throughout the west, primarily in Grand Canyon.  His love of the back of beyond has led to many an adventure around the globe.  Currently based in Moab, Utah where you can find him enjoying the Colorado River in sport boats, rafts and inflatables of all sorts.

black and white photo of instructor Jeff Creamer wearing a jacket, hat and hood pulled over with sunglasses

Instructor

Jeff Creamer

Jeff is based in southwest Colorado and has been packrafting since 2013. He has worked to push the limits of expedition class IV and V packrafting in the American west and has also worked on development of combination ski & packraft routes in the West and in Alaska. Jeff has worked as an assistant instructor with SSI since 2019 on packraft-specific courses.

 

Email: jeffreycreamer@gmail.com

headshot of Jesse Hood, Swiftwater Safety Instructor

Instructor

Jesse Hood

Jesse was born and raised in western Colorado. He has been a professional firefighter and paramedic for 20 years and is currently a Battalion Chief with Glenwood Springs Fire Department. Jesse loves the Grand Canyon and manages to get a couple of trips there every year working for OARS, which led him to working at SSI. He has instructed many disciplines (fire, EMS, rope rescue, and hazardous materials) but is most passionate about swiftwater rescue. He enjoys teaching students from multiple agencies and helping responders from different backgrounds form an efficient and effective team during a course. Jesse lives on his family’s ranch outside of Glenwood Springs, Colorado, and enjoys hanging out with family and dogs, reading good books, skiing and traveling to Montana.

 

Email: jesse.hood68@gmail.com

Instructor

Joe Bailey

Joe grew up in the southeast where he began his 20+ year raft guiding career. After exploring and working on rivers in Tennessee and West Virginia he decided to head west to Colorado, where he currently resides in the ski town of Winter Park. In the summer you can find him in Idaho Springs where he manages Mad Adventures Rafting on Clear Creek. In the winter he spends most of his time on a snowmobile working for Grand Adventures as backcountry guide and manager. In between seasons, Joe has found a passion for teaching guides and the public about safety on the river as an instructor for SSI.

Instructor

John Hillman

John’s passion for river exploration began as a teenager, kayaking the rivers of North Idaho. His insatiable desire to be on the water led to a 25 year career in river guiding. From whitewater in the Western US, Fiji and Norway to fly fishing in Chile and sea kayaking in Ecuador, his experiences guiding have cultivated his enthusiasm for exploring and building community. When John isn’t guiding or paddling, he can be found in the remote corners Mojave Desert researching desert tortoises or exploring the boundaries of coffee roasting at home in Moscow, Idaho.

Jon Wiedie

Instructor

Jon Wiedie

Jon Wiedie loves swimming. After his course, you will too. Based in Jackson, WY since ‘94, Wiedie has chased rivers for 22 years wherever he can.

Through SSI, he loves sharing what he’s learned in that time and how to be safe on the water.

Other avid pursuits and interests include 15 years volunteering with TCSAR, bc skiing, DJing on KHOL, scuba diving, and anything else outdoors on this beautiful planet!

Instructor

Josh Larsen

Josh Larsen is a third-generation whitewater enthusiast. His journey began on the rivers of West Virginia when he was in middle school, where his dad began teaching him whitewater kayaking. He would spend the summers at a local rafting company. Eventually Josh made the move to Utah where he began exploring the desert rivers of the West. In 2010 Josh graduated from World Class Kayak Academy where he spent a semester honing his river skills in Chile, Argentina, and all over the West Coast. This experience led him to Bellingham, WA where he attended Western Washington University and graduated with a B.S. in Environmental Science and GIS. For the last 9 years he has helped build and manage Triad River Tours. Josh is a Wilderness First Responder, has assisted in search and rescue alongside Skagit County Sheriff’s Department, and is passionate about raising awareness about river safety through instructing with SSI. Josh spends his winters skiing at Mt. Baker and exploring the backcountry of the surrounding Cascade Mountains.

Instructor

Justin Kleberg

Justin grew up swimming in North Carolina’s Haw River and took to canoes, kayaks, and rafts as a more realistic means of river travel. Justin continued to passionately pursue rivers following high school and worked as a video kayaker on West Virginia’s New and Gauley Rivers. Undergraduate Studies at Western Carolina University introduced empowered experiential education as a formal path, which led Justin to instructing NOLS River Programs in Utah, Idaho, and India. Justin currently serves as the Director of Expeditions and Risk Management for Alzar School, spending time between Cascade Idaho and Coyhaique Chile. Justin has been practicing river rescue for over a decade.

headshot of Karen Morse, swiftwater safety instructor

Instructor

Karen Morse

Karen began her career in whitewater in 2011, working as a field staff for Outward Bound on the Deschutes river in Oregon.  Since then she has worked as an instructor, guide, and trainer for a variety of rafting programs and outfitters across Oregon, Idaho, and Utah.  When she isn’t playing with gearboats, packrafts, or rope systems, Karen teaches Wilderness Medicine, Avalanche Rescue Courses, and leads expeditionary courses backpacking and mountaineering.

