Read about Jo's Zep Experience

Jo’s Instructor Academy Experience

What’s your biking and/or teaching background?

I’ve been riding for a number of years, with a bit of racing for fun. For teaching I had coached casually for a couple years and had previously taken the PMBI Level 1 Instructor course, in New Zealand.

Why did you sign up for a ZEP Instructor Academy (why you want to teach biking)?

At the beginning of the year I was pretty burnt out from study and work, so I decided to take a break from study, quit my full time desk job and book a trip to Whistler for 7 weeks of pure riding! I was keen to do a MTB camp to improve my skills, ride some new tracks, meet some new people, and most importantly have a good time.

The ZEP Instructor Training camp appealed to me as I had been instructing MTB casually for a couple of years, and had taken part in a level one course run by Paul when PMBI visited NZ. I was keen to learn more about MTB coaching so I could be a better instructor, and knew that ZEP and PMBI are good at what they do and that I would gain a lot from spending a few weeks with them.

What expectations did you have going in?

I already had my PMBI Level 1 from New Zealand, so I kind of had pretty high expectations. The three day Level 1 was great, but now I had signed up for a five week training camp with ZEP, in Whistler! Like anything that's expensive, you hope it's worthwhile. I was hoping my riding would be pushed to the next level and I really wanted to learn more about teaching. Really break it down, learn more about riding techniques and different teaching and coaching methods to pass them on to students.

How did the ZEP Instructor Academy go for you?

The course itself was awesome! Five weeks of riding and learning with a brilliant crew of people in the Whistler Bike Park - this was my first time in Whistler and it blew my mind! I really wanted to work on improving my own riding and had never been taught/coached before other than the level 1 course, so working with some excellent coaches was so valuable.

A highlight of the camp for me was the confidence boost from having a trained eye believe that, "yes you can" ride that feature. This helped me push myself and I managed to ride some features and trails I don't think I would have ridden otherwise. Stoke levels were high! I am now so much more aware of my own riding, techniques I can use in different situations, things I can do to improve, and what I can experiment with.

Having had this deep exploration into my own riding has made it easier to convey concepts and techniques to others while instructing. Also, appreciating what a good coach can do for a rider has totally validated what an awesome job being an mtb instructor is! It is rewarding knowing that as an instructor you can contribute to helping a rider learn something new or improve themselves in some way. The ZEP and PMBI coaches were brilliant!

What’s happened since (how your riding’s improved/did you get a job/rest of the season, etc)?

I was offered a job with the Whistler Mountain Bike Park and started work as a DFX coach on the dailies program, coaching kids. A few days in, I got a call from my manager and was asked whether I wanted to take a club group for the summer, as I had my Level 2 and they needed someone who could coach jumping. I thought this sounded ideal, as I would be able to teach the same kids all summer and see them progress, which is one of the reasons I love coaching. This was the best decision I made, as I had an awesome season, teaching some kids that, at the start of the season, were easily lapping black trails like A-line and Original Sin and working on double black trails. I also took 2 of my groups on ‘Top of the World’ - one of my goals for the season.

I was busy most of the summer with lessons, working a minimum of 35 hours a week. My riding improved dramatically and I rode pretty much every trail in the Bike Park! September and October were a lot quieter, so I really had a chance to work on my personal riding. During the whole season, I rode more than 400 laps and descended over 150,000 vertical metres.

One of the season highlights was Crankworx, which I would thoroughly recommend to all bikers. Most major bike companies come to Whistler for the event and allow you to demo their bikes which is cool. I met lots of pro riders and saw all the events in person, including Red Bull Joyride from the VIP area (courtesy of a parent of one of the kids I was teaching - thank you again for that Kevin!)

What’s happened since (how your riding’s improved/did you get a job/rest of the season, etc)?

I came away from the course with a bunch of new friends from around the world, a Level 2 PMBI instructor qualification, and a whole load of new knowledge ready to put into practice, as well as having the best Summer of riding ever with some awesome people! I look forward to continuing to work on improving my instructing and riding from here and having a good time doing it.

