I'm fairly certain one of the first things I did when I met Simon was make some light hearted cliché remarks about hobos and vegemite (He needed a shave). In hindsight, it probably wasn't the best thing to say to the person who ended up becoming my boss.
Thankfully, he can be just as light as hearted as I am at times. I've known Simon for the past few years and have the pleasure of calling him my friend, as well as my boss. He creates a fun, hardworking atmosphere between the shops and is a great teacher and student of life.
He creates a workplace that I look forward to waking up too, and heading into work for. All the while promoting each of our (employees) strengths' and helping us learn in areas we may not have as much experience in. He is genuinely stoked on all things paddling, split-boarding, and more so as of late, river surfing. Enough of my rantings, please read below for …
20 Questions with Simon Coward.
1.Who the heck are yeah?
My name is Simon Coward, one of the owners of Aquabatics and AQ Outdoors.
2. Where yeah from?
I am from a small surf/fishing/tourist town in southern Australia called Barwon Heads. Close to the start of the Great Ocean Road and a stones throw from Melbourne
3. When did you start paddling?
I started paddling in 1996. Did it though a high school course when I moved to New Zealand with my family
4. How did you get involved with Aquabatics?
I had been travelling the world following summers for a bunch of years, I wound up in Golden as a raft guide. After not having had a winter for a long time I decided to ditch a job guiding in Chile and to spend a winter in Canada snowboarding (meeting my now wife Nikki that summer in Golden, may have played a large part in this decision). I ended up moving to Calgary and being a planner I wanted to know what I was going to do the following summer. A friend of mine, Andre (a Canadian living in NZ) told me that Sue (the previous owner of Aquabatics Calgary) was looking for someone to start a kayak school. I called her immediately, met a few days later at Robins Donuts (now OPA), and the rest is history. That was in 2004/2005.
5. What’s the best thing about Aquabatics?
Man, that has been an evolving thing for me. To start with it was getting to start a kayak school. I had worked for plenty, but having total control of it's destiny was pretty darn sweet. I got to bring friends out from New Zealand, give them jobs, create courses that I had wanted to teach and, best of all, we ran international trips many years.
As I moved into the ownership, fatherhood etc part of life it this has certainly changed, I think the over arching piece for me is having seen the paddling community here grow and thrive over the past 15 years. Particularly whitewater kayaking, it has been on a very steady decline worldwide since the early 2000's, Calgary has seen the opposite of that. We have great events, fantastic clubs and a really vibrant community.
6. If you could build the perfect watercraft what would it look like?
I, unlike Tom (General Manager) , have no clue whatsoever about boat design.. ha ha. You would think, after over 20 years of paddling I might have some input or insight into this topic. I truly have 0....
7. You have access to almost any kayak you would want to try. If you could only pick one boat to paddle for the rest of eternity what would it be and why?
8. What's the longest commute you have made for a weekend of paddling?
I drove to Whistler once to paddle for 2 days!
Right now, I would have to say it is Harvie Passage with my kids and Nikki (my wife). Watching them progress is really keeping me connected with the sport, and it gets me so fired up to watch their enthusiasm and natural feel for being on the water.
Personally, right now, I am reconnecting with my child hood passion of surfing. Given we are in the mountains it isnt on the ocean, I am thoroughly enjoying being continually humbled by river surfing.
10. How are you pushing yourself on the water?
The river surfing element is a huge drive for me right now. Having surfed in the ocean my entire life, getting smashed trying to learn river surfing has been both humbling and motivating.
11. What’s your biggest waterfall drop to date?
I have run a bunch of waterfalls in the 40' - 60' range, nothing too massive by todays standards.
12. What is your craziest on water experience?
- Oh man, too many to mention.... Everything from coming upon a naked, bloodied Irishman on a river in France (he had taken a swim, lost all his gear including his sprayskirt and shorts, he was literally walking around in the woods barefoot and naked from the waist down, bleeding profusely from his head)
- Nearly drowning as a safety kayaker in Costa Rica as a 300 lb body builder tried to climb on top of my kayak during a swim (I teach non contact rescues very enthusiastically in safety courses). He pulled my skirt off, used me as a step ladder and pushed me into a tree filled undercut, I was lucky to get out of that one.
- Dropping into a Bolivian first descent, expecting a 5 day Class V canyon and realizing after we sent our shuttle driver away that the river was full of gold mining debris and the river was full of slightly submerged (and invisible) sandbars. After our group all got a hiding after getting beached just above a number of class V drops (think bum scooching with no speed into a Class V rapid), we had to figure out how to get back to our shuttle driver. Lots of booze, hitching a 16 hour hike we managed to get sorted.
- Another Bolivia trip incident, ran a 6 day Class V run with no shuttle planned. Turned out this part of rural Bolivia didn't see a lot of traffic. We missed the one bus back to La Paz by one hour. Managed to track down an oversize Tonka truck for a ride home. Went over 2 x 4500m - 5000m passes, broke down no less than 20 times. What was promised to be a 12 hour journey to 3 full days. All in the back of the truck, in pouring rain, snow and all manner of gross weather .
- Splitting my helmet and subsequently my head open from crown to eyebrow during a rescue on a flooded Class V run in France. The last thing I remember is dropping into a giant hole with a swimmer on the back of my boat, when I came too, I was there with my friend (somehow with my boat, but my paddle was vertically pinned in the middle if a huge rapid), trying to stop the bleeding in my head with a golf ball sized piece of frozen paddle wax. This, however, was not doing the trick. Turns out you could see my skull from eyebrow to hairline. My friends patched me off, rushed me to hospital (2 hours away), all the while telling me it was big scratch but no big deal. I couldn't figure out why I needed to barf every 10 minutes or so for just a scratch.
We had to drive past where we lived on the way to hospital. When they didn't turn in I was super pissed, I just wanted to go nap. They ignored me, took me to the ER where I proceeded to yell at the nurses for cutting off my brand new drytop (I had saved months to buy it). I wound up looking like Frankenstein's monster, with 15 staples and a bunch of stitches patching me up. I learned a lot about being an effective rescuer that day, and that head trauma patients are not nice people (Sidenote: I later apologized to the nurses for yelling at them for cutting my drytop off.. ha ha)
13. Do you do any type of winter training?
I split board at least once a week, ski with the kids and Nikki at Sunshine and this year I will be surfing all winter
14. What is your dream run or trip?
These days, any new river is a dream in a kayak. However, I have applied for a personal trip permit for the Tatshenshini River, that will be a dream when we get that. The other one I want to do is the Franklin River in Tasmania.
15. What is the coolest thing you’ve seen while paddling?
17. If you could go paddling with anyone in the world past or present who would it be?
Dave Moore. He was my mentor as a young paddler in New Zealand. He is still working in the outdoor industry in NZ, I would love to get on the water with him again sometime soon.
18. Is there anything you would change about sport?
19. If you had to pick a mixed drink to best describe you what would it be and why?
I am pretty literal. I am not gunna lie, I struggle to answer that question. Andy, maybe you could come up with an enlightening answer for the readers on this.. ha ha. I like to drink Rye on the rocks and have been known to imbibe in the odd G & T though
20. Is there anything I missed you wanted to add?
If anyone made it this far reading my ramblings... well done.. ha ha. Seriously though, I just want to say thanks to all the staff, clients, customers and advisors that have helped us get to where we are today. There are some big changes coming in the next 12 months and we hope that it will help serve our community better than ever in the Calgary region. Yeah, I think that's it, cheers for lining these up Andy!