The remit of the Guide Training & Education (GTE) Committee is Raft Guiding.

Bylaw 48 - Guide Training & Education Committee
  1. The Guide Training and Education Committee is responsible for advancing ARTICLE 5, Sections 9, 10 and 11 of the Bylaws. This includes developing and promoting programs and systems that may be used as a common standard for rafting guides, river safety personnel, and rafting tour operators.
  2. The Second Vice President shall serve as Chair of the Guide Training and Education Committee. The Chair must be qualified for the position, which requires that he/she be an active, certified GTE Assessor, be very active in the Guide Training and Education Committee, and be fully knowledgeable of the various roles of the committee.
  3. The Guide Training and Education Committee shall be composed of 7-10 active GTE Assessors and Instructors who are appointed by the Executive Committee.
  4. The Guide Training and Education Committee shall develop budgets and management systems necessary for the support and growth of Guide Training and Education programs.
Bylaw Annexes to Article 48

Specific responsibilities of the Guide Training and Education Committee include:

  1. Establish and maintain a self-sustaining system for efficiently and professionally managing guide training and education.
  2. Define and codify the requirements and standards for rafting guides, trip leaders, instructors, river safety personnel, and rafting tour operators worldwide.
  3. Establish international guidelines and requirements for event safety at IRF competitions.
  4. Create and promote training programs which aid in the development of professional raft guides, trip leaders, instructors, river safety personnel and rafting tour operators.
  5. Create and promote raft guide and river safety personnel assessment schemes that recognise and award individuals who meet IRF requirements and standards.
  6. Create and promote an assessment scheme that recognises and awards river tour operators that meet IRF requirements and standards.
  7. Identify and develop standards for any other activities associated with Guide Training and Education as they evolve.

Committee members:

Gaspar Goncz

Gáspár Göncz (Chair)

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Guide Training & Education (GTE) Committee - Chair

Gáspár Göncz

  • Second Vice President
  • Chair of Guide Training & Education Committee
  • GTE Assessor / Trainer
  • Chief Judge

Gáspár was a flatwater kayaker in his youth, and was to become a pro athlete when he realised there is more fun on whitewater than on flatwater, so he swapped to whitewater kayaking and rafting instead.

After finishing his Masters degree in Economic Sciences at Corvinus University of Budapest, Gaspar soon represented Hungary at World Championships in several whitewater and kayak disciplines, which included White Water Rafting, Slalom Kayak, Freestyle Kayak, Wave-ski, Marathon Kayak and Kayak Sprint.

After many years spent with kayak and raft-guiding, Gáspár went on educating himself further and soon became involved in organising raft guide training programs on four continents. By this stage, Gáspár had become an IRF Assessor, responsible for the International Rafting Federation’s Guide Training & Education Scheme, organising IRF Instructor Workshops on various rivers around the globe. He has awarded IRF Instructor certifications in over 30 countries.

Being a Rescue 3 Instructor he delivers Rescue 3 Whitewater and Swiftwater Rescue Technician Courses in Eastern Europe and some exotic countries.

After paddling 200 rivers, he has a good understanding of rivers and different rafting cultures around the world.

Gáspár is the founder of the one-of-its-kind and truly unique Whitewater Rescue Challenge held annually in the Austrian Alps. Gáspár is also proud to produce state of the art WWTC throwbags and raft thwart bags, specially designed for whitewater and rescue use. A lot of research and testing had led to great products with specific features that are preferred by professionals worldwide. He has been the key driving force behind the very successful Guide Training & Education sector of the IRF since he stepped up into the position in 2009.

He also organises the GTE Conference which is now an annual event which brings Instructors together to get updated and for them to share their general knowledge and gain an increase in experience so as to raise the level of instruction and knowledge of river safety world-wide.

Besides being an IRF GTE Assessor he is also an IRF Chief Judge.

