||Aaron “Capo” Rettig – Executive Director
Born and raised in Summit, Oregon, Capo was first introduced to the river through raft trips with his family. At 16, after completing raft guide school in Oregon, he began guiding on several of the state’s numerous rivers. On the weekends, he would drag whoever would go with him to kayak the Cascades. On the way to the Oregon Country Fair, Capo read about WCKA in Paddler magazine and announced, “Mom, Dad, I am going to apply for kayak school.”
Much to the surprise of his family, three weeks later, Capo loaded his van and headed to Tarkio, MT to begin his senior year at WCKA, the first year of the schools existence.
Capo went on to the University of Oregon to study journalism, but continued to be involved with World Class, joining the Board of Directors in 2005. While working on his journalism degree, Capo continued to pursue kayaking adventures taking trips to Uganda, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Colombia, Norway, Panama, Chile, and Canada. Capo joined fellow WCKA student Tyler Bradt along with Seth Warren for the Colombia-Ecuador portion of the “Oil and Water Project”. Two years later, Capo again joined his former classmates to do a 13-country tour of Africa called the “Africa Revolutions Tour”.
Capo continued to pursue his degree in journalism, shooting and producing a documentary film about U.S. foreign policy towards Colombia and its impact on the Colombian people called “Lo Demas Es Loma.” Capo graduated from the University of Oregon in 2008 with a degree in Journalism and a minor in Latin American studies. Capo then went back to Colombia where he finished the country’s first whitewater guidebook, Colombia Whitewater, published in 2009. Completing the full circle of his WCKA experience, Capo then joined WCKA as the Spanish and Literature teacher for the 2009/10 school year, a year in which WCKA went to Peru for the first time. In 2010 Capo became the new executive director of World Class Academy.
Adam Elliott - Outreach Coordinator and Media Instructor
Adam grew up in a kayaking and rafting family in Northern Arizona. He started kayaking in 1990 and paddling class V in 1996. The rivers brought him to California and then to Oregon where he studied Architecture, Photography, Industrial Design and Design Management.
Adam's first experience with World Class Academy was as part of the guiding and logistics services in China in 2007 and again in 2009. In 2011, Adam became the Director of Outreach and Marketing. He lives in Portland, Oregon and manages a small design studio.
"Kayaking is not about the linear progression for me. I'm in this for the long haul - to keep growing and learning, yes, but never for the sake of progress only. It's always been about ... getting connected - to the place, to the people, to ourselves."
Although Adam is busy in the office most days, He makes a point to spend a couple weeks travelling with the school every semester. He guest lectures on the fundamentals of photography, blog writing, media management and the occasional metaphysical "mystery move".
Jessica Land - Academic Advisor
Jess works for World Class as the academic advisor, supporting teachers and students at headquarters and in the field. Jess works part-time for World Class in this role. In 2007, she graduated from Prescott College in Arizona with a master's degree in experiential education, and has been teaching and traveling since then. She is a certified teacher in Oregon, with a diverse background in outdoor leadership, writing, and art. Her favorite roles as an educator have included nature, travel, art, writing, and almost any kind of outdoor adventure. Generally, she enjoys helping students engage in positive experiences that challenge them.
Recent travels have taken Jess to Burma, Thailand, Chile, Argentina, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Southern Mexico, both by land and by sea. During travels, she seeks ancient ruins, lofty viewpoints, and conversations with local people. When in Oregon, Jess teaches IB Literature at Eugene International High School and facilitates team-building courses at Spencer's Butte Challenge Course. In her leisure time, she likes to paint murals, grow vegetables, backcountry snowboard, hike, surf, and ride her bike.
||Ben Kinsella – Head Coach, History, Media Productions
Ben Kinsella is one of WCA's most veteran coach and teacher. Originally from Chicago, Ben was first introduced to kayaking in Northern Wisconsin. College at Montana State University in Bozeman brought him out west. Ben skied and paddled throughout his college career every chance he could. Big-T creek, the Lochsa, and other rivers of Montana became his training ground as well as the supplemental international trip. Ben graduated with a degree in Industrial Engineering.
In 2008, Ben joined World Class Academy as the head coach. He led the group to Peru for the school's first Peruvian semester, as well as semesters to Uganda/Zambia, Chile, China and Costa Rica. Ben's whitewater strength is how complete of a kayaker he is in each discipline of the sport. Freestyle, creeking, river-running, and big-water are Ben's specialties.
Ben currently lives in Bozeman, MT and will be coming back once again to join the World Class Faculty.......!
Anna Bruno - Literature and Budget Director
Anna first fell in love with kayaking during a trip to the Ottawa River in 2005. After graduating Magna Cum Laude from Colby College in 2007 with a degree in French Language and International Relations, Anna watched her friends head off to cubicles in various east coast cities before boarding a plane to the White Nile with her kayak for a 10 week trip.