I've since got a job co-ordinating a youth mtb programme, and instructing womens mtb workshops in New Zealand for Summer, and will be heading back to Canada on a work visa next summer where I hope to continue working as an instructor. Thanks ZEP for helping me get the skills to do such a cool job!

Read about Rory's Zep Experience

Rory's Instructor Academy Experience

What’s your biking and/or teaching background?

I have been riding mountain bikes for around 12 years, beginning in the UK and then in New Zealand for the last 10 years. Whilst mountain biking has always been my passion, I have also enjoyed riding bikes of other shapes and sizes. The technical and physical progression within mountain biking is why I love it so much, feeling your riding improve is just so satisfying, which is probably why I have focused on Mountain Biking for so long.

I have never really been a competitive rider, I prefer getting out on my trail bike and exploring the wilderness or cutting some laps at the bike park with some pals. There is nothing better than getting on a bike and silencing all the day to day thoughts in my mind.

I have ridden throughout most of New Zealand, making some amazing friends along the way and riding some of the worlds best trails. I hope it continues that way!

Why did you sign up for a ZEP Instructor Academy (why you want to teach biking)?

I signed up for a ZEP camp for two main reasons. First, I wanted to make a positive move away from my stable office job into the MTB industry. I decided that I was going to follow my dreams, and work towards a role in MTB coaching. Second, I wanted to be able to share my passion for the sport, get people stoked on riding their bikes and help progress their riding skills.

Before I had signed up to a ZEP camp, I was finding that I was being asked by beginner riders how to perform certain manoeuvres on their bikes – for example one rider asked me “how can I corner faster?”. I’d consider myself a competent rider, but most of my riding skills have come from experience and sometimes learning the hard way. Put simply, I didn’t have a clue what to say to the guy. I struggled to explain what I was doing with either my bike or body, and why I was doing it – it was all locked within my subconscious and muscle memory. Despite my years of riding, I wasn’t able to offer much more than “I dunno, you just do it”.

It made me think that it would be so rewarding to be able to break down manoeuvres like cornering, offer some quality advice on how its done, and see this guy’s riding improve. So, I signed up to a ZEP five week camp to get the understanding and skills to become an instructor. I quit my office job the following week and have never looked back!

What expectations did you have going in?

I had never had any experience with coaching before, so I was coming into the ZEP camp with an open mind and ready to learn. I just made sure that I kept my eyes and ears open at all times to learn as much as I could!

How did the ZEP Instructor Academy go for you?

The ZEP camp was undoubtedly the best five weeks I have had on a mountain bike. Perhaps more importantly, I also found it was the most valuable five weeks on a mountain bike. The camp was an incredible learning experience, both for improving my own riding and learning how to teach others to improve theirs, too.

The instructors at ZEP were awesome, it was great to spend time with each instructor and listen to their individual perspectives on different subjects. Whether it was about my riding or teaching, each instructor offered constructive, friendly feedback on how to improve. Putting the feedback into practice often ended up with a ‘lightbulb’ moment, noticing the improvement is a fantastic feeling. It was cool to see how each instructor has developed their own style of teaching, and each one noticed different things about my riding. The quality and depth of instruction was a huge highlight for me. Off the bikes, ZEP were always available to help out in any way and really made you feel looked after.

The PMBI courses within the camp gave a great goal to focus on and work towards. Being with the ZEP instructors prior to the PMBI courses meant that I was familiar with the concepts within the courses, but the courses still had a huge amount of fresh material. The PMBI courses had more of a emphasis on practice teaching and working from the PMBI framework on how to teach skills and manoeuvres. I particularly loved learning about the biomechanics and physics behind these skills – and then learning how to communicate these to students.

What better location than Whistler to ride for five weeks? Having the choice of either riding the bike park or exploring the local trail networks was great - the riding in Whistler is everything I had heard about, and more. Our condo was on Blackcomb mountain, an ideal launching pad to explore the Blackcomb mountain trails on “rest” days.

The other ZEP campers were a brilliant bunch of people to share the experience with. I know that they will be lifetime friends, and there are plenty of future rides and beers that will be had together!

What’s happened since (how your riding’s improved/did you get a job/rest of the season, etc)?

