Meet Our Instructors

Scott Fisher
Founder & Instructor

A long-time resident of Northeast Tennessee, Scott has a deep affection and appreciation for the mountains and rivers of the region that he calls home. A former Army Infantry officer and graduate of Airborne and Ranger schools, he went on to successful corporate careers before deciding to combine his passion for the outdoors with his love of teaching to found NOLI. He is the former Safety and Education Chairperson for the Appalachian Paddling Enthusiasts and carries advanced instructor certifications in whitewater kayak and swiftwater rescue through the ACA and ITRA.  He is also a Level 3 Instructor Trainer for River Safety and Rescue. He has been instructing for close to 15 years, during which time he has taught hundreds of adults, youth and rescue professionals. Additionally, he teaches wilderness survival, wilderness navigation and Leave No Trace.

Viki Austin
Canoe Instructor

Although Viki has been canoeing since she was a kid, her most intense period of boating has been since 2012. Since then, canoeing has taken her to the most amazing places: the Southeast’s finest class 3 and 4 creeks, the jungle rivers of Costa Rica, the rivers of the Colorado Rockies and the Middle Fork of the Salmon. She's passionate about sharing the art of canoeing with folks who are just getting started, as well as helping experienced canoeists gain the skills and confidence they need to run harder whitewater and creeks. Teaching, for her, is a way to help create learning experiences for others, to share what she's learned, to honor those who have done the same for her, to grow the sport and to show gratitude for the amazing ways boating has helped shape her life.

Debbie Briscoe
Kayak Instructor

Debbie Briscoe is a native resident of TN and has enjoyed the outdoors most of her life. She started kayaking more than 20 years ago and strives to help others to break into the sport to enjoy it as much as she does. She has been a trip leader for beginner trips and weekend kayak outings with the Appalachian Paddling Enthusiasts Club and is currently the Class I-II/ Touring Trip Coordinator. Deb is an ACA Level 3 River Safety and Rescue Instructor and plays a leading role in our flatwater safety classes.  In her spare time you can find Deb kayaking, hiking and hammock camping and she enjoys campfire Dutch Oven cooking and multi day kayak camping expeditions. 

Joy Cook
Backpacking Instructor

Joy is pleased to be a part of the NOLI team! Backpacking and being in the great out of doors are her great passions. She has been backpacking seriously for 15 years and started in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. She has also backpacked in Yosemite National Park, the White Mountains of New Hamshire, the Grand Canyon and Glacier National Park. Nothing pleases her more than being out in the wilderness and sharing this with others. Joy is a wife, mother and grandmother. She is a retired RN from the State of TN.  She is a Yankee transplant to TN some 30 years ago and lives in Jonesborough. She feels that we are truly blessed to have one of the most glorious and wondrous areas to play in the world.

Robin Pope
Kayak, SWR & WFA Instructor & ITE

Robin is one of the leading ACA instructors and trainer educators in the country, having taught or mentored countless individuals in paddling and rescue over three decades. He is certified as an instructor trainer educator in swiftwater rescue (level 5), river kayaking (level 5) and prone paddling (level 3); and as an instructor in coastal kayaking (level 2) and canoeing (level 1). He is also certified as a lifeguard. He currently serves as Chair of ACA’s Board of Directors, secretary of ACA’s Safety and Rescue Committee and as a member of the US Coast Guard’s National Boating Safety Advisory Council. Robin lives with his family in Sylva, NC, where he works as a physician assistant for Mountain ENT. His work as a PA allows him to follow his avocation as a paddling and aquatics instructor.

Kayla Carter
Leave No Trace Instructor

Kayla is the Outdoor Development Manager for NETREP. Make sure you call Kayla by her trail name – Blossom – when she is hiking on the Appalachian Trail. She earned that trail name during her successful completion of the entire AT in 2014. Since then, Kayla has spent most weekends either maintaining her three-mile section of the AT along the Elk River, keeping it rubber side down on some local mountain bike trails or playing cover songs on her ukulele. She received her LNT Master Educator certification in 2018 at Lees-McCrae College.

Brad Eldridge
Canoe & Kayak Instructor

Brad has been drawn to the outdoors since childhood. From playing in the creek behind his childhood home, his interests grew into hiking throughout the Southwest, Grand Canyon, and Colorado Wilderness, technical rock climbing, and whitewater canoeing and kayaking. Being outside has always been a source of renewal, reflection, and recreation. Brad holds a degree in Forestry, and he worked several seasons for the Forest Service in Wilderness and Recreation management. He then made a professional shift and has been in private chiropractic practice since 1999. He is also a second degree black belt and instructor in Aikido, and an ACA certified L3 kayak instructor. As an instructor, Brad enjoys making the complex, simple. Skill progression is built on strong fundamentals!

Bill Schooley
Kayak Instructor

Bill has always been a boater.  He built his first boat, a hideously ugly raft, when he was 10 years old, and floated it in a polluted farm pond in Kansas.  And loved it.   When he found out about kayaking, it was 1979 and it was hard to find kayaks or gear for sale. He didn't know anybody who paddled a kayak so built his own boat out of fiberglass and his paddle out of a two by four and some plywood scraps. His mom sewed a sprayskirt for him and he hit the river.  Fun? Oh heck yeah!  Safe? Oh heck no.  But here is something he found out: the better your skills are, the more fun it is on the water.  The more you practice safe boating, the more fun it is to boat. Bill enjoys helping folks learn how to boat safely and well.  Fun?  Oh heck yeah. 

Ryan Shealy
Kayak Instructor

Ryan is from Blountville, TN and started kayaking in the summer of 2007 on the Watauga River. Shortly thereafter he started paddling the Nolichucky river with the Appalachian Paddle Enthusiasts and as his experience progressed he decided he wanted to share his skills with others who were interested in learning how to paddle. So he pursued his Level 4 Whitewater Kayak Instructor certification  through the American Canoe Association in 2013 and has been teaching ever since.  He's excited to now be instructing with NOLI and is looking forward to passing on his skills to new boaters with an emphasis on safety and fun!

Jerry Smith
WFA & CPR Instructor

Jerry Smith is a native to this area where he grew up in the outdoors. His career as a professional firefighter has made him safety centered, and he loves teaching new students to be prepared. He is certified through ASHI to teach wilderness first aid, CPR, Basic First Aid, oxygen administration, and AED. He started raft guiding in 2014 where he fell in love with whitewater. He slowly started getting into whitewater kayaking in 2016 and has progressed to where he is today, enjoying many of the local class 3-4 runs. His greatest Joy however is his wife and kids. When he's not teaching, kayaking, fly fishing, hiking, mountain biking, guiding rafts, playing golf, camping, hanging out with family, or working you can find him at home asleep.

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