The SKILS Team

Meet our committed and professional coaches.

SKILS works with some of the best in Canadian paddlesports and each of our team is personally committed to paddling. This commitment is backed up by years of personal and professional experience but even that’s not enough for us – all our team also actively work to support paddling through a variety of activities that include writing articles and books, sitting on Boards of Directors, volunteering time with youth programs and local clubs, and running paddling programs for other organizations.

JF Marleau

JF Marleau

Born and raised in Trois-Rivières, Quebec, Jean-François (JF) moved to Ucluelet, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, in 2001 to work as a kayak guide and learn English. The west coast lifestyle and beauty captivated him, and he stayed. JF has taught kayaking and guiding expeditions full time around the world since 1998. Almost all the long overnight expeditions JF has guided since 2014 are in challenging class 4 waters in British Columbia, Patagonia, Antarctica and South Georgia.

JF is one of only three people to ever achieve the highest level of certifications with Paddle Canada and the Sea Kayak Guides Alliance of BC (SKGABC). He is a certified Level 4 Guide, Guide Trainer and Examiner with the SKGABC and he served as their vice-president for 14 years. He is a certified Level 4 instructor and Level 3 Instructor Trainer with Paddle Canada. He owns and runs SKILS, Canada’s leading paddle sports training and consulting business.

JF has done long, personal and challenging kayaks expeditions in the Arctic, Gulf of St Lawrence, Labrador and along almost the entire coastline of British Columbia including circumnavigating Haida Gwaii.

JF is a pioneer of kayak fishing in Canada and developed kayak fishing courses and guided trips. He’s the author of books and training manuals. He holds many diplomas, including a Master’s degree in Industrial Relations and a Bachelor of Art degree in Political Science from Laval University.

He loves to communicate his passion of sea kayaking and use humour as a teaching tool. If you have never met JF before, it is easy to pick him out of the crowd, as his strong French-Canadian accent cannot hide him for long.

Michael Pardy

Michael Pardy

Michael is the past president of the Sea Kayak Guides Alliance of BC. He is also a Lead Guide, Guide Trainer, and Examiner with the SKGABC. He is a Senior Instructor Trainer with Paddle Canada. Guiding and instructing paddlesports for over 30 years, Michael also has extensive retail and business experience in paddle sports. He coauthored two books including the 2002 Handbook of Sea Kayak Safety and Rescue, published by Ragged Mountain Press. Michael is one of only three people to ever achieve the highest level of certifications with Paddle Canada and the SKGABC. When he is not kayaking, Michael teaches at Royal Roads University and Camosun College.

Justine Curgenven

Justine is an award winning adventure filmmaker and expedition sea kayaker. She has been on challenging expeditions around the globe, including circumnavigating the south island of New Zealand, Tasmania, Haida Gwaii (twice), a solo trip around Vancouver island, a 2500 km traverse of the Aleutian islands and a wilderness journey in Kamchatka with a novice Russian kayaker.

Justine runs Cackle TV and created the highly acclaimed “This is the Sea” series of sea kayaking DVDs. Her films have won over 20 prestigious prizes including best film at Graz Mountain Film Festival and best adventure film at Banff & Kendal Mountain Film Festivals. She’s been runner up in CKUK magazine’s “Paddler of the Year” & a finalist in Canoe & Kayak Magazine’s “Female Paddler of the Year” and “Expedition of the Year”.

She was named as one of the UK’s top 20 living explorers by ‘The Telegraph’ and was invited to meet the Queen at a Buckingham Palace reception for adventurers. In 2016, she won “Media Professional of the Year” at the World Paddle Awards.

Justine represented England in the surf kayaking World championships and honed her rough water paddling skills in the tidal races of North Wales. She now lives in Ucluelet on the west coast. Justine is a SKGABC Guide Trainer and Level 4 Guide, BCU 5 Stars and Paddle Canada Level 3 Instructor.

Erik Ogaard

Erik Ogaard

Erik is forever drawn to the water and is truly in his element when paddling. He is equally passionate about sharing the paddling experience through instruction, guiding, and community involvement. Instructing since 1996, the majority of Erik’s experience comes from paddling in unsalted Ontario waters.

When on land, you can find him fixing friends boats or painting homes in and around the Toronto area. Erik has a keen interest in fitness and technical paddling skills, as well as open rough-water kayak play.