 

Email: karenemorse@gmail.com

Instructor

Kelly Mahoney

Kelly is originally from Reno, NV and found her passion for whitewater on the American River in Northern California in 2015. Since then, Kelly has been working as a professional river guide in Colorado, California, Mexico, Argentina and West Virginia, as well as spending the majority of her freetime exploring new whitewater with her two dogs. When she is not on the water, Kelly spends her winter shredding on all that frozen cfs as a CAT-ski guide in Steamboat Springs, CO.
Kelly loves teaching with SSI and sharing her passion and knowledge of whitewater with everyone who is intrigued by the river.

Instructor

Lars Haarr

Born and raised in Montana, Lars began guiding and kayaking in 1995. In 1999, an opportunity to work for OARS brought him to Moab where he lived, worked and recreated for two decades. He began instructing for SSI in 2014, in between raft trips. He and his wife now call Flagstaff, AZ home.

Email:larskhaarr@gmail.com

Instructor

Luc Mehl

Luc grew up in rural Alaska, and explores Alaska’s wilderness at every opportunity. He has traveled 10,000 miles under his own power. Luc has 15 years of experience packrafting, ranging from 30-day expeditions to hucking 30 foot waterfalls. Luc teaches packraft-specific courses for SSI.

black and white image of Swiftwater Safety Institute guide Luke Baugh

Instructor

Luke Baugh

Luke grew up on the Clearwater River, and has been guiding professionally since 2000. He believes that people’s access to wild places utilizing leave no trace ethics and appropriate safety measures is vital to the overall health and well-being of our communities. He is passionate about accessing the river in a way that causes less harm to people and the environment.

 

Email: lukebaugh@gmail.com

Instructor

Máté Márton

Growing up next to the Danube, Máté has been in love with the rivers since he was a kid. This love has given him successful years, as a professional flat water kayaker and eight years of working as a raft guide on three different continents. He has worked, kayaked and traveled through several beautiful places such as Iceland, Nepal, New Zealand, the European Alps and the West coast of the US. If he is not guiding on the rivers or in canyons, he likes to take photos, fishing, training for extreme kayak competitions and free falling off waterfalls. His positive attitude and huge smile make everyone happy both on the river and land.

Jost Matthew

Instructor

Matt Jost

Matt’s passion for rivers runs deep through the family blood line. A second generation guide in Idaho, Matt spent 10 years guiding professionally on various rivers in Idaho including, including the Middle Fork of the Salmon, Owyhee, Bruno, South Fork of the Payette and more. He’s been fortunate to have traveled the world rafting and kayaking rivers in countries such as Nepal, Thailand and Chile. Matt was a member of team Aqua Vitae in 2011 during a trip to Nepal where the team rafted a number of first descent’s. A passionate outdoor educators, Matt began teaching for SSI in 2010 and now works for Colorado Mountain College in Steamboat Springs where he oversees the Outdoor Education Program among others and gets to teach his favorite subject, swift water rescue, his his favorite subject!

Instructor

Matt McDonough

Matt brings his 20 years of experience working on rivers and in the backcountry combined with working in a clinical environment to every class he teaches. He is certified as a Swiftwater Rescue Instructor, Wilderness EMT Instructor, additionally he maintains Outdoor Emergency Care and Level II Avalanche Safety certifications.

In the summer he works as a river guide in Colorado. He spends the rest of his time on rivers and teaching rescue classes in the Philippines. In the winter you can find him snowmobiling or volunteering his time with Breckenridge Ski Patrol. You might even catch him on the mountain or in the terrain park with his 3 year old #littleripper or 6 year old #minishredder.

black and white head shot of SSI instructor Matt Paulding wearing a helmet and a personal floatation device

Instructor

Matt Paulding

Matt heads up Swiftwater Safety Institute Australia. He has been commercially guiding in the outdoor education sector for 15 years, focusing mainly on Victorian rivers with the occasional stint out of state. Matt has been an SSI instructor for 7 years and has recently become a professional firefighter. He enjoys spending as much time on the water kayaking and rafting as his wife and family will allow.

