Five Minutes with John Hebron, Founding OB Instructor - Outward Bound

Five Minutes with John Hebron, Founding OB Instructor

Life after OB, Instructors

John Hebron was one of the original Outward Bound instructors at Anakiwa. John remembers the early days of Outward Bound well and has the lasting legacy of being the person to discover the onsite rock wall! 

Kia ora John! Can you tell us a little bit about what a day would look like for a 21-day student?

First thing we had PT, then swimming followed by breakfast and morning prayers on the tennis court. Then the students were assigned to their watches to undertake the activities of the day until the evening meal. Occasionally an outside speaker would be invited to talk on matters such as first aid, search and rescue, bush fires, firearms, and information applicable to OB activities. Bed was a welcome relief after the intense activities of the day. The students arrived on a Saturday and the next day they climbed Mt Oliver, situated behind the school to introduce them to physical activity and assess their capabilities i.e. leadership, team member, a "loner" etc.. This climb enabled them to acknowledge their potential to accept challenges.

Specifically, you were a bushcraft instructor. What exactly did that involve?

How to navigate and survive in the bush and mountains and be aware of any dangers. Paramount was teaching them survival. The location of Anakiwa was excellent in that it had sea, river and bush readily available. I consider it would have been unique in the world at the time as it allows for the interchange of activities to be undertaken very easily.

What were the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your role as instructor sixty years ago?

Keeping the students safe and happy in an unfamiliar environment. Arriving at the school two or so months prior to the official opening, I had time to look around and discovered the rock face covered with bush, which I cleared ready for the opening. This was to be used for abseiling and at that time was unique amongst OB schools to have such a facility on site. 

Is there one particular memory that really sticks out for you from that time?

On one course we had a student who had the use of only one arm having been born without a hand and partial use of the arm. When it came to abseiling on the rock face, he insisted that he wanted to do this and knowing that we only had the most basic safety equipment (though acceptable for that time). I rigged additional safety gear and when I saw him step off the bluff and complete the challenge, and his reaction as well as the  support of his Watch, it brought home to me the true meaning of the OB motto "To serve, to strive and not to yield", which I personally still apply today.

Any advice for future OB instructors?

Don’t ask the students to do anything that you cannot or will not do yourself.

What do you do now to enjoy the outdoors?  
Four wheel driving in Otago tussock country, seeking out isolated goldfields, and old tracks, meeting up with Search and Rescue friends. Restoring and driving our 1934 Lagonda Rapier. We live on a bush section near Wellington where my wife and I enjoy retaining the bush, gardening and observing the bird life.


John Hebron - OB Instructor 1962-63

John Hebron crop


OB NZ Course 15 1962 72 small


OB NZ Course 15 1962 18