Our ProStaffer of the Month for November 2018 is paddling and outdoor instructor, Ivan Bartha. Let’s meet Ivan…
Ivan Bartha grew up in Michigan and is now based in Minnesota. But in order to feature him in our blog, we had to catch up with him in China! Here’s Ivan’s story:
AB: How did you get started in paddling? What do you love about it?
IVAN: Growing up in Central Michigan, I always had a connection with the outdoors. When I was young, it was all about fishing. Floating in a canoe in the summer or standing over a hole in the ice during the winter, I was obsessed. Fortunately, there always seemed to be a canoe around. Once I had my drivers license and figured out how to transport the old Grumman canoe, you would have had a hard time finding me.
Last spring I turned 50.....and made a promise to put 100% of my energy into paddle sports in this next part of my life. I work hard at keeping a balance between instructional paddling and personal paddle to stay fresh with the requirements of each.
Paddling is not just recreation to me. It's a deeper connection to the waterways that sustain our planet. Paddling for me is a deeply personal and spiritual journey. “Eyes up!” is what my instructional students here from me all the time. It's not just to improve their paddling technique, but also to improve their awareness of the world around them.
I’m not real picky when it comes to my favorite watercraft. If it floats, I'm just happy to be on the water. If someone made me pick a paddling discipline, I would probably concede that whitewater canoeing holds a very special place in my heart!
AB: How do you give back to the paddling community?
IVAN: When it comes to paddling, my career in outdoor education and life in general, I remain aware that none of the good in my life would have happened without those people who mentored me, took time to coach me and generally helped me become a decent person.
I try to repay that debt in any way possible. There is always a boat and gear to borrow at my house. I'm never too busy to float with someone who needs some coaching. I always volunteer when asked, and try to offer a couple trainings a year that support the local paddling community.
As much as I can, I support local paddling events and instruction, especially with young paddlers.
AB: Are you involved in your local paddling scene? How?
IVAN: Absolutely! I'm biased when it comes to the paddling scene in Minnesota. I think we have some incredible paddling clubs, outstanding volunteer instructors and paddling events.
The Rapids Riders, based out of Minneapolis, do a great job coordinating and delivering the CanoeU program in the spring. The Kettle River Paddlefest in May is one of the friendliest and welcoming whitewater events I have ever been a part of.
Anything, I can do to know new paddlers and stay connected with instructional programs and events I take very seriously. These folks are the future of paddling!
Most of my company business (One Planet Adventures) is running American Canoe Association skills courses, assessments & instructor trainings across the Midwest. I'm very proud of my involvement across the region. A lot of local paddling communities have been created, but there is always more work to do.
AB: How do you introduce new paddlers to paddle sports?
IVAN: New paddlers are the core of our future. My philosophy has always been to share the stoke I experienced as a new paddler. That said, any chance I have to engage with this audience is critical. Being a good ambassador, sharing experience and always setting new paddlers up for success is a good formula for success with this audience.
AB: Do you work with any specific groups in paddling? How?
IVAN: Probably the most important group I work with is the American Canoe Association. As an instructor trainer in kayak and canoe, much of my time is spent working with outfitters, clubs, youth groups, camps and individuals to increase the level of paddlesports competency.
For the better part of the Midwest paddling season I travel across the region offering skills courses, assessments and instructor certification.
I have plenty of pet projects but making sure people have access to good instruction helps the paddling community on all levels. The ACA has been the anchor for paddlesports education in the US and I feel very honored to be in the ranks of instructors and instructor trainers.
Growing up in the Midwest, I'm fiercely loyal to the region with regards to paddling. Within a day’s drive I can paddle Class IV whitewater, sea kayak the largest freshwater lake in the world or find myself in a remote corner of the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Area. It really is the greatest paddling region of North America, in my opinion.
One project I'm particularly proud of is helping foster formal paddlesports instruction and education in China. In 2016, I had the privilege of teaching the first credit-bearing paddlesports course at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou China. The year prior I was a presenter at the International Sea Kayak Educators Symposium in Hong Kong.
These projects, along with guiding and consulting for a number of Asian outdoor education schools, have been an incredible cross-cultural experience. Working overseas is an incredible lesson in humility, and challenges one’s teaching/educational approach.
Regardless of where I instruct, there’s nothing better than watching someone apply a concept, demonstrate a skill or make a new maneuver after struggling through the process.
AB: What conservation measures are you involved in?
IVAN: To be honest, I think conservation comes way before paddling! As a paddler, I can't take part in my passion without access to clean waters, and I feel a responsibility to be a good steward for that resource.
When I was the Coordinator for Experiential Programs at St. Cloud State University, one of the first projects I initiated was enrolling the college in the Minnesota Adopt A River program. Our annual clean-up on the Mississippi River removed tons of garbage and set an example of what was possible with some strong hands on a Saturday afternoon every October.
Those who know me best know that sustainability is near and dear to me. It’s become even more important as I've grown older and visited places where water is not a safe resource for locals or for paddling.
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