Since the ZEP camp, I’ve moved to Queenstown in New Zealand. I am working in a bike shop at the moment and getting involved within the local scene, meeting new people and riding heaps. My intention is to return to Whistler for the 2018 season and work in the bike park as an instructor, which the PMBI qualifications have enabled me to do. I love living in NZ and my long term goal is to guide or teach mountain biking here.

I can really feel myself applying the concepts and teaching points from the ZEP camp and PMBI courses to make sure my riding is always improving. As a bit of a side effect of having acquired this knowledge, I have now become my own number one critic – usually getting through sections of trail, thinking how I can change things to make me ride it better next time!

Anything else you think is relevant/fun/interesting

At the end of our second to last day of riding, our instructor gave us a few options of what we could potentially ride on our last day. One of the campers flippantly suggested a heli drop followed by a bit of chuckle. Well, ZEP had the chopper booked and organized everything within an hour, and we all had a once in a lifetime ride down rainbow mountain the following morning.

This was a perfect example of the flexibility of the camp and the efforts of ZEP’s crew to make the camp as rad as possible. After about a billion pictures, we finally got down the mountain and took a dip in the lake – a fairy-tale end to the camp!

Most importantly, I feel like if someone asked me a question on what to do to improve an aspect of their riding, I could now answer it with confidence. The ZEP camp and PMBI courses have given me a logical structure to teach from, a much deeper understanding of the sport and some awesome experiences to share with other riders.

Read about Sams's Zep Experience

Sam's Instructor Academy Experience

What’s your biking and/or teaching background?

I have been mountain biking since I was two, visited my first trail centre when I was 6 and entered my first xc race when I was 9. Since then, I have competed in multiple xc races and xc orienteering competitions. When I was 12, I completed a 100km (1700m climb) off road ride around the Isle of White. In my early teens, I started to shift my riding more towards gravity riding at trail centres and downhill centres with uplifts and competed in Enduro events around England and Wales.

On a Family holiday to the USA, I rode at Snowmass and had my first taste of chairlift assisted riding and was instantly hooked. I went to a skills clinic and by the end of the day, I rode down their hardest trail, Valhalla, clearing all the jumps and features; one of the best trails I had ridden at that point. I thought the guy running my lesson had a pretty cool job and that maybe I could do that one day. The next summer, I rode at Les Arcs in the French Alps and this greatly improved my downhill riding skills, giving me more confidence on steep terrain, roots, drops and jumps.

In summer 2016, I finished school and on the day of my last exam, I flew out to New Zealand, for their winter season, where I took the Snowtrainers’ Snowboard Instructor training course and passed my Children’s Certification, Level 1 and Level 2 SBINZ qualifications. As soon as I was qualified, I was itching to instruct and arranged to spend the 16/17 winter in Japan as a Snowboard instructor, which was a truly amazing experience. I was blown away by the amount of snow and my riding and teaching greatly improved. I gained experience teaching a large variety of people from diverse backgrounds, with a range of skill levels and goals and this helped to progress my teaching.

Why did you sign up for a ZEP Instructor Academy (why you want to teach biking)?

My positive experiences instructing in other disciplines, such as tennis and snowboarding, gave me the desire to instruct mountain biking and to receive the same satisfaction in seeing my students progress, in another of the sports that I love. I did some research about courses and found the ZEP course in Whistler and I thought what better place to do a season and a training course, than the capital of mountain biking.

The course also sounded great, as the methodology (PMBI) has a lot of similarities with snowboarding, so this would allow me to transfer over my previous knowledge to a new sport. I also liked how the exams we would be taking were the official qualifications of Whistler Bike Park, which are internationally recognized, and how the course set you up well for a job at the Bike Park.

What expectations did you have going in?

I did not have high expectations of the accommodation as on the snowboard instructor course, the accommodation in New Zealand was very primitive, with 4 people in bunk beds crammed in tiny rooms and no hot water or heating for some of the time. When I arrived in Whistler, I was very surprised to find how awesome the accommodation was - large rooms, balconies, hot tub, fire pit, large, comfy lounge area with a massive tv, secure bike storage and a gondola set up as a workshop with tools and bike stands for maintaining bikes.

