Meet The Team

Kelly Marie Henry

Photo by Bill Vonnegut

ACA Level 4 Open Water Coastal Kayak Instructor, Level 3 Surf Kayak Instructor, and a Level 2 SUP Instructor

Kelly first paddled a sea kayak in her hometown waters of Narragansett Bay and immediately fell in love with the freedom kayaking provides to explore coastal regions seldom traveled by others. After completing a Master’s and Doctorate in oceanography, she realized the best way to share her passion for the water was through paddlesports. In 2013, Kelly left a promising career in science behind to work full-time in paddlesports. She instructs introductory and intermediate level courses through California Canoe & Kayak and offers advanced level instruction and long-term paddler development programs through River & Ocean. Kelly is the new Event Director for the West Coast’s premier paddlesports symposium, Paddle Golden Gate. She hopes to see you there January 26-28, 2018!

Kelly is a dynamic paddler committed to pushing her limits and improving her technique. As a coach, she strives to help paddlers of all abilities find joy on the water.  Kelly recently returned from Fearless Formosa, a 6-week adventure coaching and sea kayaking in Taiwan.  This fall, she will head to Northern Ireland to compete in the 2017 World Surf Kayak Championships.

Jennifer Yearley

Photo by Ingmar Lauringson

British Canoeing Advanced Sea Kayak Leader (BCU 5 Star),  ACA Level 4 Open Water Coastal Kayak Instructor, Level 1 SUP Instructor

Jennifer loves dynamic water, and loves traveling to seek out new paddling adventures. Jennifer is an enthusiastic and innovative instructor, always looking for new ways to broaden students’ experience, skill, and knowledge bases. ­­­Jennifer’s teaching and guiding schedule is available through her website: Paddle Towards It. She also publishes in international paddlesports publications where you can seek out her articles on a variety of sea kayaking related topics.

Kenny Howell

Photo by Tom Gomes

ACA Level 5 Advanced Open Water Sea Kayak Instructor & Level 3 Surfski Instructor

Kenny’s journey into the universe of paddling began as a teen in 1978 on San Francisco Bay, and the journey continues ever further and farther. From Costa Rica to Alaska, from the Hawaiian Islands to South Carolina Sea Islands, he keeps searching for the perfect paddle day. “Sometimes, the perfect day is racing across the Molokai Channel on my surfski with 100 other athletes. Another day, it’s messing around on stand up paddleboards with my kids on an alpine lake.”

For over 10 years, Kenny wandered the wilderness of the American West and Baja California guiding sea kayak trips. He once kayaked across the Sea of Cortez from the Baja Peninsula to the Mexican mainland and back (the first crossing in single sea kayaks) and now competes in ultra-distance paddling races.
He has won the Tsunami Rangers extreme conditions race numerous times and was the first place solo paddler in the 2015 California 100.

“I believe paddling is for life, and enjoy sharing what I have learned about paddling efficiently, injury free, for fitness and pleasure – whether for the recreational boater or the serious racer. Paddling is a journey, not a destination”. – Kenny Howell

Sean Finigan

Photo by Kathi Morrison

ACA Level 4 Open Water Coastal Kayak Instructor

Sean’s first memories of paddling came from Boy Scout canoe trips down the Russian River.  On a hot Sacramento day he rented a kayak and was instantly hooked with the way the paddle felt in the water. He progressed from freshwater lakes to San Francisco Bay, and then to the sportier open coast.  Sean’s favorite activities are rock gardening and surfing his long boat on the Northern California coastline.  While Sean loves to share his knowledge and experience coaching in saltwater, he is also available in the Sacramento area to help his student’s progress towards paddling in a more dynamic environment with classes on freshwater.

Photo by Shanna Upton

Kristen Podolak

ACA Level 2 Surfski Instructor

Kristen has been paddling surfski for eight years and before that spent numerous years paddling rivers, including teaching kayaking for twelve years.  She brings experience with beginner classes, women’s and kid’s specific clinics, and racing technique.  Although her favorite is downwind paddles!  She was U.S. National Champion in surfski in 2012 and 2013, racing from Rodeo Beach to Berkeley.  She learned to paddle surfski in the Bay Area and is excited to grow the sport locally.

