Meet Danny Santander - "El Maestro del Pollo" - Your head-raft guide!
Danny Santander grew up tackling the quick and unpredictable rapids in the waters of Cusco, Peru. He would take tourists on excursions through the winding Peruvian rapids for days on end. When the groups docked for the evening, Danny was in charge of the food, which got him the nickname “el maestro del pollo” – the master of the chicken.
But now Danny, 45, is the head-raft guide at the White Water course at the National Water Sports Centre and he’s loving his time at Holme Pierrepont Country Park. He moved from South America to Nottingham after meeting his wife on one of his excursions – and is part of the furniture in NG12.
But Danny’s love for the water comes from those early years in the shadows of The Andes: “My family used to run an excursion business back in South America and rafting was a part of that, so I was introduced to rafting at around 9-years old.
“I just followed my cousins. It was free drinks for me, and the BBQ was there to be eaten. I started off just washing pots, earning my keep, but then I started guiding at around 14-years old. When you become a guide, you must be able to do everything you’re asking others to do.
“There’s no substitute for experience, and there’s no book that’s going to teach you what to do when you’re going down-stream at incredible speed. You have to see it; you have to feel it and learn from your mistakes. You need to be able to read the water and the waves.
“The course here in Nottingham is special. It has all the factors to make an amazing experience and this place makes fantastic memories. This is the perfect place to try, what can be a dangerous sport, in a safe, comfortable, and inclusive environment.
“I came over to Nottingham in 2009 so I feel really settled here now. I spend my working day around the water and I make sure that guests to our facility have the best possible time – what’s not to love?"
The White Water course at the National Water Sports Centre was built in 1986. It’s a 700-metre, grade-three course that has held international competitions including the Commonwealth Games and European Championships. But the course isn’t just for elite sportspeople, beginners are encouraged - and Danny thinks newcomers are in the best position to experience the fun and thrills throughout the course.
“It’s fantastic seeing people on the course for the first time,” Danny explains. “That’s the beauty of being a trainer and a guide, seeing people come out of their shell and performing better than they thought.
“Coaching is amazing, and I never thought it’d be something I’d be good at. You must be dynamic and empathetic to people, and when you see somebody who was perhaps a bit shy, who didn’t think they could do rafting, and then they do it - that’s just beautiful.”
Want to try rafting at the National Water Sport Centre? It’s perfect for corporate events, team building, or if you just wanted to get some friends together for a fun and adrenaline-filled day. Book your place here.