MEET THE TEAM:
Paul Moffatt-Founder and lead instructor
Paul was born in Detroit, Michigan and grew up in the suburbs playing basketball, baseball and football. After a decade of bouncing from the beaches of Southern California, to the mountains of Colorado, he moved to Whitefish, MT. Once he became certified in Outdoor Emergency Care, he spent six years as a volunteer for the Flathead Nordic Ski Patrol and a part time pro-patroller at Blacktail Mountain Ski Area.
In the early summers of living in Montana, Paul became a raft guide in West Glacier which eventually exposed him to the sport of whitewater kayaking. He and his friends were among the many volunteers who helped out as instructors and camp counselors for the famous First Descents organization which provides free Kayak instruction to young adults, 18-39 with varying types of cancer. It was this experience along with having volunteered for the handicap ski program at Winter Park which led him to the vision for the Montana Kayak Academy.
Before long, Paul realized that most of the kayakers he knew began paddling in their late 20’s and early 30’s. Many of whom wished they had started much earlier. After many discussions with his paddling family, he aspired to create a platform for local youth to learn the sport in a fun, safe, nurturing environment. An environment that offers certified instructors at no cost to the kids or their parents. The idea was that these lucky future kayakers could be taught the basics at a young age and learn at a healthy pace. Hence, the dream which would become the MKA.
Having also coached little league baseball and kids hockey, Paul looks forward to sharing his passion for the river and the outdoors while passing on his knowledge to local children and teenagers. He and the crew at MKA want to help create a new generation of active members of the community who understand the value and importance of wild places as well as learning to live in the moment, and respect the rivers and the environment which surrounds them.
Chris grew up in Northwestern Oregon where his love of rivers started at an early age. From canoeing with family to multi day whitewater rafting trips, Chris knew that his life would be spent near rivers. After a week long wilderness float on the Rouge river during junior high, it became clear that community and river stewardship would consume a large portion of his dreams. A good friend would change Chris’ life in the spring of 2003 by encouraging him to explore whitewater kayaking. From that day forward there wasn’t much that Chris would rather be doing. Soon the kayaking community in the Flathead Valley became family and the phone began to ring whenever the river levels would rise. Chris spends the majority of his kayaking days near his home on the Swan River in Bigfork and some of the nearby creeks in the surrounding mountains.
Chris’ experience as a high school track coach has provided a solid foundation for his kayaking instruction, and he enjoys sharing the beauty, camaraderie, and joy of whitewater kayaking. “Sharing in others joy is what makes this opportunity to teach kids so rewarding. With so many beautiful rivers within minutes of here, I look forward to watching the new stewards grow and continue to share their passion.”
In June of 2015, Chris welcomed his son and pride and joy into the world. Along with his Hound Dog Eddy (a regular at the kayaking events at the river), the three of them couldn’t be happier to be a part of Montana Kayak Academy, and look forward to inspiring young children through stewardship and excitement with the rivers!
Steve Spanogle-founder and instructor
Steve was raised in Indiana and received a degree in Conservation. In 1994 he moved to Montana to enjoy the outdoor lifestyle in the Flathead Valley. He attended Montana State University and received a degree in Fish and Wildlife Management. He has been a civil servant for Montana for over 20 years and has had the opportunity to reside in several locations throughout the western half of Montana. He and his family moved to the Flathead in 2006 and fell in love with the area. Steve has also worked as a professional fishing and hunting guide and spends his time during the fall in the backcountry.
After watching the Bigfork Whitewater Festival in 2007, Steve was inspired and learned how to kayak. Although he is mostly self taught, he has become one of the most solid, powerful paddlers in the area; cutting his teeth on his backyard run – the “Wild Mile “. His favorite waters include the Swan and Kootenai rivers and he was recently employed as a safety boater for the river scene in the new Leonardo DiCaprio movie; “The Reverent ” filmed at Kootenai Falls.
Steve believes that whitewater kayaking allows a person to have a truly intimate and unique connection with the awesome power of the river. He feels this incredible sport teaches all to live in the moment while sharing these experiences with family and friends in places only wild rivers go.
His favorite activities include hiking, climbing, fishing, hunting and, of course… kayaking!
Mike Dezzani-founder and instructor
Some say he was raised by wolves, but truly he was born and raised in Papua New Guinea. His humble beginnings lead him to understand the meaning of “other, other white meat”. To escape cannibalism, Mike found his solace in kayaking. He brings the same “survival kayaking instinct” to Montana Kayak Academy. “Kayak or Die!” Ask Mike, he really lived this old adage. We are happy to have his primal instincts on our team.
Enough kayaking enthusiasm for and army! Enough said. Travis is thrilled to be able to teach youth whitewater kayaking.