Meet Your Instructors
David Hicks is a sea kayaking coach, guide, and manager of the Kayak Connection in the Monterey Bay on the central coast of California. He grew up playing in the waves of southern California and spent his childhood wondering what it would be like to explore beyond the crowded beaches, which first led him to the world of sailing during college. He lived on his sailboat for many years and taught sailing in Santa Cruz but eventually found his way to sea kayaking after failing at outboard engine mechanics and wanting to get closer to the rocks. He spent 10 years as a traveling musician while working as a sea kayaking guide on the side, but eventually left the touring life to be a coach and a manager full time with the Kayak Connection where he has worked since 2010. David is a Level 4 Open Water Coastal Kayaking ACA Instructor, and he spends his time teaching beginning through advanced sea kayaking for local sea kayakers and new guides at the Kayak Connection. He also spends lots of time searching for wildlife, building things, and playing with kayaks in the waves.
Photo credit: Roger Aguirre Smith
After relocating to Santa Cruz, David Santaniello was immediately drawn to the sea. He soon realized that kayaking would be the best way to explore the rocky and dynamic California Coast, and it quickly became one of his passions. When he’s not coaching, you’ll most likely find him paddling among the rock gardens around Monterey Bay and Big Sur. David enjoys pushing his limits in dynamic water and scouting the coastline for features to play with.
Since completing his Masters in Earth Science, David has pursued a career in paddlesports and is an American Canoe Association Level 5 Advanced Open Water Coastal Kayak Instructor as well as a British Canoeing Paddlesport Instructor and Sea Kayak Leader. He regularly coaches at symposiums along the west coast and loves sharing his excitement for paddling and helping others become more comfortable and confident on the water!
Ian DeVille is a transplant from the southeastern United States. In 2009 he moved to California, but it wasn’t until 2013 that he resided in Monterey. While finishing a degree he discovered the Monterey Bay and decided to make it his new home! His first ocean experiences were snorkeling and scuba diving off the coast of Florida. It would be these adolescent experiences that drew him to the sea.
Ian started working for Kayak Connection before the summer of 2016 and since then he has worked to improve his kayaking and stand up paddling skills. His involvement in a variety of different sports, including rugby, made him a great fit for guiding and instruction. While playing rugby from high school through college he captained and coached several teams. When he is not guiding wildlife tours, instructing, or doing repairs he works as a certified personal trainer. Ian is currently an American Canoe Association Level 1 Kayak Instructor and looks forward to teaching others why he fell in love with paddle sports.
I have worked for Kayak Connection since 2004 as a guide and instructor. For over 10 years I have been the primary staff trainer. Since 2005 I have held Instructor Certification through the American Canoe Association, and currently am certified at Level 4 – Open Coast Sea Kayaking Instructor. Moving forward I plan on working towards becoming an Instructor Trainer with ACA. Teaching kayaking to the public and our newer staff is absolutely one of my favorite parts of this job.
Prior to working for Kayak Connection I paddled and coached outrigger canoeing, worked as whitewater raft guide, taught outdoor education and worked as an Outward Bound Instructor.. Additionally I have taught XC skiing for over 20 years and am certified as an instructor with the Professional Ski Instructors of America.
I have lived on the coast of California for most of my life and have always been infatuated with the ocean. Shortly after graduating from UC Santa Cruz with a degree in marine biology, I became a tour guide for Kayak Connection. It started as a summer job while I finished up my internship with the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and I haven’t left in three years. I fell in love with the job because it gave me the opportunity to be in the ocean everyday, where I can use my knowledge in the environment that I was the happiest.
My coworkers have been a huge support in my further development as a paddler and my favorite kayak activity is now surfing. I would like to teach others how to have as much fun kayaking in the surf as I do. Before Kayak Connection I was a volleyball coach and yoga instructor. I enjoy teaching others to succeed and excel in their pursuits. I am currently an American Canoe Association Level 1 Coastal Sea Kayaking instructor and I am training for my Level 2 and Level 3 certifications.
I started guiding sea kayaking in 2008. I had just about zero real training or skills when I landed the job, but the company puts you through a four day of course of how to do everything. I was quite exhausted by the end of that class. We did everything from basic strokes to advanced rescues out of the back of double sea kayaks. Launching off of a beach location we did a lot of surf zone as well. Well, I was hooked after that. I couldn’t remember having that much fun on the water and I wanted more.
New to the surf, I was very lucky to find coaches and they helped me grow and learn through many beatings. After a short time I started to do well in local competitions and eventually qualified for the US team in 2011. Since then, I have been lucky to attend the last three World Championships which were held in The Outer Banks, Australia, and Spain.
In 2013 I was fortunate to come on board as an instructor for Kayak Connection. My quality of life has never been better! Through the company I have been able to grow as a kayaker and also an… adult. They gave me the confidence to step up when the founder of the Santa Cruz Paddlefest was looking for someone to take up the torch. I am now the owner and organizer of the world’s largest and longest running paddle surf competition!
When I am not instructing Kayaking, running the shop at Kayak Connection, or planning SCPF, I’ll to be on the water. The Monterey Bay has me truly spoiled me for great places to surf and I take every opportunity I can to be out there.
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