Bill Vonnegut

Photo courtesy of Neptune’s Rangers

ACA Level 5 Coastal Kayak & L3 Surf Kayak Instructor

If you find yourself paddling on the open coast in the San Francisco Bay Area you will likely run into Bill. A San Francisco Bay Area native, he has a passion for paddling and has extensive knowledge of our local coast. Bill teaches from experiences gained (good and bad!) while paddling his favorite coastal waters from Mendocino to Monterey. Bill especially loves sharing his enthusiasm with new paddlers and the excitement this generates in them toward learning new skills and techniques. Bill approaches coaching by giving students information relevant to the course at hand and by sharing his own personal paddling experience. He teaches independently as well as for Rivers & Ocean Coaching Collective and California Canoe & Kayak. You can find his postings on kayak related topics on several websites including Canoe & Kayak Magazine, The Paddler Magazine & Neptune’s Rangers, of which he is a principal founding member. You can find out more about Bill on his website.

Sean Morley

Photo by Mark Boyd

ACA L5 Advanced Open Water Instructor, L4 Open Water Instructor Trainer, L3 Surf Kayak Instructor, L3 Surfski Instructor, L3 SUP Surf Instructor

Sean owns River and Ocean, and is the founder of Paddle Golden Gate, a biennial destination event for ALL paddlesports enthusiasts on San Francisco Bay and the Marin Headlands.

In 2004 Sean achieved his childhood dream by completing the first solo circumnavigation of the UK and Ireland by sea kayak; the first ever to include all of the inhabited islands. The 4500 mile expedition took 183 days and is the longest kayak journey ever undertaken in British waters.

Sean has competed internationally in a number of paddlesports disciplines, but loves nothing more than to share his passion for paddling by coaching new and developing paddlers.

He is supported by Current DesignsWerner Paddles, Kokatat, and Snap Dragon Design.

Sean provides personal coaching in sea kayaking, surf ski racing, kayak surfing and SUP. He is available to train and motivate your staff in retail sales, guiding and instructor certification.

Melissa DeMarie

Photo by Adam Walker

Melissa DeMarie, co-founder of California Women’s Watersport Collective, has been working in the whitewater industry since 2005 as an instructor, guide, safety kayaker and photographer. She began her paddling career in California but her passion for the sport and love for teaching had taken her all around the world. In New Zealand, she was a whitewater instructor for the Waiariki Institute of Technology’s Adventure Tourism Program, as well as an instructor and guide on the rivers in Norway, Chile, Nepal, Panama, Costa Rica and Uganda. Melissa is also a certified Swiftwater Rescue Technician.

Collaborating with Kelly Marie Henry, she will continue to “empower women to be confident and both on and off the water”.
Based on the South Fork of the American, Melissa is available for private coaching in whitewater kayaking and SUP, in addition to her women’s clinics through CWWC.

Mike Kowalsky

Photo by Lyrinda Snyderman

ACA L4 Open Water Coastal Kayak Instructor

Whether exploring the coast, playing in rock gardens or surf, or touring the bay, Mike is in his element when on the water. Paddling since 2009, he is dedicated to helping others build their paddling skills and safety practices, while keeping it fun. When not in a kayak, there is a good chance he is talking about his latest boat repair or modification, or about his favorite gear. Also trained as a scientist, he approaches teaching in the coastal environment with determination and patience.

Shanna Upton

ACA Level 2 SUP Instructor

Raised on a horse ranch in west Marin County, Shanna started paddling SUP in 2014 and knew immediately that she had found her new passion. She is an Ambassador for Starboard. She has raced in Oregon, Washington, North Carolina, Hawaii and all over California.

Downwinding is her speciality and any time the wind blows you will find her chasing waves on Tomales or San Francisco Bay or riding swells on remote stretches of the northern California coast.

If you are looking to learn to paddle downwind, play in the waves, improve your race speed, explore the natural wonder of San Francisco or Tomales Bay and experience the magic of bioluminescence paddles, let Shanna be your instructor/coach/guide to everything SUP.

Upcoming Courses & Events

  1. Tidal Rapids Paddling

    October 21 @ 2:00 pm - 6:30 pm
  2. SUP Adventures – Angel Island with Shanna Upton

    October 22 @ 8:30 am - 2:00 pm
  3. Comfort in Conditions – With Bill Vonnegut

    October 22 @ 9:00 am - 4:00 pm
  4. Beginning Sea Kayaking (Lake Natoma)

    October 22 @ 9:00 am - 4:00 pm
  5. ACA L1/2 SUP Instructor Certification Workshop

    October 27 @ 8:00 am - October 29 @ 5:00 pm
Book online now!

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