We are river family – meet Tim Marshall

Owner/operator of Ultimate Descents in the land of the long white cloud (New Zealand) since 2002, Chair of the New Zealand River Association since 2014 and trip leader since 2000, this week we meet Tim Marshall. No stranger to the raft race circuit nor the IRF Guide Training & Education system, Tim is a senior 4/5 raft guide, river rescue instructor and raft guide assessor in NZ. He saw the light in 1998 when he realised he could work in the outdoors doing something he loves.

What motivates you to keep rafting?
The lifestyle, hanging in nature and showing what a beautiful world we live in to those who don’t get the chance to be in nature much. Meeting new people daily.

Most memorable experience on the river and why?
Probably living on the river bank of the White Nile for 4 months working for NRE. Running trips on one of the greatest rivers of the planet, big water, warm water and heaps of fun!

Funniest river moment?
Hard question here!  Every day on the river is full of fun, if this changes and you have no fun on the river, it might be time to move on. It would always be hard to find the moment it was funny of me or the team watching me! As when it is funny of others it might be at my expense! Maybe the very recent H2H race in Yushu, where the NZ old boys try and do a dirty and try and knock out the NZ open boys! It failed but was a great effort in thinking outside the box and winding them up!!

Worst moment on a river?
There has been some tough moments out there on the river over time as a river guide. Watching carnage unfold! Moments when you think you might lose a best mate or a client when running hard water. Thankfully, they have all been positive outcomes with good learning. Use what we know to keep it clean, train hard for worst case and stay on top of your game!

How do you maintain a life balance?
Life balance has been hard at times for family life. You get so involved with the seasons running a company and guiding. Through the busy season you don’t get to spend enough time with family, as rafting is not a 9 to 5 job, 5 days a week. So I enjoy winter time, where I get to spend more time with my kids and family to help create balance. Other than that, outside of rafting is a little bit of Waka Ama (outrigger canoe) paddling, skiing and snow boarding. Work around the base buildings building them up for another season and work on the land at home.

Are you involved in any current (or recent) big projects outside of rafting?
Most of my life for the past 20 years is all based around rafting, raft racing, current industry affairs in NZ with our Rivers Association.

You’ve recently been to several trips in China and Tibet to run safety workshops and act as Race Director for the Yushu event – how did you get involved in these and what have you learnt as a result?
At the 2011 WRC, NZ raft teams put it out there, that we should host a WRC R6 and the IRF was keen on this, so as I ran a lot of the raft races in NZ, I took up the role as Race Director for this. (I had been involved with running a local event for around 10 years here before that “The Buller Festival” which is a Kayak and Rafting event. Slalom, Rafter X, Big Air, Kayak Xtreme race, Raft freestyle…) So in 2012 we ran a pre worlds for the WRC 2013 and this was my first step in international racing. Went on to host the 2013 WRC, which over all went very well. A few years later, China started to run some R4 events, in which IRF asked if I could help out. I have Race Directed and Safety Directed about three of these events now as well as raced in another. Great opportunity to get out there and challenge myself and help create some great racing. Once we had knocked out a couple of events over there, we realised we needed to help China step up to the mark with understanding river safety from a professional river guide’s view. So this year, we ran some rescue workshops for their safety teams. This is something I do back in NZ for our guides working in NZ.

Any words of wisdom to those new to rafting?
It is always great to see new guides coming through! Always keep learning, we all are! Not every river uses the same techniques. Every river is different and are guided differently for reasons that may not be clear to start with. Respect the river, keep it clean, respect your clients as they are why you get to have a great job! Your trip is not about you! Get you customers wanting to come back :-) Go to different rescue courses, play on different rivers and stay paddle fit!

What do you think is the key strength of the IRF?
The IRF is a great community of international guides and companies that are in it for the right reason from my eyes. Like everyone, they are still learning, but the base line heart is in the right place. Like most organisations, it only works when people put in the hard yards! Sue and Joe do an amazing job along with everyone else helping! If you feel you have something to offer, put your hand up and work together to help create something awesome for our future guides and paddlers! IRF racing is great, with many folk getting there for the right reasons!

When will we see you next?
The next big mission (apart from this seasons guiding and NZRA rescue course and National raft races) is Tully, Australia  May 2019. I am the race director there! Looking forward to being in the tropics up there, amazing warm technical river, with one of the best slalom courses I have ever seen for the open and masters divisions :-)

Tim 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.