A former Waitaki Boys’ High School pupil has been nationally recognised for leadership excellence. Now based in Kaikoura, Cowan Fearn (24) won the emerging instructor award at the recent New Zealand Outdoor Instructors Association excellence awards. He shares some details of his life of adventure with Rebecca Ryan.
Q What have you been up to since you left Waitaki Boys’ High School?
When I finished up at school, I shifted to Dunedin and completed a Bachelor of Applied Science (sport science/health). After graduating, I continued to study my passion of outdoor adventure sports, completing a Certificate in Outdoor Pursuits and a Diploma in Outdoor Leadership and management at the Otago Institution of Sport and Adventure.
Q Tell me a bit about your job in Kaikoura.
I work at Kaikoura Kayaks as head guide and, at times, operations manager. I take people out kayaking on tours around the Kaikoura peninsula on the edge of the Pacific Ocean. I can also be found in the office working as operations manager, replying to emails, taking phone calls and sorting general business. This summer will be my third here working as a guide.
Q You must have some interesting stories from your adventures?
I have been lucky enough to have had several encounters with humpback whales while out in the kayaks, once having a humpback pop up just in front of our double kayak after swimming beneath us. We have also had pods of 300 or more dusky dolphins on multiple occasions and get to see and experience a variety of birds and marine life on a daily basis. I also had an Orca swim underneath my kayak last autumn which was pretty crazy.
Q Why are you passionate about your job and outdoor education?
I get to be outside doing what I am passionate about for a job, and having the opportunity to pass on my own passion and knowledge of the industry and area to other people who are exploring or on holiday is simply satisfying. I enjoy helping people to progress in an outdoor skill or sport they are interested in allows me to mentor people and upskill them in a sustainable environment.
Q Have you always enjoyed being outdoors?
I have always had an appreciation of being in the outdoors. I was brought up on a three-acre lifestyle block at the foot of the Waitaki Valley and spent lots of time outside kicking a ball around in the back paddock or going camping and kayaking with mum, dad and my two brothers from a young age.
Q Do you enjoy living in Kaikoura?
Kaikoura is a great place to live have here regarding outdoor activity. When I’m not out on tours I spend my time along the coast at one of our surfbreaks or go inland where we have native bush walks and mountains to climb. The combination of mountains, coastline, rivers, surfbreaks and crystal-clear waters can make for a pretty fun playground.
Q And you’re a keen advocate for sustainable living?
I am. Kaikoura’s recycling system is really effective, which is awesome because everybody here recycles well. Personally, I think it’s important to do our best to prevent climate change by looking after our surrounding environment for the nature, wildlife and generations to come. Everybody should play their part.
Q What are your favourite spots to explore in New Zealand?
There are a lot, but to name a few: Kaikoura, for it’s amazing scenery and limitless outdoor activities; the Catlins coastal area, for its amazing beaches, waterfalls, and secluded nature; the Waitaki Valley, for family time, pals, fruit orchards and awesome community feel; and Dunedin holds a place in my heart as I lived there for five years studying and making lifelong pals, going on crazy adventures and good rock climbing. It’s also got a beautiful peninsula for kayaking.
Q Do you ever make it back to Oamaru?
Once or twice a year I make it back to Oamaru, but I would go home more if I could. Oamaru is a cool wee town and I still consider it home such a large part of my life. Mum and dad still live in my childhood home, which has developed to have more native garden and character nice to get home and see the new projects. My older brother Jade lives in the Papakaio area and works as a qualified builder with his partner Bri and daughter Emily, and now my younger brother is partaking in adventure-based studies in Timaru at Ara.