Skip to primary navigation Skip to content Skip to footer

Team Zoar: Meet The Staff

Meet some of the Zoar Outdoor Instructors!

Janet Burnett Cowie Director of Paddlesports

Janet oversees our Outfitters Shop and instruction programs including whitewater kayaking, canoeing and rock climbing. She is also our logistics guru for food services and vehicles. 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.

Jim Sullivan Paddlesports 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 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 .

Katelyn Green ACA Kayak, Canoe, Rescue Instructor
Year started at Zoar:
Started teaching in 2014, but was at Zoar Outdoor as an intern prior.
Why you love to teach:
I love to teach because paddling has both changed my life and saved my life, and I can’t think of a better thing to do than to share the joy that I get from being on the water. There is also something powerful about working with people and helping them overcome their fears; it’s one of the best ways to form strong relationships.
What gets you excited about paddling?
I get excited to be outside and do something that challenges me to push my limits physically and mentally.
Amanda Major ACA instructor in kayak, canoe and sw rescue
Year started at Zoar: 2017
Why you love to teach:
I love connecting with people and teaching a sport that pushes peoples comfort zones and learning edges.  It is really empowering to work toward things that can challenge and scare you.   Also, I love the smiles that flash across folks faces when they accomplish small and big goals on the water.
What gets you excited about paddling?
There is an endless amount of learning ahead of me in my whitewater journey.  I love being both a teacher and student.  Water and trying to harness its power for sport is humbling, exciting, frustrating, and empowering.  I strive to share my excitement with others.  For me, at the end of the day, its all about having fun and enjoying being outside.
See you on the river!
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.
Scott Johnson ACA instructor in Kayak, Canoe and SW Rescue

Year started at Zoar: 2002

Hometown:  Ashfield, MA

Favorite local river: Dead Branch of the Westfield (and most creeks)

Paddling whitewater throughout my life has been one of the most rewarding and uniquely amazing experiences I’ve been lucky to be part of.  Being in sync with yourself and the environment and sharing my love of paddling with others is what keeps me coming back every year.
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.

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).

Steve Busch ACA Instructor Trainer in kayak, canoe and sup also an ACA sw rescue instructor, and coastal kayak instructor

Pretty much just boring old me, 1 yr older 😉

L4 IT ww canoe, kayak, SUP L3 SWR Inst L3 Coastal Kayak Inst

Zoar since ’97ish My first year was Janets first.

I try not to be boring.  Always trying to come up with new teaching toys 🙂
Elliot Gougeon Retail specialist

Year started at Zoar: 2017

Why you love to teach:
I like to help and introduce people into a sport I love and getting people into their first kayak and down their first river and to see the joy that people get out of kayaking is very special.

What gets you excited about paddling?
Getting a crew together and watching some sweet kayaking videos.

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.

Colleen Breen ACA kayak instructor

First year at Zoar Outdoor: 2018

A student at Hampshire College, Colleen has figured out how to make her love for writing mix with her love for paddling.  She brings an infectious smile and some super fun positive energy to her teammates.  Colleen makes the most of her opportunities to get on the water.  Find her in a river.

Dylan Evans ACA instructor in kayak, canoe, and SUP

Year started at Zoar: 2013

Dylan is a “Jack-of-all-trades” at Zoar Outdoor, but we are glad to have him primarily as a kayak instructor.  When he’s not on the water you may find him in the trees, on the zip line course, or in the campground as our summer campground manager.

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.

Reilly Osborne ACA kayak instructor

Year started at Zoar Outdoor: 2019, but really it was earlier

Reilly started paddling with the after school program at Zoar Outdoor and now in his senior year has pretty much full control over it.  He has grown into an incredibly skilled paddler with frequent trips to the Ottawa River.  He has an excellent balance of youthful energy and adult maturity.

Sara Dorsey ACA instructor in kayak, canoe and sw rescue

Year started at Zoar:  2009

Paddling Nickname:

Sara learned paddling at Zoar Outdoor as a teenager and it didn’t take long until she was old enough to teach.  She developed her teaching skills while attending Williams College and is now also a science teacher at Amherst High School.  Her love for paddling has taken her all across the country.

Shira Lander ACA kayak instructor

Year started at Zoar:  2012 in Zip; 2017 in Paddlesports.

Shira started at Zoar Outdoor guiding folks through the trees with our zipline course.  It didn’t take to long for her paddling passion to bring her towards the paddlesport department though and she has been an outstanding asset for us both on the water and in the retail shop.  In the winter she has been living the kayaking dream.  Working and paddling in Costa Rica, Chile, and this year New Zealand!