Europe's Premier Canoe Rendezvous.

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April 25-28, 2024

Drôme river, France



2024 instructors

Anaïs Combaz (France).

Sporty by nature, Anaïs turned to outdoor sports as a teenager. She discovered canoeing on the Tarn and Allier rivers. After graduating with a degree in sports science, she turned to teaching and pedagogy. She returned to the Allier, a river close to her heart, to work and teach canoeing and kayaking. She became head of canoeing trips at UCPA before returning to her first passion: instructing.

Andy Oughton (England).

Andy is a British Canoeing Coach Educator (Instructor Trainer) with a passion for multi-day canoe trips. He has supported and assessed many young people on expeditions. He also organizes a 100 mile “Canoe Test” for youth groups, event which has been existing for more than 50 years now. After participating many times to the OCF, Andy is now one of the “big masters” of our instructor staff with various technique workshops. He will also run a trip to introduce British Canoeing’s approaches to Leadership.

Armelle Van Hauwaert and Peter Stokx from “Canad” company (Belgium).

Armelle Van Hauwaert and Peter Stokx from “Canad” company : outdoor cooking, technique and safety clinics. These two famous canoe paddlers are pros and totally addicted to the open canoe lifestyle (they spend more than 200 days a year in the Outdoors !). They are the owners and the instructors of the famous company “Canad” proposing canoe and outdoor programs a little bit everywhere in the world :

Aurélien Rateau (France).

Aurélien Rateau fell into rivers as a child, first for fishing, then for canoe-bivouacking, and finally for biodiversity. His favorite playgrounds are French rivers, as well as those of the Balkans and Lapland, where he leads summer canoe trips. His motto “everything’s good in canoeing” reflects his interest in both contemplative itineraries on calm rivers and adventure expeditions on the tumultuous rivers of the North, as well as afternoons devoted to learning technical skills. Pro river guide, he shares these experiences within the “Destination Rivières” association.

His website :

Caroline Pape (England / France).

Originally from England, Caroline has lived in the Gard (close to the Ardèche river) since 2005 and is a French-qualified canoe guide. She studied sport science and psychology and worked as a personal trainer and coach, before falling in love with open canoeing. She has been guiding and teaching canoeing in France for over 15 years, and as the mother of 5 daughters, particularly wants to inspire more women and girls to take part in the sport.

Christine and Richard Dorlencourt (France).

French river guide, Richard will propose a workshop for complete beginners (in French) : basic techniques and safety tips. Christine, his wife, will propose an outdoor cooking workshop.

Their blog :

Cyril Porcher (France).

Professional river guide, Cyril works for “Loire Aventure”, club and company offering canoe trips on the beautiful Loire river.

Florent Mourain (France).

Since childhood, between canoeing and scouting, Florent has developed a love for bivouacs in the great outdoors. Naturally, he turned to training as a whitewater instructor to share his passion. Today, he teaches on the Allier river in the Haute Loire region, mainly in canoe. A river on which he and his partner, Anaïs Combaz, will soon be offering itinerant canoeing trips.

Fred Ancey (France).

Fred has been passionate about canoeing for over 40 years. After having travelled a good number of rivers in a kayak, he switched to a sea kayak with which he has travelled the Adriatic, Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts. For the past ten years, he has also been practicing canoeing. As a professional guide, he organises expeditions on the lakes and rivers of France and Switzerland. Passionate about edible wild plants, he will offer workshops on cooking with wild plants, whether on expeditions or at home.

Greg Spencer (England).

Greg has been canoeing since the 1970s, and instructing since the 1980s. He is an ACA instructor and a BCU coach, as well as being UK representative of the ACA, Acting Chairman of the British “Open Canoe Association” and a specialist in canoe sailing. He will again offer courses in river canoeing and canoe touring.

Jeff Blervaque (France).

River guide for more than 30 years, Jeff is based in the French Alps. Added to his own kayaking and rafting activities, he is also a respected river guide instructor. He joins the 2015 OCF staff with a new “leadership” workshop (in french) about group management and preventive safety.

Jérémy Guillien (France).

A nature guide in the National Nature Reserve of the Ramières du Val de Drôme, Jérémy likes to accompany the public in their discoveries of nature. Curious and interested in the abundant life around us, he will speak with passion about what he has learned to know and recognize.

John Wiederstein (Germany).