I initially planned to do the 3-week course and take my Level 1 PMBI and then take my Level 2 at the end of the season. However, a few weeks before the course, I was offered the opportunity to extend my course and take the Level 2 as well.

I drew up the pros and cons and decided it was worth the gamble as PMBI offers a free resit and I was planning to take my Level 2 at the end of the season anyway. I was a bit apprehensive about the progression I would need to make in my riding, in such a short time, to pass my Level 2 and was worried about the risk of injury, but my coach Duncan Mainland did a great job at keeping me safe and getting my riding up to scratch!

How did the ZEP Instructor Academy go for you?

On the 1st day the coaches sorted us into groups based on an initial skills assessment performing various manoeuvres, such as bunny hops and wheel lifts and a game of foot down (riding in an enclosed area and not being allowed to put our feet down). We then proceeded onto our first xc ride of the camp around Lost Lake. When I came onto the course I considered myself a reasonable rider and thought I could tackle some pretty tough stuff in the UK; Whistler soon proved this wrong. The most challenging trails we rode were blues and they were up there with some of the harder xc trails I had ridden before. It was sick! And what was with all the wood?!

I wasn’t quite prepared for how intense the riding days were going to be and came home each day completely exhausted. We stayed at Bear Back Biking’s chalet and I need to give a big shout out to Will, the chef, who managed to keep 13 hungry bikers satisfied every day, with truly delicious meals - I still miss those brownies!

Soon enough, it was Bike Park Opening Day. The night before we had all been watching youtube videos of various trails and a wave of fear/excitement began to build. I didn’t sleep much that night, it was Whistmass! 1st chair we were all buzzing, couldn’t wait to ride! We rode down ‘Easy Does It’ to begin with; a lap many coaches got to know very well, when teaching beginner lessons. Throughout the rest of day, we worked our way through some blue tech trails and then in the afternoon worked on our jumping technique, before getting a couple of laps in on ‘Crank It Up’. I loved it! Then to finish off a great 1st week we had ‘apres’ at the GLC, all included as part of the course, which was a nice touch. Week two was spent working on a mix of riding and teaching and everyone improved dramatically! Second half of the week was exam time and everyone was nervous again. This had come around very quickly! I learnt a lot during the exam and nearly everyone else passed 1st time. The person who didn’t, passed the following week. There was a big celebration that night and our first chance to discover the Whistler night life, which is lively!

Week three was about rider development and my group were tackling some double blacks, including some favourites such as ‘Dirt Merchant’ and ‘Schleyer’ and getting comfortable lapping ‘A Line’, which was awesome! At the end of the week we were given special access, to take the gondola to the top of Whistler for a snow ride! This involved a lot of crashes as we all careered down ski runs out of control, but was great fun and we all made it down in one piece. However, I didn’t realize quite how tired I was, when I returned through the Bike Park, I crashed on our lap down ‘A Line’ - goodbye helmet 1! Still, riding down the snow was an amazing experience and one I shall remember for the rest of my life. The last weeks concentrated on Level 2, riding much harder trails and learning how to teach advanced level riders on them, with a focus on jumps and drops. I improved a huge amount, but was still worried whether I was at the standard required for the exam. I worked hard over the weekend on both my teaching and riding and studied the manual as much as I could. Soon enough exam week came around and the nerves for everyone were high again. I went through the exam riding to the best of my ability and tried to give the best lessons I could and before I knew it the exam was over.

That was it! Five weeks and several thousand pounds invested into what was now going to be a pass/fail result, that would impact my coming instructing season. Waiting and not knowing whether I passed was the hardest part, my mind and heart were racing! Paul eventually called us all in and started handing out results, not many people had certificates and when he gave me the papers. I saw my results sheet and no certificate and thought I had failed. I then realized the certificate was hidden behind - I had done it! I’d passed!!!

How relevant was the ZEP training to the industry?

