Proteam Ryan Rushton Lendal carbon Storm kayak paddle

Ryan Rushton

Age:  41

Home:  Ketchikan, Alaska

Childhood home:  Madison, WI & Chicago, IL

Profession:  Travel/Tourism, Paddlesports Guide & Trainer

Height:  5’11

Weight:  190 lbs

Philosophy of Life:  Don’t try to balance the different aspects of your life, seek to create mutually beneficial situations.


My parents fostered a love for the outdoors at an early age and I started paddling as a child while on family river trips in the northwoods of Wisconsin and Michigan. It was on those trips, and family camping vacations to the Rocky Mountains of the US and Canada, that I grew to love the outdoors. I was very fortunate in that they sent me to a summer camp which took campers on extended canoe expeditions. As I grew older, I started to lead those trips and worked for the camp as a guide.

I went to college with the outdoors in mind and started to get my degree as an educator. While at Western Illinois University, I discovered that the school had a fantastic outdoor leadership program and the professors inspired me to get more involved in outdoor education and wilderness leadership. Gaining experience in remote winter expeditions and whitewater paddling, I started guiding trips around N. America.

As I sought to expand my professional outdoor leadership opportunities, I was introduced to sea kayaking and became an instructor with the ACA. One thing lead to another and I ended up owning a Kayak Center and Outdoor School for 10 years. During that period of life, I expanded my personal training and qualifications. I furthered my training with the ACA, becoming a Level 5 Open Water Kayak Sea Kayak Instructor and eventually a L5 Instructor Trainer.  I also trained in the BCU, traveling to the UK to paddle and become one of North America’s youngest BCU 5* Sea Leaders. As my experience and certifications grew, I was able to draw clients looking to kayak in remote and dynamic waters, guiding them on fantastic coastlines around the world.

Whilst guiding and teaching had become a passion of mine, I was spending more time away from my wife and young children and made the decision to pursue a career path that would keep me closer to home. For almost five years I worked in real estate development and construction, guiding and teaching part-time. Being around my family is a choice that I’m happy with every day, but there was a part of me that felt called to go back to something that I loved. We began to look for a new direction that was mutually beneficial to all of us. As of 2017, we call Alaska home and our story continues in the “last frontier.”


As a resident of Southeast Alaska, Ryan is fortunate to live and work on one of the world’s most rugged and beautiful coastlines. Inspired by the sea, mountains and people he shares the water with, his aim is to help develop boaters to the level where they have their own amazing experiences. Ryan’s approach is student-focused and influenced by coaching at top symposiums, leading expeditions along remote coastlines, training instructors/guides and running courses around N. America and internationally. “I really enjoy working with paddlers at all stages of their development – helping them achieve their goals – even what they didn’t think possible! No matter how serious you are about your boating, it’s all about having fun, discovering and having an adventure!”

“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”

-Jimmy Dean.


Started Paddling:

Age 4 – I started paddling with my family on canoe trips in the northwoods Wisconsin and Michigan. Once in middle school, I went to a summer outdoor camp with extended canoe expeditions. It was on one of those canoe trips that I first saw paddlers in whitewater kayaks. They looked so cool paddling their Perception Dancers in their Stohlquist teal and purple kit, I had to give it a go!

Biggest Influencers:

  • My father – who invested so much time and energy into us kids, introduced me to the outdoors, was my first paddling partner and set the highest example of a father, husband and friend.
  • Professors Steve Burr & Michael McGowan. For inspiring my first Alaska trip and showing me what an outdoor professional looks like.


Spending time with my family in the mountains and on the sea, trail running, ski touring, fishing and playing guitar/piano.

 Jobs other than Kayaker:

I am the Director of Operations (in the ports of Sitka and Ketchikan) for Alaska Travel Adventures. Alaska Travel Adventures is one of Alaska oldest and largest providers of shore excursions.

 Kayak Strengths:

Paddling in tide races; Guiding/Teaching paddlers in remote and dynamic waters; Navigation; and Instructor Training & Development

 Claimed Weaknesses:

Traditional Paddling




 Favorite Foods:

Chicago Style Pizza, Hotdogs and Italian Beef! Fresh seafood from my home waters, good sushi and the traditional Bohemian foods my mom, and now we as a family, make from scratch.


Team Lendal

Favorite trip:

It’s hard to pick a favorite trip or spot. Some of my favorite areas/trips include the coast of Maine/Bay of Fundy/Nova Scotia, the entire coastline of Georgia (so warm!!), and the UK.

Worst trip:

A winter snowshoe backpacking trip with my sister and fiancee (now wife). Neither of them like winter backcountry travel anymore!!!

Favorite people to paddle with:  

My children. My friends Haris and Jeffrey.

Scariest kayak moment:

I don’t really have a scariest moment. I do have loads of moments where I am at full attention!!!

Your Dream trip / Big plans for the next 6 months/year:

I am in progress on my dream trip, which is paddle the outer coast of British Columbia and Alaska from Seattle to Dutch Harbor. This is not one continuous trip, it is many trips over many years. While many paddle the Inside Passage, paddling the outer coast requires a different level of sea kayaker – skills, decision-making, seamanship and determination. As a reward, the scenery, wildlife and sense of accomplishment is unparalleled. Now that I’ve moved to Ketchikan I’m planning the next stretch from Prince Rupert, BC (with a play at Butze Rapids) to Craig, AK (Prince of Wales Island) and then Craig to Sitka, AK. To follow this adventure and see the parts of the coastline I’ve already paddled, visit my page at www.theopencoast.com