 

Email: matt_paulding@hotmail.com

Instructor

Nate Moody

Nate (Moody) has been a part of the professional river world for 18 years in the capacity of guide and educator. He has taught for SSI since 2014 and is a strong believer in the personal/professional values of SSI courses. As an instructor, Moody works with varying methods of experiential learning to help others learn from phenomena in wild environments to build comprehension and retention. Professionally he works as the University of Idaho’s Outdoor Program Coordinator, is a sitting board member for The Redside Foundation, and has started a company called Great Rift Outdoors (GRO). GRO teaches technical outdoor skills which focus on intention/expression/reflection as a means to promote safe and reverent outdoor recreation.

Instructor

Nicholas Gallo

Nicky discovered his love of rivers as a student at Colorado Mountain College in 2015, when he took a rafting course that included a five-day river trip down the Colorado River.  Ever since, Nicky has quenched his thirst for running whitewater by working on and exploring rivers around the world. Nicky has worked as a raft guide, safety kayaker, and guide instructor on the Yampa and Arkansas Rivers in Colorado, the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho, the Río Tampaón in La Huasteca, Mexico, the Río Futaleufú River in Patagonia, Chile, and the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park.  He is also an Adjunct Instructor of Outdoor Education at his alma mater, where he teaches future river guides and kayakers the art of making Dutch oven pineapple upside-down cake, playing cheesy folk songs on the guitar, and brewing extremely strong coffee.

He has been an instructor for SSI since 2017, and absolutely loves teaching his fellow river folk the skills required to stay safe and have fun on the river.

Peter Lefebvre

Peter was born and raised in NH and made his way out west in 2001. There he discovered and fell in love with rivers while attending Prescott College. After graduating he moved to Jackson, WY and started guiding in 2004. Since then he has been guiding and boating all over the west, as well as in Alaska and Canada. After settling with his wife in Moab, UT, Peter is still guiding full seasons, working in Canyonlands, Grand Canyon, the Upper Basin and sometimes Alaska. Winters are spent chasing storms in the Wasatch, and springs are spent teaching swiftwater around Moab.

Email: pleflave@hotmail.com

Instructor

Olivia Agostinelli

Olivia comes from the Northeast where she spent her college years as a Division I ice hockey player. She fell in love with guiding as a kayak instructor on Cape Cod and knew her next step was to work in whitewater. After moving to Colorado, she began guiding on the Poudre River. She explored rivers around the state, and soon, all around the country. She now calls Clear Creek her home, but heads out east every fall to work on the New and the Gauley Rivers. As a recent addition to the SSI instructor team, Olivia has a passion for sharing her knowledge and love for the river with others. In the wintertime, you can find her deep in the woods, backcountry snowmobiling in Winter Park, CO.

 

Email: choagostinelli@gmail.com

Instructor

Quinn Zilliox

Quinn began his river career after travels lead him to the Arkansas River in Colorado. After years of guiding, he found the need to expand his skill set in the rescue and medical field. As an EMT, ski patrolling was a natural fit in wilderness rescue work. Quinn’s passion for ropes was discovered in patrolling and rock climbing. He found a perfect fit for these skills on the river teaching new river guides for Royal Gorge Rafting. His passion for teaching lead to more advanced rope rigging courses so the knowledge could be passed on to fellow boaters. Since, whitewater kayaking has sparked a new aspect to his work in the rescue field. Safety Kayaking as well as instructing for Swiftwater Safety Institute is how Quinn now spends his summer time enjoying the sun and sharing his knowledge and passion for the river.

Instructor

Scott Solle

Scott has been a professional river runner since 1995 and instructing since 1999. He operates his company Solgear manufacturing river equipment and is a member of Grand County Search and Rescue. When he isn’t guiding, instructing or actually performing rescues you can probably find him braaappin’ on the Colorado River. Scott instructs many of the military and FEMA trainings offered through SSI, and is a master trainer as well.

Instructor

Trevor Fulton

Born and raised in North Idaho, Trevor has been going on long drifts and getting lost in the west his entire life. He currently serves as the University of Idaho Outdoor Program Director, teaches wilderness medicine courses and serves as a board member and forecaster for the Wallowa Avalanche Center. Occasionally you will find him guiding fly fishing trips in Idaho or float trips in Alaska. He has taught for SSI for almost a decade and always enjoys spending time on a river with good people. When he isn’t teaching, you’ll find him chasing fish, his bird dogs or water in all phases in and around the great state of Idaho.

Instructor

Zak Sears

Zak’s first river trip was on the lower Selway in northern Idaho at the age of six months old. Since then rivers have been the focal point of his life. Having completed over 22 international kayaking trips throughout 16 countries in remote places such as southern Chile, northeastern India, and northwestern China, he feels at home on the water anywhere in the world. He has guided commercial river trips for over 22 years on 5 different continents as well as New Zealand. He has been an instructor for SSI for nearly a decade and is passionate about creating a collaborative learning environment that draws on everyone’s experience.