John was born in 1974. Water has always been his element since he was a child. John is an outdoor and paddling enthusiast. In his youth he used to travel a lot with a rubber dinghy on various lakes and rivers, and he made canoeing his profession. Since 2013, John has been a certified ACA Instructor Open Canoe Level III River for Solo & Tandem. He enjoys training beginners and advanced paddlers to take them to the next level. A continuous expansion of knowledge and skills thanks to numerous training courses, paddling events and paddler meetings rounds off his profile as the perfect contact person for Open Canoe Paddling.

Joris Leclercq (France).

Professional river guide, Joris is an accomplished canoe expeditionist, specializing in solo paddling trips. He shares his passion for paddling sports with his company, Destination H2O, offering canoe bivouac trips on the famous Loire valley. He is also a emergency first aider and coach at the French Canoe Kayak Federation.

Julien Abbate (France).

Since childhood, Julien Abbate has been passionate about adventure, a syndrome passed down from father to son. In 2017, he created the company “Kaio Experiences”, which offers training in natural environments in the form of immersive courses.
Today, he is a professional adventurer, expedition leader, certified hiking guide, Bushcraft and survival techniques trainer.
After several packraft expeditions on Lake Inari in Finnish Lapland and canoeing in Canada’s Yukon Territory, he gradually turned to making adventure/documentary films with his “Au rythme de l’eau” project.


Marine Béguin (France… but a bit of Québec too!)

I fell in love 10 years ago when I discovered canoe-camping on the dark waters of Quebec! Over there, canoeing is eaten in the morning, at noon and in the evening, solo, or in a expedition duo, over several weeks or even several months… It is a big family that has welcomed me. After 14 years of experience in this corner of North America, I came back to France with my two solo “canots” (as we call them in Québec ; in France we call them OC1 for Open Canoe 1 place) and still this crazy desire to discover magnificent rivers. Since then I have two dreams:
1) that French no longer say OC1 but “canot”!
2) see more and more “canots” on the beautiful French rivers.
Here too, white water is a beautiful and large family that knows how to welcome back the impatriate that I am!

Mark-Jan Dielemans (Netherlands, living in England).

Originally from the Netherlands and now living for 9 years in Bristol, Great Britain with his wife and two young children. He bought his first “expedition” kayak when he was 17 and paddled through the canals of Amsterdam. Soon did bigger trips on the IJselmeer, Waden- and Northsea and became a Seakayak coach. He soon developed a passion for the “open” canoe and started in early 1998 the first European Canoe Symposium which he ran for over 10 years. He became the first British Canoeing level 4 open canoe coach in the Netherlands and also gained qualifications of the A.C.A. (Instructor) and Canada. 

He is active as member of the Open Canoe Association and organised special event for families, youth and children. One of his highlights was paddling with Andy Oughton and Noddy the Bliss canoe trail; trip of 824 miles through/round England. 

Six years ago he visited the OCF as a participant but now he is here to “help” anyone who wants to improve or just wants some  Encouragement or just to say; “yes that’s it! Go for it!” From beginner to improver, solo and tandem and also Family’s and children. Shame life is too short!

Mathieu Slaghenauffi (France).

Mathieu is passionned canoe a sea kayaking professionnal guide based in the South of France. Outdoor addict, he loves to share bivouac techniques (no trace camping, fire and knots) and he is also specializing in outdoor sports programs for disabled persons.

With Aurélien Rateau (also instructor at the OCF) he runs the association “Destination Rivières” taking people to Europe’s most beautiful rivers.

Matthew Thompson (Scotland).

Matt has been paddling for more years than he remembers, but only came to see the light in 1997 when he was working for Outward Bound in the USA. Returning to the UK, Matt pursued the qualifications that would extend and diversify his paddling experiences. He is currently a BCU Level 4 Open Canoe coach. Matt likes to share his canoeing passion through enabling people to believe that they too can have the adventures he does.
Wilderness Canoe is Matt’s small company, based on the west coast of Scotland in a village only accessible by boat or on foot. Matt runs trips throughout the UK and further afield when possible in between he guides on the water and mountains of his local area.

Philippe Lloret (France).

t was while walking along the Drôme river that Philippe started to watch birds as a child. After ornithology, the nearby mountains led him to become interested in nature in general. As a mountain guide and nature animator, he will offer a workshop dedicated to the ecological jewels of the Drôme, a river linked to both the Alps and the Mediterranean.

