Instructors and Guides

Charles Ruechel

– Program Director and Head Instructor

Growing up on his family’s organic cattle and sheep ranch in Lumby, BC and studying agricultural science at the University of Alberta, Charles has a special connection and love for animals, plants, and all things nature!  During the 10 years he co-managed Vale Farms, his family’s ranching and direct-marketing business , he also spent a great deal of time traveling and working abroad, adventuring in the wilderness, and attending many personal-development courses as part of his passion of connecting people to themselves and to the natural environment.  His interests in personal development and leadership skills led him to take training and teach courses in communication, facilitation, and life-coaching with a variety of sources including Landmark Education, Ranch Management Consultants Inc., and Karen McMullen Coaching.

elements adventure company Charles Ruechel

Charles and Xenia

Since 2010, Charles has been working in the field of outdoor leadership, first as an instructor with the National Outdoor Leadership School, based in Wyoming – leading young adults on 30-day river and mountain adventures in the Yukon and Texas.
With his diverse background and skill set, Charles now enjoys creating new programs, trips, and courses that share his unique perspective on nature and wilderness travel, preparing his clients for longer wilderness trips, hiking and/or canoeing in gorgeous and remote places.  All of his programs are more than just adventures – they are designed to connect people to nature, teach life-long skills, and provide an atmosphere for reflection and development.

canoeing in the broken group islands with kids

Leanne and Leo

Charles lives in Vernon BC with his wife, Leanne, and their two daughters, Xenia (7) and Leo (4).

Certifications and related experience:

  • National Outdoor Leadership School Instructor (NOLS)
  • Whitewater Canoe and Backpacking Instructor – NOLS Yukon
  • Swift-water Rescue – NOLS Yukon
  • Swift-water Technician – Raven Rescue
  • Moving Water Tandem Advanced Canoeing Skills Certification – Paddle Canada
  • Moving Water Solo Advanced Canoeing Skills Certification – Paddle Canada
  • Moving Water Solo Intermediate Canoeing Instructor Certification – Paddle Canada
  • Moving Water Tandem Intermediate Instructor Certification – Paddle Canada
  • Big Canoe River Skipper Certification- Paddle Canada
  • Lake Water Instructor Trainer (Canoe) – Recreational Canoe Association of BC (RCABC)
  • River Rescue Certification – RCABC
  • Over 8000 km of river travel experience
  • Leave-No-Trace Master Educator
  • 90-hr wilderness first aid
  • CPR Level HCP
  • Canadian Avalanche Association – Avalanche Operations Level I
  • 10 years experience in first aid and as an instructor with the Canadian Ski Patrol
  • Graduate of Landmark Education’s Curriculum for Living
  • Graduate of Karen McMullen Life Coaching – Discover Your Genius programs

Keiran Rankin

– canoeing instructor and guide for the Kootenay River and 4 Rivers in 4 Days canoe trips

Already as a young child Keiran was paddling many of the rivers of southwestern BC with the Beaver Canoe Club.  A highly-trained and experienced canoeist, Keiran is also a graduate of the Thompson Rivers University Adventure Guide Training Program and has worked in many parts of the paddling tourism industry.  He currently works as an elementary school teacher and as a canoe guide in the Northwest Territories during the summer months.  He is currently the President of the Recreational Canoe Association of BC, and is also working towards obtaining his Master Instructor-ship with the RCABC.  Keiran is very interested in local ecology, geography and history and has a passion for teaching about the outdoors and sharing his love of adventure.

Mark Bauer

– guide for the Upper Stikine River Canoe Expedition

Growing up paddling in Ontario’s vast lake country, Mark began his passion for wilderness canoeing at age 10. Spending his youth at summer camp, first as an avid participant on lake and river trips, and then as a leader and guide on those same lakes and rivers, wilderness has always been synonymous with reflection, connection and discovery of place, others, and self.

Mark has worked in the Canadian Rockies for YMCA Camp Chief Hector as a hike, canoe and horse instructor for 7 summers. Mark was the director of a unique and award-winning leadership wilderness program run from a remote mountain site on the north-eastern border of Banff National Park. There, Mark held training, guiding, and programming responsibilities for 10 staff, 32 participants, and 20 horses. Mark directed 30-day sessions focused on personal growth and the development of strong backcountry skills through wilderness living and travel.

At Camp Chief Hector Mark also co-guided a transformative 65-day western arctic river expedition focused on river travel, leadership, cultural awareness, and the fostering of community relations with the diverse Dene, Gwich’in, Sahtu and Inuvialuit communities along the river.

Mark trained as a lawyer in British Columbia studying Aboriginal law and working for the Attorney General of British Columbia on the Tsilhqot’in Nation case, now the leading Aboriginal rights and title case in Canada. Mark has taught senior courses in law, economics, and history at a downtown Toronto high school for the past 11 years.

Karl Podolski

lake canoeing instructor and assistant instructor for river canoeing courses

Lake Canoeing Instructor

Karl is a registered massage therapist in Vernon, BC and an avid, passionate canoeist every other waking moment.  He believes every Canadian should learn to paddle a canoe – shortly after walking – and as such, has taught countless adults and kids (including his own) how to paddle.

His love for canoeing began at age seven when his father introduced him to the sport. In 1985, he participated in an outdoor recreation program where he first learned to guide canoe trips and became a flat water canoe instructor. Over the years, he’s developed a wealth of experience in teaching canoeing, building and restoring wooden canoes for a manufacturer, selling canoes for a retailer, captaining 25-foot voyageur canoes, and even racing outrigger canoes!  His diverse and broad background in paddle sports and his enthusiastic personality makes Karl a huge asset to our team.

Currently, Karl is a certified flat water canoe instructor with RCABC and is working towards his moving water instructor certification. He is also the Okanagan/Shuswap zone rep with the Recreational Canoe Association of BC.

Alvin Tam

– instructor with the Wilderness Circus Canoe Camp and Corporate Retreat facilitator

Alvin Tam circusCaptivated by a vision to travel the world and meet new cultures, Alvin discovered the National Circus School in Montreal at the age of 18 and trained intensively for 4 years.  He eventually ended up crossing the globe several times as an acrobatic performer, coach and actor working with many circus and theatrical companies, including the renowned Cirque du Soleil, in KA in Las Vegas.  He now speaks four languages and has traveled to over 12 countries performing over 3000 shows.  Alvin is the co-founder of Barefoot Sanctuary yoga studio, author of “The Art of Impossible” and pioneer of Acrofit, an acrobatic fitness system.  Alvin brings over 25 years of professional circus, martial arts and teaching experience to his coaching repertoire and has taught thousands of children, youth and adults in circus camps around the world.

Jada Tam

– volunteer with the Wilderness Circus Canoe Camp and Corporate Retreat facilitator

jadatam-headshotJada is a professional yoga instructor of 18 years and developed the Expressive Yoga Dance form, a relaxing and revitalizing form of yoga and ethnic dance.  Her unique yoga form blends traditional Hatha techniques, deep breathing and hip and heart opening movements that increase circulation, flexibility and creative flow.  Jada also has lead intramural gymnastics, trapeze, creative dance and has taught kids’ circus camps and private retreats.  She is a strong advocate for healthy eating, strength building, herbology and nutrition through nature.  Jada is the co-founder of Barefoot Sanctuary, Las Vegas’ premier community yoga studio.