The training provided on the course was super relevant to the industry and set me up very well for the PMBI exams. It provided a lot of information in a short period of time and the trainers were good at explaining everything. The riding training was also great, teaching me things I would previously not even have considered doing on my bike, that initially felt completely wrong and daunting, but when you got used to them, worked very well and made sense. I found the training really helped me as an instructor and has set me up in a good position to progress to higher levels and to continue down my career path as an instructor for snowboarding and mountain biking.

Anything else you think is relevant/fun/interesting?

Having my Level 2 and working in Whistler, also set me up very well to get pro deals with bike companies, bike clothing brands and bike equipment manufacturers. I made lots of new friends from all around the World, on both the course and my season in Whistler, they were just as stoked on biking as I am and they will always be people I can go riding with.


"Last summer was without doubt one of the best! I feel so fortunate to have found ZEP and to have had Paul as my coach. After 15+yrs of riding I decided it was time to ingest; to take myself seriously as a mountain bike and so it meant a lot that ZEP did too.

You were supportive and patient and clearly knew how to get me where I wanted to be… I doubt the feeling when I rode off and landed the Face to Black drop will ever go away! Best of all we had fun getting there. By the end of the season I was literally (and am still) riding beyond my wildest dreams. And for that I’ll forever be grateful to ZEP. Thank you!"


"Also, huge thanks to Jake and ZEP for a great 3 days of coaching! It was a lot of fun riding with him! My riding and confidence has improved GREATLY. I rode Fromme and Seymore over the last few days, plus Stage 5 of the EWS course at Whistler yesterday (plus other runs) and had an absolute blast, and put all the lessons into play.

Thanks again, and i look forward to future sessions with ZEP!"

Rob Nadolny

Please again pass on my thanks to Jake and the ZEP Team. I really enjoyed the day. I have had private coaching twice previously and I found that Jake\'s manner of explanation to be the most effective by far for me. He was exactly as encouraging as I needed without pushing me too hard, especially as I was in a rather fragile state of mind after the big race!

He made a couple of really key changes to my riding technique, and this made a massive difference. I am pleased to say that in the few days we had in the bike park after the coaching session that I successfully and confidently rode some of the trail features that we had discussed on the day. My husband was really impressed with my gains in confidence also, and I actually had to show him how to ride one rock rollover, which was a first for us in 15+ years of riding together. Thank you to Jake for an excellent day!Helen
Private Lesson

"I've been working with Paul for a couple years but the critical turning point for me was the first day, first lap. I was following Paul and somehow, I swear without looking back, he had already picked out the major tweak in my cornering technique that had been derailing me for years. It's been great to work with a real coach, with such an understanding of the fundamentals that he can recognize a small element like that and then help me to build on it and not the more common " watch me, here's how to corner."

Grant Hvidos
Private Coaching

"I wanted to take another opportunity to say thanks for providing such a great Level 1 PMBIA clinic a couple of weeks ago. I learned so much about my riding and how I plan on helping others."


Ian Fitzpatrick

"What a month!! The 4-week course with ZEP in Whistler was a blast and is an experience I will never forget. The course started by getting our own riding up to scratch and then took us through everything you need to identify what a client should truly be getting from a quality Professional Mountain Bike Instructor. From the real riding basics, to teaching more advanced maneuvers, the course allowed us to push our riding while teaching us how to coach others in the most effective manner.

The ZEP Coaches' expert, local knowledge allowed us to maximize the masses of riding terrain there is in Whistler and helped us hone our riding/teaching skills on the world's best trails. Thanks v, I know I'll be riding for life now and loving every minute of it!"

Phillip Vorburger
Two-week ZEP Camper

"I would like to thank Paul and Ross for another fantastic two week rider improvement camp, in the best learning environment that is Whistler. These guys have the ability to get the best out your riding and giving you the knowledge to improve your riding beyond what you thought you where capable of. Their relaxed and flexible way they teach gives you confidence to take what you learn and put it in practice anywhere, on any trail, anytime."

Sam Hill (not the Sam Hill)
Two-week ZEP Camper

"Just a quick not to say thanks to the ZEP crew for an awesome two weeks. Not only have they made my first trip to whistler a comfortable one, but also they organized the extra accommodation I needed. I did the 2 week camp and as a rider, I’ve progressed so much more in those two weeks than I ever have. Along with new mountain biking skills they have also refined my existing riding skills. Paul and Ross's mountain biking knowledge and expertise are second to none and it shows through the students improved riding."