Today, he is in charge of the National Nature Reserve of the Ramières du Val de Drôme which is managed by the “Communautés de Communes du Val de Drôme en Biovallée”.

Rob Estivill (France).

Having discovered the benefits of packraft while travelling the world, Rob swapped physics for manufacturing and development at Mekong, where he is co-manager. As a white water lover, you’ll probably find him in the workshop or on an alpine river.

Sébastien Carlier (France).

Sébastien works at the “Parc Naturel des Landes de Gascogne”. Mountain and river guide, excellent photographer, he’s also a great adventurer with many trips done in Africa or Canada. He loves to share his passion for nature and paddling trips.

His website :
Paddling trips :

Tony Pape (England / France).

Tony (a.k.a “Blue”) is a Canoe “Guru” who has teached and trained hundreds of river guides for the British Canoe Union. Native from England but based in France South East, he is leading canoe trips on Europe’s most beautiful rivers.

Yann Mazé (France).

Yann is one the french open canoe pioneers in France. Former member of the association “the river runners / coureurs de rivières” which was a big inspiration to create the Open Canoe Festival, he’s been paddling canoes and sea kayaks for more than 20 years. Big fan of french and canadian rivers, his profile does not only deal with canoe. Former military in special forces for rescue missions, he’s now often assigned as a diver / rescuer for the national sea safety society. A real adventurer with a strong outdoor and safety culture.

Yannick Vericel (France).

Yannick is passioned paddler and river guide based in Lyon. He loves to share his local spots, always remembering adventure is just at your door. He also takes his clients to Europe’s four corners : Norway, Finland, Sweden… He is also an outdoor sports instructor with an impressive pro resume ! His website :

Organisation Team

Gervanne Camping and the Gontard family.

The OCF is possible thanks to the Gontard family and their lovely camping site by the river. Always present for logistics and moral support, always smiling and welcoming. Nothing would be possible without Catherine and Jeff.

Paul Villecourt : Ze boss !

Creator and organiser of the Open Canoe Festival, Paul works as an outdoor reporter and photographer. Author of the book “Guide du canoë en France” (Canoeing in France), his reports led him to paddle the world four corners and are regularly published in press magazines. His website :

In 2017, with Philippe Bouvat, he paddled France from east to west during a 2 months and 1570 km trip between Geneva and Saint Nazaire.

In 2021, with Christian Barbier, he has developed a new way to travel by canoe + bike.

Julien Gontard : co-organiser.

Julien is part of the OCF organisation since the age of 16 when he was in charge of the volunteers. Raised in a famous local outdoor sports school, he soon became a specialist in outdoor marketing, video, photo and social medias. Today, he works for prestigious companies like Millet, Rossignol and big public relations agencies. No surprise to see him taking the position of co-organiser since the 2022 OCF. He knows the Festival by heart : already workshop manager, he’s also in charge of the marketing development. He’s a Gontard : Dual Core processor, able to manage 5 things at the same time. Only 25 and already entrepreneur : the essential positive energy to boost the Open Canoe Festival.

Philippe Bouvat : Mac Gyver !

At the OCF or in a canoe, Philippe is never far from Paul. Real “Mac Gyver” fixing any technical problem, incredible photographer, Philippe is also the real guardian of the Drôme river he is paddling all year long. There is no better guide to track the beaver and other local animals.

In 2017, with Paul Villecourt, he paddled France from east to west during a 2 months and 1570 km trip, between Geneva and Saint Nazaire.

Lucas Gontard: responsible for the welcome office.

Lucas is responsible for welcoming participants to the festival, and will be there to help you register for the workshops with his brother Julien. Passionate about nature, holding a Master 1 in English language, and having grown up at the Gontard campsite, Lucas joined the Open Canoe Festival adventure in 2018 and will be there this year for its third edition by your side.

Valentin Grollemund : video man.

He did all the official clips from the very beginning. Professionnal kayaker for a long time, river guide, he is also TV production assistant manager at the Freeride World Tour, biggest fresstyle ski event on earth. Yeah !

Bar Team.

The Open Canoe Festival is also its legendary bar, managed by Guillaume, Christelle and Raph.

Our magic volunteers!

Big thanks to our numerous volunteers helping to organize the OCF !

Primary sponsor



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