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Team Zoar: Meet The Staff

Meet some of the Zoar Outdoor Instructors!

Jim Sullivan

Paddlesports Operations Manager

Paddling since he was twelve thanks to his father, Jim is one of the best paddlers around. With a smooth and consistent style Jim gets it done on the water.  Having taught for Zoar Outdoor and Liquid Skills his instruction is world class and boats to match it.

Jim has been paddling the rivers of New England since learning to kayak as a teen near Springfield, Massachusetts.  He is an avid river runner, playboater and all around paddler and has run every rapid on the Dryway on a standup paddleboard (upright) at least once!  He works closely with Janet Burnett Cowie providing leadership in our Paddlesports programs.

Jim is an American Canoe Association Level 5 Whitewater Kayak Instructor/Level 4 Whitewater Kayak Instructor Trainer, Level 4 River Canoe Instructor /Level 3 River Canoe Instructor Trainer and level 4 Swiftwater Rescue and Stand Up Paddling instructor.  He has also been a recipient of the instructor of the month award from the ACA .

Amanda Major

Paddlesports Instruction Manager

Amanda joined the Zoar Outdoor team in 2017 as a whitewater kayaking instructor. From the moment she slid into the Deerfield River in a whitewater kayak with the Hampshire College outdoor program, she wanted to continue spending lots of time paddling and focusing on bringing more people into the sport.

During her time as an outdoor educator, Amanda has worn an assortment of hats—mindfulness outdoor leader, wilderness therapy guide, and instructor. Before her shift to the outdoors, she worked as a program coordinator for a national reproductive justice organization. She feels passionately about merging her love for the outdoors with her social justice values and is constantly finding herself at the intersection of health and justice work. Finding ways to make outdoor experiences accessible and inclusive for everyone makes her heart sing. She loves teaching wet exits/underwater composure and talking people through their mental game.

When she isn’t kayaking or supporting the Zoar Outdoor Paddlesports team, she enjoys mountain biking, spending quality time with lovely people, and being curious about new people, places, and experiences.

Janet Burnett Cowie

ACA Instructor Trainer Educator & Zoar Outdoor General Manager

Janet oversees Zoar Outdoor as the General Manager. She began as a kayaking instructor, moved into the role of Director of Paddlesports, and is now the GM of Zoar Outdoor. Since 1996, Janet’s people skills and expertise have helped grow our paddling school into one of the premier kayak programs in the country. Janet has been whitewater paddling since 1983, when she joined the University of Massachusetts Outing Club.

Janet is an ACA Level 4 Whitewater Kayak Instructor Trainer Educator, Level 4 River Canoe Instructor/Level 3 River Canoe Instructor Trainer and Advanced Swiftwater Rescue Instructor. In 2011 Janet received ACA’s Excellence in Instruction Award. She helped to organize the first Whitewater Symposium at Zoar Outdoor in 2003 and again in 2009, and continues to be involved with the Whitewater Symposium movement. She received her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Massachusetts.

Katrina O'Brien

ACA Kayak, Canoe, and SWR Instructor

Sara Dorsey

ACA Instructor Certifications: L4 Kayak, L4 Canoe, L4 SWR

First Year at Zoar:  2009

Sara Dorsey teaches all things whitewater from canoeing and kayaking to swiftwater rescue. By far her favorite skill to teach and practice is swiftwater swimming, closely followed by her favorite playboating trick, The Faceplant.

Olivia Gaissert

ACA Kayak Instructor

Ann Gillard

ACA Kayak Instructor

ACA Kayak Instructor

Year started at Zoar: 2020

Jake loves a good adventure. No matter how far the drive, how low the flows, or how cold it is you can expect him at the put-in. Jake started paddling in 2018 when he impulse bought a kayak for 40$ at Deerfield fest his first year raft guiding. He has been kayaking every day he can since. His favorite river is Joiner Brook in Bolton Vermont because of the tight steep lines and unpredictability of the flows. Over the next few years he hopes to open up some more backyard runs for local boaters in central Vermont.

Henry Bart

ACA Instructor Certifications: L4 Kayak, L3 Tandem Canoe

First Year at Zoar: 2022

Henry is originally from Vermont. He was introduced to kayaking by his fellow instructor Liv while studying at the University of Vermont. Henry finds kayaking to be the best sport ever and wants to share it with others. Outside of work, you can find Henry doing outdoorsy things with friends and paddling other rivers.

Ray Barbera

ACA Kayak Instructor

Eliza Malakoff

ACA Kayak Instructor

Julian Diamond

ACA kayak instructor

Year started at Zoar Outdoor:
started teaching in 2013, but earlier in the shop

Julian is a local paddler who began kayaking with our after school kayaking lessons.  Once old enough for employment he began work in The Outfitter Shop and has continued to build his retail, teaching and paddling skills ever since.

Ted Johnson

ACA kayak instructor
Began working for Zoar in 2016.  I’m a Equine Veterinarian with a passion for the outdoors.
Teaching allows me to share a sport and an environment that has given me great joy for 30+ years.  Even when paddling the same stretch of river, it is never the same. Love the spontaneity and challenge of the sport.

Steve Allen

ACA instructor in kayak, canoe, and SUP

Year started at Zoar: 2012

Why you love to teach:
When you teach, you get to share thoughts and ideas with other people. I appreciate the collaboration that evolves from teaching.

What gets you excited about paddling?
I like the way kayaking feels. I appreciate how it challenges me physically and mentally.

Mike Vecchiarelli

ACA Kayak Instructor

Josh Musial

ACA Kayak Instructor

Steve Gougeon

ACA kayak instructor

Year started at Zoar:
2017 (This will be my 4th spring teaching, Been lurking around since the beginning)

Why you love to teach:
It’s such a niche sport, and I love to see that moment when someone really connects with it.

What gets you excited about paddling?
Rallying other people to get out to paddle! And being vertical, on bow or stern.

I started paddling whitewater in open canoe in the mid ’80’s with family, and then kayaking a couple years later, then mostly paddling C1 (decked canoe). Got my instructors certification in 1991, and have taught and paddled all over the U.S., Canada, East Africa, Costa Rica, and South America. I love down river play, our local creeking, and fresh coconut water. I still love paddling because there is always something new to try to learn, regardless of how long I’ve done it. I focus now on after school kids programs (which now include my son).

Ben Natusch

ACA instructor in kayak, canoe and sw rescue

Year started at Zoar: 2008

Ben worked full time at Zoar Outdoor for a number of years as a co-paddlesport manager alongside Jim.  He is currently based in southern NH, but enjoys making the occasional retreat to teach a specialty course at Zoar Outdoor.