By Martin Robertson

PRANZ represents a new and growing sport, recognizing that we have a responsibility to set a culture of safety and see that bedded in and growing with the sport. FMC has assisted PRANZ in this journey with generous funding grants through the FMC and Forest Trust training grants scheme.

There are two prongs to our approach: soft leadership/planning skills and hard technical skills. Or in other words, our approach is focused on helping us make the right decisions to stay out of trouble and have the hard skills to deal with trouble on the water.

We have named these parallel development programmes as follows:

  1. Kaiarahi – Soft skills and a “Culture of Safety” to be promoted by PRANZ at national and regional Meets

Soft skills include:

  • Group management and mutual support on the water
  • Culture of Safety – an international packraft safety awareness and educational program that we endorse and promote in NZ
  • Trip planning and leadership
  • Environmental education
  • Supporting FMC and WWNZ in access and conservation

PRANZ is currently running a series of Webinars to develop these skills to be followed by an on-river workshop for Kaiarahi.

2. Kaiwhakaako Technical skills gained by training packrafters to be safe and responsible on the water

  • Paddling skills
  • Rescue skills
  • Swimming skills

PRANZ will expect to be an integral stakeholder in the evolution and content of packraft instruction as the sport develops.

Photo credit:  Shayne Galloway

Progress towards our goals

PRANZ committee members have reviewed trainings on offer and attended a range of trainings (including FMC subsidised Kaiwhakaako training for key individuals).  Hugh Canard reviewed differences between kayak and packraft behaviour, which means instructors must have packraft experience and river time to understand the specific needs (some similar, but some very different) of packrafters seeking instruction.

FMC training funding was sought in 2021 to develop a curriculum for packraft instruction.  The aim was to gain consistency between existing providers and set a benchmark for aspiring providers (many of whom will come from a kayak instruction background).  

On River Workshops 

At the PRANZ Wanaka meet, we reviewed two aspects of instruction.  The value in doing this at a National meet is that it gave us exposure to the complete spectrum of paddling backgrounds and capabilities.  Huw Miles of Packrafting Queenstown ran approximately 80 packrafters through a skills and throw rope safety session. This included self rescues boat to boat rescues and throw roping. 

Huw Miles of Packraft Queenstown running a safety refresher for approximately 80 people on the Hawea River; Photo credit: Shayne Galloway
“Float on your back – when ready arms up as a target”  Packraft Queenstown instructor Charl Van Niekerk; Photo credit:  Shayne Galloway

Whilst the focus was on refreshing skills for the PRANZ members, the course was very much under a microscope. We needed to understand what skill gaps and blind spots existed for what levels of paddler and how they might translate into different tiers of learning. Surfing the Hawea Wave was a highlight for many and facilitated a lot of swimming and rescue practice.

Photo credit:  Shayne Galloway

To assess the capability and skill gaps at a higher level, the PRANZ Kaiarahi (typically representative of the upper quartile of paddlers) ran the Swingbridge section of the West Matukituki.  This was conducted under the watchful eye of two Packraft Queenstown instructors.  It proved to be a very demanding piece of water that tested both paddling and swimming skills!  

By observing these events, we could better understand where the three tiers of course we had identified should be pitched.

Photo credit:  Shayne Galloway

Instruction Panel Sessions

The second step was to get the key stakeholders together to review course content, in particular the skill set that each level of course should provide to its graduates.

PRANZ thanks the instruction panel for their time – generously given to build a culture of safety.

  • Arno Marten Packrafting NZ
  • Hugh Canard Blue Duck Packrafting
  • Huw Miles Packrafting Queenstown
  • Dr. Shayne Galloway of Galloway Recreation Research facilitated the meetings and development of the curriculum by the team
Huw Miles of Packraft Queenstown putting a score of Kaiarahi through their paces on the Wild West Matukituki; Photo credit:  Martin Robertson

Dr. Galloway noted that one of the things we learned from the curriculum development sessions is that each of the three instructors had different ways of teaching packrafting. These differences were  based – in part – on demographics of the students, logistics of the course area, and other practical issues. They were also due to the differences in the frame of reference of the instructors, their teaching style, personality, cultural background, etc.  Accordingly, the focus had been on the what and not the how.

Next Steps

The next step for the Kaiwhakaako programme is to bring together a range of whitewater instructors (packraft, kayak and swiftwater safety) and road test the curriculum.  

PRANZ is grateful to FMC for having the faith in our programme to support it with funding, which allows us to build a lasting culture of safety in the packrafting community.

This Training Grant was made possible with the support of FMC’s Mountain and Forest Trust. PRANZ is looking to build capability within its ranks and develop their future leaders. To learn more about the Training Grant, or to apply, please visit the FMC website.