The extraordinary Coast to Coast Rangers team and the woman behind it all.
Written by Hannah Johnston, the founder of Make it Dirt, www.makeitdirt.com. Check it out for oodles of adventure inspiration and humour, plus helpful articles to make enjoying the outdoors as simple as possible.
A moment of inspiration. Following the 2015 Coast to Coast, Jess de Bont and husband at the time, Dan, were reflecting on their own recent achievements in multisport. They recognised how life-altering the experience could be for the younger generation. ‘Wouldn’t it be a cool idea to give kids the opportunity to do multisport events like the Coast to Coast?,’ they wondered. It was one of those ideas that you just can’t shake. After a few dinner table discussions, and corralling commitment from friends in high places - the Coast to Coast Rangers program was born.
How it works. With the help of local coaches and several multisport legends, high-school students are guided through the preparation required to complete the epic 243km traverse of the South Island, the Coast to Coast. This includes learning to kayak, training for technical trail running, and developing road bike skills and fitness. For students who have never ridden a bike or ventured into the Port Hills, every week is an adventure.
Great success. The team had the secret sauce for a successful program and momentum has only grown. Jess is an indomitable force at the heart of the Rangers. Despite recent tumultuous times in her personal life, she continues to make great waves with youth in Christchurch. “Graduate” Rangers have radically improved school attendance, carried on to further study, and have become role models in their community. “It builds the foundations of confidence for the students to go on and do things they really want to do,” says Jess.
Genuine passion. Motivating teenagers to get out of bed to train on the weekends is an ongoing battle, but this is just the tip of the iceberg of the tremendous effort that Jess puts in. Yet she has a boundless passion for the project and the students. “I truly care about our Rangers students, from the bottom of my heart, and I know we are making a real difference for them,” she says with a deep conviction. Jess is one of the few people you meet in life who has a heart of gold, and isn’t afraid to let her genuine passion loose.
Team effort. It’s a real challenge for Jess, balancing her commitments to the Rangers, her own young family, work, and keeping in great shape - she finished 3rd female in the 2 day Coast to Coast event back in 2015, and has a swag of other notable achievements to her name. It’s the incredible support she has that helps make it all happen. The team of mentors and coaches in the Rangers program are the foundation of this support, and a number of local Christchurch businesses have given generously - Kathmandu, Pak n Save Wainoni, Cockram Nissan, Thule, and Harcourts Grenadier all back the program.
Dream for the future. The coaches and mentors make truly personal connections with the students - and that’s the strength of the program. Jess’ vision is for the Rangers program it to continue to grow sustainably, and to open new horizons for fresh waves of students every year.