Staff Spotlight: Jim Sullivan, Instruction Manager

Staff Spotlight: Jim Sullivan, Instruction Manager

by Cassie Hayden

For this edition of Staff Spotlight, we tracked down one of our busiest employees: Jim Sullivan, instruction manager of the Instruction Program. 

Hi, Jim! Please tell us about yourself.

My name is James Sullivan; I grew up in Longmeadow, MA.  I became interested in pretty much all outdoor activities though a series of family trips with my dad, mom, and sister.  From a pretty young age my passion for kayaking grew; while attending Longmeadow High School I was going paddling most afternoons.  I continued to expand my outdoor knowledge and skills while obtaining a Bachelors Degree at Springfield College in Outdoor Recreation Management.  My favorite hobbies are kayaking, climbing, sailing, hiking/mountaineering, skiing, snowshoeing, etc.

What’s your role at Zoar Outdoor, and how long have you been involved with the company?

This will be the start of my 11th season at Zoar Outdoor- how the summers fly by.  Ben Natusch and I are co-instruction managers of the Instruction Program under the guidance of Janet Cowie, who is the instruction director. We all work very closely to train instructors and provide exceptional instruction to the paddling community and new paddlers.  While my primary job is teaching clinics, I also maintain the vehicles, stock first aid supplies, maintain kayak outfitting, and help train staff (go kayaking with them).  I also manage Team Z, a small group of Zoar Outdoor sponsored athletes who train and compete across the nation.

What's your favorite part of the job?

My favorite part of the job is definitely being on the water. Some people ask if I get bored running Fife Brook all the time, but I really don’t unless I go twice in one day- then sometimes. I sincerely enjoy watching people learn, celebrating their success, and laughing with them at funny shortcomings. I also enjoy developing my own personal skills as an instructor and branching out to other instruction techniques or areas of paddle sports. I can’t really think of a better way to spend the summer.

What have been your favorite experiences while working with Zoar?

The people I work with are amazing, and we have a great time together in and out of work. Some of my favorite experiences have happened at numerous barn parties at the farmhouse where I live for the summer. Past antics (which are too numerous to mention in full) include ice cream cake fights, marshmallow throwing, doughnuts on a string, jumping from the second floor onto high jump mats, indoor climbing, swimming through potholes, and massive bonfires, just to name a few.

When you're not working, how do you like to spend your free time?

Probably the only job I’ll ever have is one when you spend your day off doing the same thing as when you’re at work.  That’s right: even on our days off, we go paddle.  

How did you spend your winter?

In the winter I head to Big Sky Montana and help manage the main rental shop at the base of the mountain.  It’s a great indoor job with awesome staff.  In the middle of the day we all scramble to get turns in on the mountain.  Big Sky is a huge peak; I’ve been out here seven years and still ski new chutes on any given day.

What's a little-known fact about you?

I’m from Mass and I don’t like seafood at all.

Anything else you’d like to add?

This area is incredible.  My friends, family, this company, and the whole paddling community are what keep me coming back year after year.  

Thanks for the interview, Jim! Tune in to the next newsletter for another edition of the Staff Spotlight. 

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