Mark Hirst

Mark Hirst (Secretary / Vice Chair)

Committee member no photo

Raewyn Larcombe (Administrator)

Pieter Bekkers

Pieter Bekkers

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Guide Training & Education (GTE) Committee

Pieter Bekkers

  • Treasurer
  • Chief Financial Officer
  • GTE Assessor / Trainer
  • Judge Assessor

Pieter Bekkers started off his sporting career studying in sport education, specialising in whitewater kayaking and tennis as well as becoming a certified swimming teacher.

In the early 1980s he started building polyester Kayaks for personal use and selling while working part-time at the sport complex of Budel County. He started a kayak club in Budel as a trainer and initiator and organised the first kayak course in the French Alps for the ALO the Hague (State Sports Education School) and other participants. He then started his own company which built and rented kayaks and organized kayak courses in the Belgium Ardennes and the French Alps, and started the first kayak school in the Netherlands. From 1984 onwards he was running kayak whitewater courses in the French Alps (Durance), Swiss Alps (Inn), Dolomites in Italy (Rienz), and Soca in Slovenia. He developed and organised these programs himself. In this period he paddled plenty of rivers in Europe together with friends and also made numerous “First Descents”.

By 1994 the company had grown and the activities covered: kayak-whitewater weekends and weeks in the Belgium Ardennes, French Alps, Dolomites (Italy), Soca and the spring weeks in Corsica; company sports activities/team-training and sport/games days in the Netherlands and Belgium; special adventures and special programs for Caballero Around the World, Peter Stuyvesant Travel, Hyundai Challenge; renting of outdoor material, kayaks, mountain bikes, Langlauf skis, archery materials and rafts; renting of their locations; trips to Grand Canyon and Chile.

In 1997 he attended the Camel White Water Challenge in Zimbabwe on the Zambezi as part of the Dutch team, getting to do his first decent of the Zambezi River. Here he encountered the IRF for the first time at its launch. In 2004 he put new life into the Dutch Rafting Association (Nederlandse Raft Bond = NRB), put up a new BOD and associated it to the IRF. At present he is on the NRB BOD as president. NRB also started organising annual Dutch National Championships. From 2006-2009 he trained up a Rafting Ladies Team who became Dutch champions in 2006-2007-2008 and 2009 and in WRC results of this Dutch Ladies Team; 2007 – 8th place in Korea, 2009 – 5th in Bosnia.

He started Wildwaterschool which trains people to be professional Raft Guide and Kayak Instructor and also for Whitewater Rescue training. He wrote an educational book for rafting training and education for Dutch Sports Education Schools and other people who are interested and was asked by Dutch Water Dreams in Zoetermeer (first artificial rafting course in the Netherlands) to take care of the training project for Rafting / Hotdogs / Hydrospeed and Safety. Every year they train 50-125 new raft guides and he is responsible for DWDs safety.

In 2010 he was very key in the organising committee from Dutch Water Dreams for the IRF WRC Artificial 2010 and was Race Director at the event itself.

He regularly organises IRF Workshops in France at the river Durance and is now an IRF GT&E Assessor. A total of 8 schools from the Sports Education Schools are being trained by him in the French Alps; Rafting/ Kayak / Hotdog and Whitewater Rescue.

His Rafting Reader went into the 9th year/press and a total of 800 copies have been sold over the last 9 years. He also began a company that could do raft race timing and scoring.

Besides being an IRF GT&E Assessor, Pieter is also an IRF Judge Assessor and has been very involved in the recent World Champs in Indonesia where he worked very closely with the organisers in the preparation and then finally at the event as Co-Race Director. He has also been working very closely on the 2016 WRC at Wadi Adventures having been the first to contact them and following up with scouting trips and all advice to assist them through the bidding process. Without Pieter the 2016 WRC would not have happened and the 2015 WRC would not have run as well as it did!

Joe Willis Jones

Joseph Willis Jones

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Guide Training & Education (GTE) Committee

Joseph Willis Jones

  • President
  • Chair of Board of Directors
  • GTE Assessor / Trainer
  • General Judge

Joseph Willis Jones, or “Joe Willie” as he is known to his friends,  serves as President and Chairman of the Board of the IRF and has held past positions with the IRF Board of Directors as co-Head of Sport and Competition and as Head of the Pan American Race Committee.