Anna left Uganda one year later, having fallen in love with the Nile River, the luxury of kayaking everyday, and the surprises of working from an unconventional office. Since that initial trip, Anna has spent two additional seasons on the Nile as the Operations Manager for Kayakthenile.com, two summers working on the Ottawa River as the head of Wilderness Tours’ infamous Keener Program, and a year teaching Literature and Government for New River Academy. All of these have only further cemented her passion for teaching, kayaking, travel and the outdoors.
The time she spent on the Nile has continued to shape her life in surprising ways. It was in Uganda, in 2007 where Anna first encountered World Class Academy, and again in the fall of 2009. Five years later, Anna is excited to join the World Class family, and to continue to learn, teach, laugh and grow with them. When not in the classroom or her boat, Anna can be found reading in her hammock, behind a camera, hoola hooping, or on her yoga mat.
Tom Simenc (Spring) - Math and Science
Northern California native Tom Simenc began kayaking with family at the age of eight and has since paddled rivers in the Pacific Northwest, Chile, Argentina, Costa Rica, and Alaska.
In May 2012 Tom graduated Magna Cum Laude from Boise State University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mathematics. While attaining his undergraduate degree, Tom worked as faculty for the College of Idaho and for Boise State University teaching rock climbing. An outdoor enthusiast, he also worked at the BSU Outdoor Program as a student manager and guide on a variety of rafting, climbing, and other outdoor adventure trips.
Tom was first exposed to a kayak high school when in 2004 his dad worked as a science and math teacher for New River Academy. Tom attended NRA as a student during a semester in Costa Rica.
Other hobbies that Tom enjoys are backcountry skiing, reading, and cooking. Tom looks forward to sharing his love of teaching, whitewater, travel and science with the next generation of kayakers.
Michael "Miguel" Shields (Spring) - Head Coach, Social Studies and Literature
Originally hailing from Maryland, I grew up paddling on the Youghiogheny River at Riversport School of Paddling. When I was old enough to drive they hired me as a 'kitchen slave'- working for room and board but living on the river and paddling every day. That first summer cemented the lifestyle in me and throughout high school and college I returned every summer to teach kayaking at Riversport. I graduated magna cum laude from Virginia Tech in 2007, with a degree in Spanish, International Studies and Latin American Studies. Kayaking was just as important as classes however, and living there meant close proximity to the New and Gauley drainages and other great runs of the Appalachians. My junior year was spent abroad, living and studying in Ecuador- an invaluable experience that sparked my obsession with international travel. Since then I have toured multiple Latin American countries, BC and New Zealand, usually with river-running as the primary mission.
Since 2007, and in between trips to the southern hemisphere, I have called the Columbia Gorge in WA home. Here I work as a raft guide and substitute teacher while being able to explore rivers up and down the Cascades, Siskiyous and Sierras. While kayaking remains a central passion in my life, I also enjoy skiing, backpacking, reading, history, woodworking and photography. I am also a huge ice hockey fan.
Abe Herrera - Coach, Social Studies, Spanish, Media Productions
Abe Herrera was first introduced to kayaking in the Pacific Northwest, but very quickly took his newly acquired skills back to his home country of Ecuador. Abe has since split his time between the Columbia River Gorge and Ecuador, where he runs an outfitting company called Boof Sessions.
Abe is a certified Swiftwater Rescue Instructor and has worked as a raft guide, kayak instructor, swiftwater rescue instructor, and guide in places such as Washington, Mexico, and Ecuador. Abe first joined WCA as a coach during our Fall 2013 semester to Ecuador/Peru.
During the summers Abe is also an owner of Big Man's Rotisserie, a restaurant specializing in Ugandan BBQ!
Devin Kuh - Math and Science
Born and bred in Boulder, Colorado, Devin grew up in the mountains,
and took his first kayaking course at age 14. Unfortunately, he didn’t have
friends who kayaked, a kayak, a car, or a driver’s license, which led to a paddling
hiatus until he attended Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA. At Whitman, Devin graduated
Cum Laude with a degree in Math and Economics.
As a freshman at Whitman, Devin went to his first pool
session in February, and immediately signed up for the Whitewater Club. Four
days later he started his first of many drives to Hood River, and hasn’t looked
He took junior year off to explore his twin passions- of teaching
and kayaking. He completed an internship with a middle school math department
in Philadelphia, and found time to paddle three northeast classics, the Moose,
Gauley and Yough. Next, Devin traveled to Futaleufu, Patagonia to teach
kayaking and raft guide for Expediciones Chile. These experiences taught him
the importance of experiential education and pursuing your passions.
When not on the river, Devin is found trying to understand
why he’s not on the river, playing cribbage, reading, or pretending he’s a