A Whitewater Raft Guide; Not Your Regular 9 to 5 Job

Have you thought about what it might be like to give up your day job to become a whitewater raft guide for a summer? Or, maybe you had an awesome experience on a whitewater rafting trip in the past and you want to take it to the next level and learn new skills that will give you the confidence and know how to guide your own raft down a river? Every spring whitewater rafting outfitters throughout Oregon offer whitewater raft guide training for the curious and adventurous alike to explore their limits, learn valuable navigation and rescue skills, and make new friends within the community of river folk.

As a registered outfitter with the Oregon Marine Board we are required to make sure that all of our guides on staff are qualified to guide on the rivers that we are permitted to operate on. But, the OMB doesn’t set a training standard only minimum requirements. For example, each guide must have a current First Aid and CPR certification and has to have at least one trip under their belt down the stretch of river that they will be working on. However, we take our responsibilities to ensure our guests’ safety and overall experience with the utmost priority and therefore require a much higher standard for our team of guides and that standard is reflected in the amount of time and energy we put into our training every year.

High Desert River Outfitters has permits to operate commercial rafting trips on more than half a dozen different rivers throughout Oregon. Taking the time and energy to properly train prospective guides to be able to safely and confidently guide on all these rivers is a huge commitment not only for us, but for the guide in training as well. There is no better teacher than experience and when it comes to our guests’ safety  you can’t have enough experience and that’s why you can ask even our most veteran of guides that the learning never really stops. Just when you think you’ve got one thing figured out you soon discover that another door opens and the learning begins all over again when you equip yourself with new skills.

A guide in training gets her turn in the hot seat as she commands her crew through this section of whitewater.

Beginning in April we will kick off our 2015 rafting season with guide training not just for the newly initiated, but as well for our returning staff to sharpen their skills they learned from each previous season. Our experienced guides are a crucial part of our training as they provide insights and tips to the new guides to help them navigate some of the do’s and don’ts that befall most of the first year guides. Most of the guides in training have had some sort of rafting or kayaking experience, or a friend who is a guide and thinks they just might have what it takes to be successful working as guide. And, for most it can be the most rewarding job experience they’ll ever have if they commit to taking advantage of not only the training provided by the company, but take it upon themselves to go above and beyond and get their fellow trainees and thrill seeking friends together to go rafting as much as possible.

It’s not always about getting it right the first time. Mistakes and blunders have a much greater and positive influence for learning and you’ll often hear experienced guides saying all the time ‘it’s not a matter of if you’ll flip your boat, but a matter of when’. And, it’s the ‘when’ and how you react that matters most. For some guides in training they discover after their first flip and watching helplessly as everyone and everything that was in the raft is now floating away down river that maybe this isn’t for them. But, then there are those who have the same experience and they react much differently. For them, time seems to slow down and they act confidently and with purpose. They stay calm and shout out commands to the others doing their best to keep tabs on everyone and the gear as they pull themselves out of the river and climb on top of their overturned raft acting quickly to get it right side up and start plucking people and gear from the river.

A good guide knows how to deliver a good time and gives the guest the kind of trip they want and expect.

One thing that we always tell guides in training is that we can teach you to guide a raft, but we can’t teach you to be you. Guides must be a natural connector with people from all different backgrounds and personalities, as well as, diplomatic in their approach to ensuring that their guests are having the kind of trip that they want and expect. Balancing the needs of a group of people in a raft who were perfect strangers before the trip even began can be tricky at times, but that’s part of the job description for any guide. It’s important for guides to remember that this is not his or her’s trip, but it’s the guests’ trip and you must tailor the trip experience to your guests. Some folks wanna hear all about who you are and how in the world you got such a ‘cool’ job and they laugh at all of your cheesy jokes. Others care less who you are and your brand of humor and are more concerned with your ability to get them and their family and friends down the river safely. Whatever the case, a good guide knows exactly how to keep their guests engaged and having exactly the kind of trip they want and expect.

Learning the skills to safely navigate the river, reacting with confidence when things don’t go exactly to plan, building cohesiveness among a group of perfect strangers in a raft, and delivering a whitewater rafting trip that your guests want and expect are the keys to being a successful whitewater rafting guide. And, even if you don’t decide to quit your day job after all the training you’ll receive, at the very least you’ll have made friends for life and you will always be a part of an amazing community of river folk.

To learn about all the employment opportunities and guide training for the 2015 rafting season you can checkout our Employment page, shoot us an email to info@highdesertriver.com, or give us a call at 1-800-461-5823.