IRF Raft Guide Assessor, global traveller, raft guide, extreme kayaker and novice skier, we meet Mark Hirst. Mark started kayaking around 1988 when he was in primary school and continued until a trip to Nepal in 1998. He was asked to help a raft guide R2 (two-person raft) a raft down the Great Wall rapid on the Bhote Koski river. At that point Mark had a light bulb moment and figured becoming a raft guide was a way to keep him on the river and allow him to keep up his love of kayaking. That was 20 years ago… so what’s he been up to since then?
With so much river experience, what’s been the most memorable?
I have too many! I spent 8 seasons working in Northern Iceland rafting the East glacial river . Working on the East demands that the guide team has to pay full attention all day everyday. I worked on lots of high water trips where the guide team would get off the water knowing that we had just delivered a safe & fun professional trip for our guests. The guides would get off the river just as excited as the guests knowing we were have just as much if not more fun than our guests.
What motivates you to keep rafting / running IRF courses?
I hate to see poor quality rafting companies & poorly trained guides. I will continue to teach as long as there is a demand for quality training. If a guide is taking commercial paying customers rafting then he or she needs to have the correct training (its good for the overall industry). If rafting companies are making money from rafting its their duty to provide training for their guides – to ensure a better safer trip for their guests.
Funniest moment on the river?
I was running an instructor workshop with Jim Coffey on the Marshyangdhi river in Nepal a few years back. We were running trip leader scenarios. I told one of the students to go and pretend to be stranded on a midstream rock way downstream. As the student swam out I noticed two children watching him. 10 minutes later I check back on the student to see that the kids had gone to get the rest of the family who were now passing a big stick to the student to help in his rescue!!
Worst moment on the river?
I’ve had a few bad days on the river as we all do if you spend most of your life by the water. One of the most sad was when I found myself paddling down one of my favourite sections of the Marshyangdhi river in Nepal for the last time as the dam was close to completion and the section along with the local habitat would be lost forever due to greed & big business.
Do you have a life outside of rafting?
I live in the far north of Finland in Lapland. When I am not travelling running IRF workshops, I kayak as much as possible. I also love to ski even though I am still learning to ski.
Any words of wisdom for those new to rafting?
Respect the river environment and get some safety training regardless of whether you are a recreational or competitive rafter.
Any words regarding the IRF?
Since I have been involved with the IRF I have seen the organisation grow & grow. I have had the opportunity to travel to some of the most obscure rafting destinations around the world to deliver courses. One of the key strengths for me is simply the fact that no matter where you are in the world the IRF are willing to help.
Where will we see you next?
I set up my business Lapin Koskikoulu to promote IRF courses in Finland. Since I set the business up, I manage to run 2 or 3 course per year in Finland. The rest of the time is spent on the road. In the next few months I will be running courses in: Georgia, Nepal, UK, and Austria. I also have a nice project in Pakistan bubbling away in the background. If you want to see where I will be, look on the course calendar on the IRF website.
Mark is one of our River Family. Are You?
#AreYouReady #RaftersAreAwesome #RiverFamily #StrongerTogether #WeAreIRF
We’re looking for more stories of River Family – if you have a story to tell, email Sean with your story and photos.