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Debating with your friends who’s the best White Water Rafting coach?

Eric Jackson, Pavel Hradilek, or Risa Shimoda?

Here is our list of the best White Water Rafting coaches of all time.

Do you agree with our picks?

Best White Water Rafting Coaches:

  1. Eric Jackson
  2. Pavel Hradilek
  3. Risa Shimoda
  4. Scott Shipley
  5. Brad Ludden
  6. Tao Berman
  7. Kent Ford
  8. Fabien Lefèvre
  9. Michal Smolen

#1 Eric Jackson

  • πŸ† Achievements: 4-time World Champion Kayaker; Founder of Jackson Kayak
  • 🌐 Nationality: American

Eric Jackson has made substantial contributions to the world of whitewater kayaking both as an athlete and a coach. A 4-time World Champion Kayaker, his prowess in the sport is nothing short of legendary.

While coaching information is limited, his role in developing and mentoring young kayakers and his impact on the sport through his company, Jackson Kayak, which manufactures kayaks and gear, is significant.

His legacy in the whitewater community is characterized by his commitment to the sport, and his innovations in kayak designs have influenced athletes globally.

#2 Pavel Hradilek

  • πŸ† Achievements: Silver medalist at 2012 Olympic Games
  • πŸ‘• Teams Coached: Czech Canoe Team
  • 🌐 Nationality: Czech

Pavel Hradilek is a celebrated figure in the Czech canoeing community, both for his achievements as an athlete and as a coach. His Olympic silver medal in 2012 stands testament to his skill and dedication.

The extent of his coaching career is not well-documented, but his experience as a high-level competitor undoubtedly provides him with the expertise needed to guide up-and-coming athletes in the sport.

Hradilek’s influence on the Czech Canoe Team and his insights into high-performance competition are invaluable resources for his athletes.

#3 Risa Shimoda

  • πŸ† Achievements: Former world freestyle kayaking champion; Board Member of American Canoe Association
  • 🌐 Nationality: American

Risa Shimoda is a trailblazer in the world of kayaking, having reached the pinnacle of the sport as a former world freestyle kayaking champion. Her contributions extend beyond her athletic achievements as she has also served as an influential figure in water sports governance.

While specific coaching details are scant, her role in the community and experience as a top competitor serves as a form of mentorship and advocacy for the sport.

Shimoda’s commitment to the sport is exemplary, as evidenced by her involvement with the American Canoe Association, where she works to promote and support paddlesports in the United States.

#4 Scott Shipley

  • πŸ† Achievements: 3-time World Cup Slalom Champion; Designer of whitewater courses
  • 🌐 Nationality: American

Scott Shipley is recognized as one of the world’s leading slalom kayakers, having secured his status with multiple World Cup Championship titles. His competitive career is impressive and his passion for the sport extends into his post-competitive career as well.

Though specific coaching records are not available, Shipley’s deep understanding of the sport is reflected in his work designing whitewater courses used for Olympic Games and other international competitions.

He remains influential in both the design and competitive aspects of whitewater sports, continuously contributing to the evolution of slalom kayaking.

#5 Brad Ludden

  • πŸ† Achievements: Professional Kayaker; Founder of First Descents
  • 🌐 Nationality: American

Brad Ludden is best known as a professional kayaker and the founder of First Descents, a nonprofit organization that provides life-changing outdoor adventures for young adults impacted by cancer.

While information about his coaching career is not readily available, Ludden’s influence on the sport and the community is impactful through his philanthropic work and dedication to adventure and wellness.

His commitment to using outdoor sports like kayaking to empower and inspire is an enduring part of his legacy in the paddling world.

#6 Tao Berman

  • πŸ† Achievements: World record-holder for the tallest waterfall descent in a kayak; Hall of Fame kayaker
  • 🌐 Nationality: American

Tao Berman is renowned for pushing the limits of what is possible in a kayak, particularly for his world record-breaking waterfall descents. His name is synonymous with extreme kayaking, and he has been inducted into the Hall of Fame for his incredible feats.

Coaching information for Berman is not well-documented, but his pioneering spirit and exceptional knowledge of whitewater undoubtedly influence and inspire paddlers everywhere.

Berman’s career is a testament to the adventurous spirit of kayaking, and his achievements continue to set the bar for extreme paddlers around the globe.

#7 Kent Ford

  • πŸ† Achievements: Pioneering whitewater instruction; Multiple instructional books and videos
  • 🌐 Nationality: x

Kent Ford has distinguished himself as a key figure in the development of modern whitewater instruction. His educational materials, including books and videos, have played a significant role in the instruction of paddlers at all levels.

Details on his coaching tenure and specific teams are not available, but Ford’s approach to teaching and his contributions to the sport have made him a respected authority in the whitewater community.

Ford’s legacy is not only in his personal paddling accomplishments but also in his dedication to sharing his knowledge with others through his comprehensive instructional content.

#8 Fabien Lefèvre

  • πŸ† Achievements: 2-time Olympic medalist; Multiple World Championship titles
  • 🌐 Nationality: French

Fabien Lefèvre has established himself as one of the most successful figures in the world of competitive canoeing and kayaking, capturing two Olympic medals and a host of World Championship titles.

While his coaching history is not explicitly noted, LefΓ¨vre’s achievements and expertise are certain to influence the up-and-coming generation of paddlers.

His exceptional career and technical mastery of the sport make him an invaluable mentor and a beacon in the global paddling community.

#9 Michal Smolen

  • πŸ† Achievements: U.S. National Team member; Olympic athlete
  • 🌐 Nationality: Polish-American

Michal Smolen’s role in the whitewater arena is defined by his participation as a U.S. National Team member and as an athlete in the Olympic Games. His personal experiences at the highest levels of competition offer invaluable insight to those he may coach or mentor.

The specifics of his coaching career, should there be one, are not detailed, but Smolen’s engagement with elite levels of the sport positions him as a knowledgeable and experienced figure for aspiring athletes.

With a career encompassed by national and international achievements, Michal Smolen’s contributions to kayaking continue to inspire and shape the future of the sport.


Who is the greatest white-water rafting coach of all time?

It’s subjective, but Bill McGinnis is often cited as a leading figure; he authored seminal guides on the sport and coached extensively.

Who was the most successful white-water rafting coach?

Success varies by measure, but Myriam Fox-Jerusalmi has remarkable achievements, coaching multiple champions including her daughter, Jessica Fox.

James Whittemore is a co-founder of Executive Thrillseeker travel blog, a full time travel writer and content creator. When he is not traveling, he is based out of New York with his wife and traveler partner Inna. Together they leave the city on every occasion that they can, to visit new places, and especially – new locations for White Water Rafting. After doing this for 3 years, James became quite the experts, especially for destinations in Southeast Asia and the United States.

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