Instructing the Instructors - Outward Bound

Instructing the Instructors

News from Anakiwa, Instructors

Meg Ryan, current OB Course Design Manager and past OB instructor, shares with us what really goes on during staff training at Outward Bound NZ. And you’ll be happy to hear that yes, even OB instructors get scared!

“Well I guess we’re committed now” muttered one of our ‘technical experts’ as we rounded the northern tip of D’Urville Island in the outer Sounds.

Our original plan, as part of the annual OBNZ staff training, was to explore the outer Sounds but as we approached D’Urville Island, the perfect combination of wind and tide times pointed to attempting a full circumnavigation. D’Urville Island isn’t for the fainthearted. 

French Pass has very strong currents and whirlpools. Nonetheless, instructor Finn’s fast calculations assured us that there was “just enough time to get around”. The combined adventurous spirit of 30 delivery instructors pushed us towards the only possibility. Around we went.

The lumpy 2m swell surged over the bow of the launch as the cutter gracefully followed along behind. The sails went up and we all sat in shared anticipation of what this adventure would unveil. No one moved unnecessarily.

As the launch disappeared down a swell, the cutter felt more like a dingy and a lot less seaworthy than the day before. Slowly, we eased into feeling competent in this new environment. The occasional dumping wave that landed on the deck became friendlier and with each tack we felt more capable and more trusting of the cutter’s ability to handle the conditions.

The phrases “type two fun” and “student empathy” went through my head. In that moment, as we entered French Pass, I was uncomfortable. Sea sick, a little cold, wind burnt … and in total disbelief of the incredible mission that was underway.

However, I felt an acute connection to myself, the people with me, and the world around me. It was the classic ‘live in the moment’ journey.

And just like that, a day’s sailing expedition around D’Urville Island was done.

This experience was day two of our four-day staff training hikoi. Our delivery team were evenly split across waka ama and cutters to explore the Queen Charlotte and Pelorus Sounds.

Our hikoi goals were to peer teach, become more competent with our work tools, strengthen our team culture and connect and engage with parts of our local environment. We aimed to train hard so we have the capability to strengthen our practise with students.

PA250069 small

Battling the swell - I'm on the far right


PA250042 small

Every year our delivery team commits to 20 days training across the activities and disciplines we offer at Outward Bound. Last month we spent two weeks upskilling with technical experts from across the industry. Our missions included:

  • River Rescue and Kayaking personal skill development in Murchison with the New Zealand Kayak School
  • Tikanga Māori training with some incredible people from Te Ātiawa, the local iwi in Marlborough
  • Staff Culture Building and Facilitation Training with well-known facilitators Adam Cooper and Lynda Church
  • Adapted Course Training with Matt Truman
  • Four Day sailing journey exploring our local area

Alongside our training days, our organisational culture supports the continuation of professional development throughout the year. Coaching support and regular feedback are all part of the job and keeps us focused on delivering the best course experience for our students.

Supporting staff professional development is fundamental to maintaining our long history of facilitating one of the best personal development programs in New Zealand. Working with the needs of people is a forever changing landscape and one that must be constantly understood. Our staff training aims to ensure we have the required capabilities to keep our students safe, while providing a high-quality development experience.

Also, we believe it is important to walk the talk.

Outward Bound is in the business of asking people to step away from the comforts of life into a new and challenging environment. Therefore, to ask this of our students, we must continue to do this ourselves.

Our training weeks are run on similar principles to our courses; working together through difficult times, heading on challenging adventures, learning new skills and learning more about ourselves. Each day is carefully crafted by our training manager Sharon Nicholas to ensure we maximise the time that we have.

I am sure that any past Outward Bound student would take great pleasure in observing 30 instructors trying to be organised all at the same time…

As I sat down on the shore that evening (still rocking slightly) I looked around in full contentment.

Today I was at work, getting paid to train and learn with a bunch of passionate and inspiring individuals. I am incredibly grateful to work for an organisation that invests in a professional training program to constantly develop our capabilities.


Meg Ryan

Outward Bound Course Design Manager

PA270105 small


PA270120 small

 Improvising a sail for the waka ama

P1020298 small

Rock pigeon 'shooting'