Current certifications include: WFR, Paddle Canada Level 3 Instructor Trainer, Paddle Canada Level 4 Instructor, ORCKA Canoe Tripping II Instructor, ORCKA Basic Canoe Instructor Trainer, SUP Instructor Trainer, BCU Four Star and Three Star Sea Kayak Coach and a Personal Trainer under the national program of CanFitPro.

Kate Hives

Kate Hives

With a quirky and often infectious personality, Kate has a passion for kayaking that began when she was just a wee little Salmon Fry, if you will excuse the coastal reference. Now she cruises the seas paddling surf kayaks, sea kayaks and surf skis in search of her next grand adventure.

Kate grew up in midst of the rocky playgrounds and long sandy surf beaches of Vancouver Island, BC, so it is no surprise that she is now pushing the limits of ‘longboat’ surfing as a member of The Hurricane Riders. Kate is a coach with SKILS and holds certifications as a Sea Kayak Guide Trainer and Examiner with the Sea Kayak Guide’s Alliance of British Columbia, Paddle Canada Sea Kayak Level 2 Instructor and Level 3 aspirant.

She brings over 20 years of experience in outdoor education and coaching combined with solid technical boating, safety and seamanship skills, giving her programs their own unique style. Kate is fluent in Spanish and English.

Costain Leonard

Costain Leonard

Costain’s introduction to paddle sports was through a flatwater racing club. Shortly thereafter he discovered sea kayaking and began to explore the many flavours of paddlesports. Costain taught canoeing and kayaking in the freshwaters of Ontario for a decade. He flirted with paddling on the west coast for a couple of years and eventually relocated to BC.

A multifaceted teacher, Costain’s instructional experience ranges from recreational youth and adult courses to instructor and leadership programs. He seeks out unique paddling environments and loves to challenge what has traditionally been done in sea kayaks.

Costain has sought instruction and inspiration from many paddling communities. He is excited to keep sharing his passion for paddle sports. Costain is a SKGABC Level 3 Guide, Paddle Canada Sea Kayak Level 4 Paddler, Level 4 Instructor, Level 2 Instructor Trainer, and Intermediate Tandem Canoe Instructor. Costain is fluent in French and English.

Laurel Archer

Laurel Archer

Laurel is a SKGABC Examiner, Guide Trainer and Level 4 Sea Kayak Guide, Paddle Canada Level 2 Sea Kayak Instructor, Paddle Canada Instructor Trainer in Moving Water Canoe, Lake Canoe and Canoe Tripping, RCABC Master Instructor, Canadian Power and Sail Squadron ROC (Maritime) Examiner, Swiftwater Rescue Technician, and PADI Open Water Diver.

Currently living in the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island, she’s paddled more waterways than she can remember from Central America to Asia and the South Pacific, including competing in some of the most challenging and longest canoe and kayak races in the world.

Besides writing a thesis for her Masters degree in Distance Education, she’s penned three guidebooks based on her extensive experiences exploring and guiding on rivers in northern Saskatchewan and British Columbia, as well as published numerous articles, short stories, and poems.

Laurel is a member of the International Explorers Club and Royal Canadian Geographical Society, inducted for her work in documenting historic and lesser-known waterways and her efforts to promote their conservation. Her career goal is to never have a “real” job. After three decades of working on the water, she is still on track!

Rowan Pardy

Meet Rowan, a true coastal enthusiast who has spent his formative years soaking up the wonders of the West Coast. Legend has it that he took to paddling before he even took his first steps, accompanying his family on wilderness journeys. Many of his adventures have unfolded along the rugged coastline of British Columbia, from Victoria to the remote reaches of the Kyuquot area, including the Brooks Peninsula. Rowan started guiding at 16 years old.

With a deep-rooted love for the outdoors and the ocean, Rowan holds a SKGABC Guide Trainer and Level 3 kayak guide certification with the SKGABC, as well as a Level 2 Kayak Instructor certification from Paddle Canada. He is currently apprenticing to become a Paddle Canada instructor trainer.

When Rowan is not guiding or teaching, he is probably surfing or on adventures around the globe, from New Zealand to Central America and Western Europe. Rowan’s thirst for exploration and guiding in new waters continues to drive his aspirations.

Kevin Bradshaw

Kevin Bradshaw

Kevin lives in Ucluelet, British Columbia, where he has been a professional Sea Kayaking Guide for the past since 2001. Kevin is a Level 3 Guide and Guide Trainer with Sea Kayak Guides Alliance of BC (SKGABC) and a Paddle Canada Level 2 instructor.