Mr. Jones is an IRF Judge, and an Assessor/Trainer for the IRF Guide Training and Education Program. He has a long and distinguished career as a whitewater adventurer, guide, explorer, competitor, instructor and coach. For more than 40 years, he has run hundreds of rivers spanning every continent, and led scores of multi-day wilderness trips to some of the most remote locations on the planet; from the Arctic regions of Alaska and Canada, to Patagonia, the Amazon, Central America, Oceania, Asia, Europe and Africa. He has also served as a consultant and river expert on several feature films and documentaries.

Raised in the mountains of the southeastern United States, he discovered and fell in love with river-running as a boy. After teaching himself how to run whitewater in an open canoe, arming himself with river guidebooks and the fearlessness of youth, he began to test the limits of the sport by targeting rivers that publications cautioned as being ‘unrunnable’ in canoes – an experience which led to his pioneering many first open canoe descents.

When commercial rafting exploded in the eastern USA during the mid 1970’s, his river experience gave him instant work as a raft guide where he realised that he could make a living pursuing his passion. At the same time, he began competing in and winning many regional open canoe wildwater and marathon races.

In 1981, lured by the images and stories of big western whitewater, he moved to western USA where his skills won him employment with numerous rafting companies on ‘classic rivers of the West’. He soon formed his own rafting business and paddling school, while continuing to rack up first descents with canoe and raft on many steep creeks and rivers of California, Oregon and Washington.

As an avid rock climber and rescue squad firefighter, he began to experiment and adapt climbing equipment, climbing knots and professional rescue techniques to aid in equipment recovery and swimmer rescue; and to teach these methods in his classes, to University paddling clubs, and to other river guides long before river rescue instruction became commonly available.

Gaining a reputation as one of the top whitewater boaters in the USA, he was invited to join a number of cutting-edge exploratory river expeditions in the USA, Asia and South America.

Topping the list in 1985 was a ‘yet to be repeated ‘ first raft descent through the Class V+ Grand Canyon of the Stikine tucked away deep in the wilderness of British Columbia, Canada. The Stikine proved to be one of the toughest sections of whitewater in the world, considered by many today to be the ‘Mount Everest’ of big water expedition paddling against which all other rivers are measured.

With a whetted appetite, this became the first of many paddling adventures in the far North – he spent years exploring the rivers of Alaska and the Yukon as well as taking adventure seeking tourists in rafts, canoes and sea kayaks to some of the most remote rivers and sea coasts on the planet.

In 1989 he was invited to Siberia by Project RAFT to compete for the USA in the first international raft competition, where he was part of an event that changed rafting forever by sparking international raft competitions around the world. Project RAFT was a citizen diplomacy initiative to ease tensions between the Soviet Union and the USA by putting Russians and Americans in the same boat on raging whitewater rivers. This led to additional international competitions which launched the formation of the International Rafting Federation. He continued to compete internationally for several years before focusing his energies once again on commercial guiding and river exploration in Central and South America.

Mr. Jones was awarded the prestigious Theodore Roosevelt Distinguished Service Medal as part of a team that completed a grueling six-week scientific exploration of a little-known tributary of the Amazon, deep in the Brazilian jungle, and in 2013 he was honored by being selected as one of the founding members of the World Paddle Awards Academy,  a unique association of the greatest living paddle sports legends and figureheads in the world.

Now a permanent resident of Chile, Mr. Jones lives with his wife and son where he operates an eco-adventure tourism (and rafting) business with his extended Chilean family. He coaches and manages the gold medal winning Chilean national rafting team, and is heavily involved with organisations fighting to protect several rivers in Chile threatened by hydroelectric projects.

Committee member no photo

Andrew Kellett

Committee member no photo

Gabriel Cote Vailquette

Tim Marshall

Tim Marshall

Graham Maifredi

Graham Maifredi

Committee member no photo

Eneko Yarza

Committee member no photo

Neil Newton Taylor

Alex Pongo Baker

Alex (Pongo) Baker

Committee member no photo

Nim Bahadur Magar