MEET THE FOUNDER
FOUNDER, OWNER, DIRECTOR: JIM COFFEY
Jim Coffey is the Founder, Owner and Director of Esprit. The fledgling Esprit ran its first rafting trips in the spring of 1992. With just 2 rafts, safety equipment, and $500 to “last for the rest of his life,” Esprit managed to take 500 people rafting in their opening year. Jim knew that to survive amongst the larger, more established companies he had to do things differently and to this day Esprit strives to stand out from the rest of the outfitting pack.
Jim introduced using smaller, self-bailing rafts to the Ottawa. Whereas other outfitters use larger boats that hold up to 12 paying passengers, Jim decided that the value of the trip was MUCH better using smaller seven person rafts. Then he realized that instead of running just one channel of the river, that Esprit could take their guests down BOTH channels of the river. This provides Esprit guests with twice as many rapids…literally DOUBLE THE FUN!
Jim’s creative instinct for adventure didn’t stop with just the Ottawa. He pioneered rafting on the Petawawa River, added the Magnetawan, Kipawa and Gatineau so that Esprit could offer its guest a variety of rivers to explore rather than just one.
His entrepreneurial spirit and spirit of adventure then launched commercial riverboarding on the Ottawa, canoe trips and shuttles on a variety of rivers and an array of courses such as Wilderness First Aid and his passion and prowess of instructing Swiftwater Rescue.
Jim is a world renown leader in Swiftwater Rescue Instruction and has been honoured with a prestigious Higgins and Langley Award for excellence in Water Rescue. He also directs the Whitewater Intensive Leadership Development School (W.I.L.D) known internationally as the world’s most comprehensive Whitewater Guide Training program.
In 2008 National Geographic rated Esprit the world’s #1 whitewater outfitter. His lifelong dream of running the “worlds greatest river trips” has come true.
The last winter Jim had in Canada was in 1984. He has spent 4 seasons a year working as a guide, instructor and safety officer in over 40 countries worldwide. Esprit has been operating Adventure travel trips specializing in whitewater paddling in Mexico and Costa Rica since 1995. Since then he has explored countless rivers in Latin America including a world record-breaking run of the 18m Truchas waterfall in an open canoe.
Off the river, Jim is a passionate traveller. He is in charge of safety for the TV show “Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan” which travels the world filming unique cultural encounters as well as meetings with wild animals (which makes being in charge of safety a bit of a challenge). Recently with his longtime friend Eric Hebert, he circumnavigated the revered Mt. Kailash in western Tibet. It had been on his bucket list for many years.
Esprit reflects Jim’s personal philosophies as a vocal social and environmental advocate. He was a key voice in the “I Speak for Canadian Rivers” campaign, which brought attention to the importance of navigable waterways in Canada. He is trained as an ambassador for the Climate Project under the direction of Al Gore and Dr. David Suzuki. He has worked with Alexandra Cousteau on a series of videos to protect his beloved Ottawa River and is proud to be both an ally and friend of the Ottawa River Keeper Meredith Brown. He has had Elizabeth May at Esprit for dinner and has also spent the day rafting with Justin Trudeau (Jim was the guide).
Apart from his eco-advocacy, Jim is a determined voice for disenfranchised peoples as well as people with various challenges. Esprit will devise a way to take anyone with a passion to enjoy the river on an adventure of a lifetime. Esprit has opened their programs to those challenged by sight, hearing, mobility and well as the neurodivergent community. Jim, along with his wife Barbara and son Taïgan, are the founders of the award-winning foundation, “Whitewater Healing,” which specialized in sharing river experiences (rafting, canoeing, inflatable kayaking) with kids and families challenged with autism. Jim and Barbara have leveraged their connections and influence in the whitewater world and have amassed a team of ambassadors (some of which are the best paddlers in the world) to volunteer their time and to give and connect with the ASD community. Whitewater Healing events happen in various locations around the world including Canada, the USA, Mexico and Costa Rica.
Jim has an infectious spirit. He knows and lives “adventure” both professionally and personally. He motivates people to challenge themselves, to connect with the nature, to spend time outdoors. His expertise and enthusiasm, which is shared throughout all aspects of Esprit, allows you to enjoy, experience and discover YOUR Spirit of Adventure!