Ashley Palmer
Instructor Training Camp

Riding with, and being coached by some of the best people in the industry, in possibly one of the best riding locations in the world... was just incredible. My experience of the PMBI course was progressive and professional as well as being in a fun and relaxed environment. The camp exceeded my expectations and the ZEP Coaches were awesome!

Lewis Collins
5 week Instructor Training Camp

My 4 weeks with Paul (aka Captain ZEP) were exactly what Mountain Bike Australia magazine described it. LIFE CHANGING! The natural progression and the incredible teaching skills of Paul made all my dreams come true. Right from having the time of my life in the incredible setting of Lost Lake trails to the cloudy mountains of Whistler & Silverstar Bike Parks. Smashing the world renowned A-Line was a highlight, of which there were many. ZEP really gave me the opportunity to step it up, to learn to teach and have the time of my life. Thank you ZEP, I will be back!

Nathan Spencer
4 week Instructor Training Camp

I just wanted to thank you again for all your help! You have an amazing gift of breaking down seemingly impossible/difficult concepts into the most basic and simplest elements. Your easy to follow instructions, focusing on the "down and dirty", rather than on all the 'fluff', acted like a bell going off in my head - things just 'clicked'. Learning to jump and actually control the jump is the skill that I was most excited to learn this weekend and feel that with you help, I'm well on my way! Even days later, I feel like I'm on 'Crank it up' yelling, 'wee, wee, WEEEEEE!!!!!' and am smiling ear to ear like a giddy mountain biker!"

Jennefer Traynor

Paul Howard has refined my abilities as a coach, competitor and all around freerider. His coaching style is made unique by his intuitive ability to understand what individual riders need to achieve their goals, from dissecting a trick to visualizing the end result. What Paul offers is a rare brand of insight, foresight and experience, and most importantly the skill of infusing confidence.

Anita Nadiu

"Thank you sooo much! I had several successful days after our coaching and feel like I am now able to implement some of your wisdom into my riding. I took my husband and his buddy on "River" again and not only did they love it I was showered with complements from the boys. COOL!."

Barbara Clarke

"Brad and I left Whistler the end of August and made it back to Ontario. Brad and I both wanted to thank you for your skills and support this summer. Brad had great experiences under your direction and felt more comfortable and able to deal with trails both on the network and the mountain park. We hope to return to Whistler on a full time basis in 2008 and will require your coaching in the spring. All the best this fall and winter!"

Brad & Jo Monteith

"Paul has taught me everything I know about mountain biking. Every lesson that I've had with him, which is a lot!, has been so helpful and of course, fun! I haven't met anyone that knows as much as he does about biking, from everything to technique to just knowing the trails."

Paul Kluge, co-instructor
Brighton, UK

"People always say that once you learn how to ride a bike, you never forget. I was 22 years old and had never learned to ride a bike when I met Paul Howard. He not only taught me the technical skills I needed to ride, but also gave me the confidence I needed to not be afraid. There are few people who really change your life and I can confidently say that Paul Howard has changed mine and I think of him every time I ride my mountain bike through the trails, loving every bump along the way."

Wendi Hausfeld
23 yrs old, USA

"Paul Howard is a fantastic mountain biking instructor. When he introduced me to the sport many years ago... Paul was patient with his students and presented obstacles well suited to our skills and experience. He has confidence in his students to overcome these obstacles on the way to having fun and experiencing the thrill of downhill biking."

Amy Fleischer
19 yrs old, USA

"I have observed Paul Howard in an instructional capacity over a five year period, he connects with his pupils and has a passionate understanding of biking, it's great to see someone find their calling"

Michael Brennan
Cape Town South Africa, Father of Jack Danger Brennan

"Paul has the incredible ability to combine teaching and fun into his instruction of biking techniques. There is never a dull moment on the trails and at the end of the day you know you've improved as a rider and have also had an unforgettable time."

Shelley Moskowitz
17 yrs old, UK