Kevin is currently Head Guide and Operations Manager for Hello Nature Adventure Tours and over sees training and safety for the company.

Kevin has paddled in numerous destinations around Vancouver Island, Costa Rica, Indonesia. The one place that Kevin truly calls home is the Broken Group Islands in Barkley Sound, British Columbia.

Leah Blok

Leah Blok

Leah lives in Squamish, British Columbia, Canada. She has more energy and passion for people, wildlife and life than anyone we have ever had the good fortune of knowing!

She is an avid triathlete and has paddled solo from Alaska to British Columbia and all over Europe.  She has also led trips in Baja, Mexico for many years. She adores sharing her passion for paddling and whales with paddlers of all skill levels. Paddlers of all ages enjoy her boundless energy and knowledge and are inspired by Leah.

Leah is a BCU Level One Coach and a SKGABC Level 3 Sea Kayak Guide.

David Johnston

David Johnston has been introducing people to the sport of sea kayaking for the past 24 years. He is a senior instructor trainer with Paddle Canada and has taught for several paddling schools in Ontario and across Canada. David lives in Peterborough, Ontario and when not paddling, he is a web designer with the Ontario Provincial Government. Future dream jobs include becoming a professional wrestler referee or a certified waterslide tester.

Arron Slack

Arron has always had an adventurous spirit. Raised in a military family, he crisscrossed Canada, soaking in the diverse landscapes from coast to coast to coast even before he could drive. It was amidst the wonders of British Columbia’s west coast that he found his true calling, and he’s never looked back. Over the past decade, Arron has crafted a successful career as a kayak guide, leading expeditions across Canada, New Zealand, and Tasmania. As a Guide Trainer with the SKGABC, he shares his passion for kayaking, mentoring other guides in the industry. Joining SKILS in 2020 opened up new avenues for Arron to indulge in his love for paddling and nature. He thrives in the company’s adventurous environment, always eager to delve into discussions about the natural world around him. Recently, Arron made the decision to merge his guiding expertise with his academic pursuits, embarking on a journey to obtain a biology degree at Vancouver Island University. His enthusiasm for sharing knowledge knows no bounds—once he starts, it’s hard to get him to pause!

Finn Steiner

Raised in Victoria, BC, Finn has been paddling kayaks his whole life, and guiding for nearly a decade. He is a SKGABC Guide Trainer, Level 4 Guide, SKGABC apprentice Examiner and Paddle Canada Level 3 Sea Kayak Instructor apprentice, and Assistant Bear Viewing Guide. Finn has led sea kayak expeditions spanning both hemispheres, from Haida Gwaii, to Patagonia, New Zealand, and Antarctica. He has also competed internationally in sea & surf kayaking competitions, and still holds his record youngest solo circumnavigation of 800-mile Vancouver Island at age 17 to this day. Apart from looking for new standing waves and exploring, Finn’s enthusiasm for paddling can only be matched by his passion for storytelling as a photographer and writer.  With a primary focus on persecuted wildlife and expedition narratives, Finn can often be found behind the lens with a big smile on his face.  Using photos as a medium to connect people with their environments has resulted with his work appearing on the cover of Ocean Paddler, with articles published in Paddle World, Sea Kayak Magazine, and Canadian Geographic.  Finn lives in Ucluelet, Canada, mere minutes from the surf. Fluent in German and English.

Duncan Mack

Duncan has been living on Vancouver Island working as a wilderness guide and outdoor educator since 2007. With a background as a snowboard instructor, forest fire fighter, camp counsellor, river canoe guide, and highschool teacher, Duncan helped develop and facilitate Power To Be’s Wilderness School program for youth at-risk.  During his decade there, he fell in love with sea kayaking as an outdoor pursuit and has loved sharing this passion with others ever since!  As a educator and natural storyteller, he strives to teach all that he can about paddling, kayak culture, and Vancouver Island during his trips.  Duncan is stoked to work with new guides just starting out in the industry and loves helping clients achieve new skills while gaining wonderful experiences.  Duncan was a past Executive Director of the SKGABC and now serves on its Executive Board.  He is a SKGABC Level 3 Guide, SKGABC Guide Trainer, Paddle Canada Level 2 Sea Kayak Instructor, Stand Up Paddleboard Instructor, and Big Canoe Leader.

