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Europe's Premier Canoe Rendezvous.

April 28 - May 1st 2023
Drôme River, France

2022 Staff

2022 staff.

  • Armelle Van Hauwaert and Peter Stokx from "Canad" company (Belgium).

    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 : www.canad.be
  • Christine and Richard Dorlencourt (France).

    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 : spiritofkayaking.com

  • Greg Spencer (England).

    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. www.singleblade.co.uk
  • Matthew Thompson

    Matthew Thompson

    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.


  • Raphael Kuner (Germany).

    Raphael Kuner (Germany).

    One of the most active Instructors of the American Canoe Association (ACA) in Europe and Kokatat Instructor of the month in March 2014! Basically an Open Boater, but also a certified Instructor and Instructor-Trainer for sea-kayak, safety and rescue and SUP. Raphael is addicted to watersports, teaching nationally and internationally the whole year round. His main focus is on coaching new SUP, rescue- and open-canoe-instructors. Based in Germany, he runs the canoe-company : www.rafftaff.de
  • Tony Pape (England / France).

    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.
  • Aurélien Rateau (France).

    Aurélien Rateau (France).

    Aurélien has always been fascinated by rivers wildlife and canoeing is for him a great way to explore mother nature secrets and jewels. Fed up with 10 years of a stressful job in a office, he decided to change his life, starting with a riverguide diploma before spending 2014 summer exploring 5 of the last wildest rivers of Europe. His goal : present them from various perspectives such as history and ecology, and above all, share his love for river explorations, paddle in hand and a fishing rod never too far in the canoe.

    Hi website : www.destination-rivieres.org
  • Jeff Blervaque (France).

    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.

  • Philippe Lloret (France).

    Philippe Lloret (France).

    It 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".

  • Jérôme Benoît (France).

    Jérôme Benoît (France).

    Jérôme is a real child of the Ardèche river : born in a family of canoe racers, he was a boatman, taking the first tourists of the Ardèche in traditional boats. Then he worked in a canoe rental and a famous french canoe factory. Today, he’s a freelance canoe repairer. Jérôme joins the instructor staff to share is canoe culture with various workshops dedicated to canoe camping, safety and technique.
    His website : here.
  • Cyril Porcher (France).

    Cyril Porcher (France).

    Professional river guide, Cyril works for "Loire Aventure", club and company offering canoe trips on the beautiful Loire river.
  • Joris Leclercq (France).

    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.

    His website : www.destination-h2o.fr
    Follow his adventures : Facebook.com/jorisadventures

  • Yannick Vericel (France).

    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 : www.randovive.com
  • Raphaël Thiébaut (France).

    Raphaël Thiébaut (France).

    Famous french river guide, expeditionnist, photographer and safety instructor, emergency nurse, Raphaël is also a white water canoe specialist. He's back at the Festival with some clinics dedicated to first aid techniques and canoe minor injuries.
  • Mark-Jan Dielemans (Netherlands, living in England).

    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!
  • Ray Goodwin (Wales).

    Ray Goodwin (Wales).

    Ray has earned a reputation as Britain’s foremost canoe coach. He has pioneered trips throughout the UK and regularly guides in Canada. In kayak, he has paddled in Nepal and guided the Grand Canyon of the Colorado. He wrote the book, "Canoeing" containing over 900 photographs. He continues to earn his living as a coach. In 2019, Ray was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours necessitating a trip to Buckingham Palace. He is the organiser of the Welsh Canoe Symposium. Ray and Lina Patel will be running tandem workshops.

    His website: www.RayGoodwin.com
    YouTube Channel:  https://www.youtube.com/c/RayGoodwinCanoe
  • Lina Patel (Wales).

    Lina Patel (Wales).

    Since doing a teaching degree in Outdoor Education has done a wide variety of jobs utilizing her skills. Working largely with young people, she is now building a reputation with adult groups. She has expeditioned in Sweden, Scotland and Canada as well as trips in France. She runs a family event for the Open Canoe Association. Ray Goodwin and Lina love paddling tandem where life become a dance. Ray and Lina expeditioned for ten days in Algonquin with their, then, seven year old daughter Maya Rose.  

  • Sébastien Carlier (France).

    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 : sebastiencarlier.fr
    Paddling trips : itinerairespartages.org

  • Yann Mazé (France).

    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.
  • Caroline Pape (England / France).

    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.
  • Mathieu Slaghenauffi (France).

    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.


  • John Wiederstein (Germany).

    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.

  • Christian Barbier (France).

    Christian Barbier (France).

    Christian is an accomplished sportsman, involved in all outdoor disciplines. He is a keen climber and speleologist  and has always travelled by bike, taking numerous trips in France and abroad, with his family or solo. When it comes to mountain biking, it seems that gravity has no influence on him as he is able to tackle any steep slope, up or down! But it's not him who will tell you that, because he's a very modest man. Christian is up for any adventure, on foot, with a paddle or a bike. In 2021 he has embarked on the "Canovélo" adventure with his friend Paul Villecourt. The goal: experiencing endless travel by towing the canoe on a bicycle. Two years of research and development culminated in a first 1000 km trip in May 2021. Christian will give you all the keys and tricks of this form of travel that he has largely contributed to develop.

  • Jérémy Guillien (France).

    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.
  • Rob Estivill (France).

    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.

  • Olivier Chambault (France).

    Olivier Chambault (France).

    A traveller and entrepreneur, Olivier founded Mekong on his return from a bicycle and dugout trip between France and Vietnam. The young company designs and manufactures packrafts in its Drôme workshop, located a few kilometres from the OCF site!


Organization team

  • Gervanne Camping and the Gontard family.

    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 !

    Paul Villecourt : Ze boss !


    Creator and organizer 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 : www.villecourt.com

    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. www.lagrandetraversee.fr

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

  • Julien Gontard : co-organizer

    Julien Gontard : co-organizer


    Julien is part of the OCF organization 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-organizer of 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 !

    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. www.lagrandetraversee.fr

  • Lucas Gontard: responsible for the welcome office.

    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.

    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 !

  • Guillaume Manen : webmaster and barman.

    Guillaume Manen : webmaster and barman.


    This guy is ambidextrous ! He’s the one who designed this beautiful website. And during the Festival, he is the bar manager, assited by Christelle.

  • Our magic volunteers !

    Our magic volunteers !


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