Originally Posted by InflatableSteve
Sweet video! love the Jeff Bennett book, very interesting and full of good info!
How would you describe the experience over all?
Jeff Bennett's book is the main (with the odd adaptation or allowance for new products, teaching methods, theory, etc.) textbook for the course for the theory end of things. It's just about timeless for rafting I think many will agree.
The experience overall was excellent. Unfortunately the video doesn't do (or show) some of the harder things justice - it's hard work - physically demanding as many of you know. I work out at the gym regularly and this takes cardio, and exertion to another level but you feel great after, albeit a bit fatigued at the end of the day sometimes. Recreational rafting is one thing, becoming a commercial guide is considered by some akin to at times becoming a professional lifter as you move rafts and equipment around at the launch, take out, etc.
We spent a fair amount of river time working on catching eddies, some of them small or in very difficult to reach places. The thinking is, much like the wax on & wax off in Karate kid, that if you can catch an eddy in a difficult part of the river (or even mid stream eddies) you can do just about anything from a navigation stand point. We worked hard to catch some eddies at times while exposing our raft to rapids & waves in ways we might not have previously felt comfortable doing. This helps you become comfortable "under fire" if it's fair to say - to keep yourself calm in the middle of rapids and make difficult maneuvers when required. After repitition and hard work you become accustomed to the boat can do and the current and river starts to really make a lot more sense.
We ran 3 boats most of the time - an AIRE 16 foot oar raft - 1 oarsman trainee with guide trainer - an AIRE 16 foot paddle raft - 1 paddle captain trainee, 2 other trainees paddling, and 1 guide trainer, and then a 16 foot AIRE Jag Cataraft with a trainee on it getting some rowing experience. With guide trainers on the boats you get almost continuous feedback from the guide trainers plus a safety net as we stop in each eddy to talk - if you're not the paddle captain getting feedback as a paddler you get to listen on in on their feedback and apply it when it's your turn as paddle captain. Overall a very good way to learn (and for the guide trainers, teach). Also, when paddle captain trainees screw up (not saying I'm innocent - it's mentally taxing at first), you as the paddler pay for it (as some of you may know) and this was another good learning experience as well, plus really great exercise.
The 16 foot AIRE rafts which were about 20 years old had the absolute piss kicked out of them. They stood up pretty darn well!
Braden, owner of Kumsheen and head instructor, is a stand out guy. Extremely professional, very knowledgeble, a natural leader, and overall a great person to learn from. He's the same age as me (35) but has been a raft guide since he was 14 and a former sponsored Kayaker. He's lived, breathed, eat, and slept whitewater his entire life. His assistant guide trainers were excellent each bringing a different teaching style.
I remember as paddle captain lining up a few big back curler waves/holes and hitting them head on - man what a rush! I remember one - I believe the rapid is called twisted sisters (wish I got it on camera) where I lined us up head on with tons of forward momentum aand I remember getting shot forward and landing somewhere in the middle of the raft - we just plowed through - simply awesome experience! That's what it's all about.
I certainly understand those who might want to consider becoming a raft guide - I took the course for the knowledge/experience - but it's a serious job putting the lives of many customers in your hands. I give full respect to those who have the integrity to take on difficult white water with things on the line like this. They say you approach rafting a lot differently when you got people in front of you that you are responsible for.