Nathan Slater

Hailing from Tsleil-Waututh Nation territory (North Vancouver, BC), Nathan has always been drawn to adventure – first to the end of the neighborhood, then onto the Salish Sea, and finally into the West Coast waves. In 2015, Nathan completed a Certificate of Wilderness Leadership from Capilano University and has been working as a sea kayak guide and outdoor educator ever since. He is currently an apprentice SKGABC Guide Trainer and apprentice Paddle Canada Level 2 Instructor. He is currently a fully certified SKGABC  Level Three Guide, and a Paddle Canada Level 1 Sea Kayak Instructor. He is also a RCABC Advanced Lakewater Canoe Instructor, Canoe Tripping Instructor, Moving Water Canoe Paddler, and Swiftwater Rescue Technician. 

Nathan has led expeditions spanning BC’s entire West Coast including a recent 140-day journey from Victoria, BC to Yakutat, Alaska. He is the manager of the paddling blog which shares stories, video essays, expedition resources, and plans for outrageous personal expeditions. 

When he’s not paddling, Nathan spends his time cycling, backcountry skiing, and practicing film photography. He also holds a degree of Environmental Planning along with certificates in Geographic Information Science, Sustainability, Leadership, and Indigenous Studies from Dalhousie University. 

Patrick David

As a lifelong adventurer, Pat has spent much of his life on the water or in the mountains. He has a passion for the outdoors and loves to foster that passion for the outdoors in others through teaching. He served the country in the Canadian Special Operations Forces for over 20 years, where he did tours in Bosnia, Somalia, and Afghanistan. He loves to paddle the dynamic water off the coast of BC, with one of his favourite places being the infamous Okisollo wave, off Quadra Island. When not on dynamic water, he also enjoys kayak touring…. And has aspirations of doing a kayak tour around Haida Gwaii and the south coast of Newfoundland. His other love is the mountains, where he has climbed summits like the Eiger, El Capitan, several first ascents on Vancouver Island and Canada’s highest peak, Mount Logan, done as a tribute to the soldiers lost in Afghanistan. In his spare time Pat volunteers as a diver to install and maintain hydrophones, for Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Whale Tracking Network, which is used to track and protect at-risk whales off the BC coast. Patrick is a Level 2 instructor and a SKGABC Assistant Overnight Guide.

Faroe Des Roches

Faroe was raised on the sea air and rain of coastal BC; the environment encouraged her amphibious tendencies. She took her first sea kayak instructor course in 2004, and her passion and profession have been enmeshed ever since. Faroe is a Paddle Canada Level 2 Instructor, Level 1 Instructor Trainer and Level 4 Skills, as well as a SKGABC Level 3 Guide and Guide Trainer. She is also a sea kayak Course Leader with NOLS, a Leave No Trace Master Educator, and a Registered Examiner for Maritime Radio. Faroe was a member of the Pipedreams Project paddling team, as well as co-director and co-producer of the award-winning short film by the same name. She has recently led sea kayak expeditions in British Columbia, Alaska, Baja California and Patagonia.ja California. Faroe is fluent in French and English.

Andrew Woodford

Born near the foot hills of the Himalayas, Andrew has had a lifelong passion to search out new experiences through adventure.   Always looking to add value to what he does. He helped lay the foundations during the startup of SKILS, as well as helped start up a white-water kayak company and “Power to Be”; an adventure based company that removes barriers to create access to nature for its clients. Andrew was lucky enough to be involved in the early inception of the Paddle Canada sea kayak program – running training and development courses across the country in the early 2,000s.  He held a number of sea kayak certifications including a Paddle Canada sea kayak level 4 instructor and was a Level 2 Instructor Trainer.  He also guided for many years on both the West and East coast of Vancouver Island while holding a Level 3 Lead Guide certification with the Sea Kayak Guides Alliance of BC and he was helping run many guide training courses during that time.  Over the past decade Andrews passion grew for Stand-Up Paddling where he gained certifications as an advanced flatwater and level 1 SUP Surf Instructor.  In Addition, his knowledge for the paddle sports industry is extensive as he spent 14 years as the trainer for paddling, climbing and camping manager for Mountain Equipment Coop in Victoria BC.  Andrew is an author and illustrator focusing some of his work on his guiding and teaching knowledge. When not searching out the perfect wave, touring by SUP, or finding a new climbing route, he can be found, brainstorming, Illustrating and searching for new adventures with his family.