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Old 01-16-2014   #1
McHenry, Maryland
Paddling Since: 2013
Join Date: Jan 2014
Posts: 18
Newbie Guide Looking For Advice

Hey Guys,

I got the bug. After recently learning the very basics of whitewater canoeing, I want to become a whitewater raft guide. I rafted way back in the boy scouts about 10 years ago a couple times, and loved it, and can't wait for Spring. I'm looking for advice.

First off, I have limited experience in whitewater. I was a flatwater kayak guide last summer, but I'm wondering if taking a class in whitewater rafting is worth it. I'd want to take the class before the training started for whatever company I'm going to be working for started. I've looked at two so far,

- Raft Guide School | U.S. National Whitewater Center

That one costs $175 and I think most of the class is on an artificial course.

- Whitewater Raft Guide Training School

This one costs $450.

Any thoughts?

Secondly, I'm curious where I should guide. Obviously as a first year guide I'm not exactly being fought over by the rafting companies, but my first couple choices include Wilderness Voyageurs in Ohiopyle on the Yough, Rolling Thunder on the Nantahala/Ocoee/Toccoa or RiverRiders/Harpers Ferry Adventure Center in Harpers Ferry on the Potomac or Shenandoah (not sure which one they raft).

I'd like to stay on the East Coast during my first year as a guide, and would like the season to be as long as possible. I'd also like to minimize housing expenses and most of these companies offer housing of some sort, whether it be camping/etc.

Anyway, I know I said alot. Any advice about anything I mentioned, or anything anyone wants to bring up is greatly appreciated. Thanks!

- Swell6

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Old 01-16-2014   #2
Plunk your magic twanger!
Gremlin's Avatar
New Castle, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 1,106
Further research should reveal that you want to spend lots of time on the river but you DON'T want to be a raft guide. It's a common dilemma.

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Old 01-16-2014   #3
McHenry, Maryland
Paddling Since: 2013
Join Date: Jan 2014
Posts: 18
Originally Posted by Gremlin View Post
Further research should reveal that you want to spend lots of time on the river but you DON'T want to be a raft guide. It's a common dilemma.

Can you explain?
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Old 01-16-2014   #4
Plunk your magic twanger!
Gremlin's Avatar
New Castle, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 1,106
Guiding is one of those thankless jobs that is difficult to make a career out of. It is seasonal and relies on tips. At least in Colorado.

Beyond that, I got nothing to offer.
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Old 01-16-2014   #5
Learch's Avatar
Dundee, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1989
Join Date: Jul 2010
Posts: 655
Any time you take something you love and turn it into a career path it can bite you in the ass. I'm a car/ truck guy, been working on them for money for ten years, but I now hate working on them. When I started I thought I'd always love it.
You change your view of what you love about a particular subject when you do it for a living. I love to be out on the water, but I don't think I'd mesh well with the people I'd be paid to guide for. If I was going to be a guide, I'd want to be on the Canyon, or the Rogue, or the Middle fork. (Not day trips) Those aren't cheap guided trips. You would be dealing with people that have a fair amount of disposable income. I am not one of them, and they are not me. I LOVE to take my friends, who don't go all the time like I do. We all have a great time, and they are always very grateful and thankful for the trip. As part of our friendship, I give them something very valuable, for free. I wouldn't change that for the world. I don't want to go with people who paid for me to do that.
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Old 01-16-2014   #6
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 332
If you do go the commercial route always remember this joke.
How do you know if your sitting next to a raft guide?... Don't worry they'll tell you.
It's not a bad way to get on the water but you will always be working for someone with an agenda that includes pimping you out and keeping the money.
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Old 01-16-2014   #7
briandburns's Avatar
Boise, Idaho
Paddling Since: 1979
Join Date: Jan 2010
Posts: 151
Don't let them get you down, man. Raft guiding is a great way to make some money outdoors, meet a lot of different people, and work with some of the craziest and most entertaining folks you'll ever know.
The fact that you want to get some training before you actually attend a rafting company's guide school is admirable, but it's really not necessary.
If you go through your raft guide school with a willingness to learn, a good attitude, and can steer a paddle raft, you're on your way to having a very fun part-time career.
Good luck!
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Old 01-17-2014   #8
River City, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 195
The thing about guiding is that you have to do it for the love of running rivers and really enjoy meeting new people and playing entertainer. But you also have to accept that you won't be making a ton of money, with a seasonal job. Especially as a first year guide where you'll get the last pick of work and schedule and start out with the lowest pay. You will be expected to pay your dues and work the hardest, all with a smile on your face. As long as you're good with that guiding is a fun way to meet some great people and have a fun time. It's tough to call it a long term career path. But so what! Have a good time with it as long as you want. Many guides are students, and it is a great gig while you are putting yourself through school.

I can't speak to the specific companies for who to work for, but I wouldn't waste my time or money on an independent rafting school. You will learn some things but the truth is each rafting company is going to run their own guide school anyway. Most likely you will interview, apply, and pay for "guide school" at the company you want to work for, but just because you attend their school doesn't mean they'll hire you as a first year guide. Guide school is like a long term interview and if they get to know you and you are a hard worker, personable, and basically not a tool then you will probably get hired.

But in all honesty the skill set you learn in guide school is not difficult, and an extra few weeks in one of these independent classes doesn't gain you the experience for the money you put into it that will make much difference to a future employer. Most prefer to hire the right people with little to no experience, but that are humble, hard working, and personable. But unless you come to them as s seasoned guide they would probably prefer you green so they can teach you the companies way of doing things. Instead if I were you I would spend the time and money in the off season investing in things that will make you more marketable to a future raft company. Do you have first aid/CPR? If not get that right away because that will be required. How about a more andvanced first aid or wilderness first responder? Some sort of more advanced medical certification that will set you apart. Another class to seriously consider is a Swiftwater Rescue class. Again, valuable skills that will make you a better guide. Those types of classes are what will make you more valuable to a future rafting company, and once hired they may pay you an extra incentive for it! The rafting comany themselves will teach you how to guide.

The last thing I would add is to emphasize things like your flat water guiding experience, strictly for the customer service aspect. If there is anything similar you can do for a job like that in the offseason it's something to consider.
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Old 01-17-2014   #9
River City, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 195
Also start applying now for where you want to work. Most companies will accept the applications and do the interviews in winter so they can run guide traing in the spring. Many start as early as March so the new guides are up to speed in time for the main season. Also most companies will limit their numbers for guide school so once it fills up it's closed to any more prospects. I wouldn't wait too long.
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Old 01-17-2014   #10
k2andcannoli's Avatar
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2002
Join Date: Feb 2012
Posts: 657
Dude your in McHenry... why the hell would you move? For those that dont know, first off its a resort town with a ski area and a lake. Cheap housing can be had in anywhere away from the lake. The upper yough putin is five miles down the road, lower yough is 35 minutes away, o and asci is atop the ski area.

If your worried about the guides up in the pyle giving ya a hard time...well its just gonna happen, no matter your skill set.

My advice would be to go out for a raft steering job at asci. Free training and if you like it, just work there for the summer. Great tips can be had on those 3 trip days. Then next year go get a job at ohiopyle ...and never mention working at asci.

Then after 5 years and becoming a badass yaker, get a job with precision rafting in friendsville. Work the numerous 4-5 runs, three seasons a year!

BTW did you work for Creed?

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