Our Story and Our People
Spirit of the West Adventures began in 1997 with an amazing passion for kayaking, killer whales and the British Columbia coast, and it has been the catalyst for many people's outdoor activity ever since. Based right here on the coast, we show you around with the pride of knowing it's our home. Take a few moments to meet the team behind the adventures.
Meet the owners
In 2006, longtime kayak guides Breanne Quesnel and Rick Snowdon joined as owners and continued Spirit of the West’s commitment to providing fun, safe and ecologically sound kayaking experiences in BC. While they have always been wilderness adventurers, being able to combine playtime with work infuses a client’s experience with a special kind of pleasure. After globetrotting for a few months most years, they always come back to their home on Quadra Island, BC, a testament to their love for the BC coast and the amazing opportunity for sea kayaking. As seagoing folk, Breanne and Rick love to live and breathe British Columbia coastal air. In 2014 Breanne and Rick welcomed their son Eamon to the paddling family. On New Year’s Eve 2015, Eamon’s little brother Rowan arrived.
Breanne, Rick, Eamon & Rowan
Breanne grew up in Ontario in a family who loved the outdoors. Much of her childhood was spent hiking, camping, canoeing, skiing and enjoying the fresh air. In 2002 Breanne completed an Honours Bachelor Outdoor Recreation, Parks and Tourism and a Bachelor of Arts – Geography at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario. She also completed her Bachelor of Education in Sydney, Australia. Over the years, Breanne has worn many hats including that of whitewater canoe guide, tree planter, environmental educator, elementary and secondary school teacher, sea kayak guide and most recently as educational program co-ordinator, guide and operations manager with Spirit of the West. The allure of the British Columbia coast drew her west several years ago, and now she spends most of the year on Quadra Island and her winters traveling. Breanne is a perfect candidate to set you up with a complete outdoor kayaking experience.
Rick spent his early years paddling in Ontario before heading to sea in tall ships for much of his high school years. He completed degrees in Outdoor Recreation and Biology at Lakehead University, as well as time studying oceanography in Woods Hole in 2000, interspersed with summers working search and rescue for the Canadian Coast Guard. Having sailed on the Great Lakes, California coast, North Atlantic and South Pacific, Rick took up sea kayaking in 1998. As a freelance writer, guide and photographer Rick has travelled around Canada and around the world, and has volunteered and worked in several countries including Vanuatu, Mexico, Australia, Ecuador and Grenada. He is currently an executive member of the Sea Kayak Guides Alliance of BC. Bringing all this experience together serves to give perspective to and enhance his guiding skills and approach to issues affecting the coast.
And the whole amazing crew
Our staff and kayak guides are simply exceptional and match the culture and spirit of our organization. They all have an amazing passion for kayaking British Columbia and for the killer whales in the BC waters that make it such a great experience.
Terms like self-reliance, adaptability, responsibility, confidence, and sense of humour all come to mind when describing their qualities. Considering that guides must perform in the multiple roles of wilderness guide, gourmet chef, role model and educator, it’s no surprise that they come from a wide variety of professions and backgrounds to each bring a unique and valued perspective to the way our business runs.
Our guides are extremely skilled (and certified by the Sea Kayak Guides Alliance of BC) in kayaking, backcountry travel, responsible environmental practices, and high levels of first aid and safety procedures, continually upgrading their training and striving to improve knowledge and skills. And all our staff are adventurers in their own right – traveling and wilderness tripping doesn’t pause for us when the season’s over! Personal and training trips around the British Columbia coast and around the world keep us on top of our game. At the end of the day, what we ensure is that every trip is as safe and memorable as can be, and that you will not be disappointed kayaking the British Columbia coast.
Graham Vaughan | Operations Manager
Graham is an outdoor enthusiast who lives for his time spent in the natural world. After many seasons guiding trips, he has shifted his role and is now at our base and in the office overseeing staff and logistics behind the scenes. during the winter months when he is not leading our international expeditions to the Bahamas and live-a-board kayak tours in Patagonia, Graham ski patrols at a nearby resort on Vancouver Island. He has also guided whitewater rafting trips in BC and overseas in New Zealand. A Wilderness Leadership Program and Outdoor Recreation Management Graduate from Capilano University, Graham has a passion for educating and inspiring others. He is currently a guide examiner with the Sea Kayak Guides Alliance of BC, instructing sea kayak courses with different educational institutions and the SKGABC. When he is not kayaking, Graham fills his days mountain biking, skiing and dreaming of where the next adventure will take him.
Frieda Humphreys | Kitchen Manager
Frieda is a true island girl, having spent the first 17 years of her life living on a remote island. There she learned lots of handy life skills, such as running a chainsaw, hunting, fishing, as well as less frightening activities like knitting, canning, gardening, and of course cooking! Frieda began washing dishes at Spirit of the West in 2011, and now works as the kitchen manager, ensuring all things food related are taken care of. When she's not busy with that, you can find her playing soccer, hiking, and most commonly swimming in nearby lakes.
Melissa Wickihalder | Marketing & Creative
Melissa was born and raised in Switzerland and is a real mountain enthusiast. After studying graphic design, marketing and advertising in Zurich and Berlin she worked in the industry for many years before exploring the world looking for challenging outdoor adventures. After living in South Africa and traveling to each continent she found a new home in beautiful British Columbia. The Pacific Ocean and Spirit of the West inspired her to experience and learn all about the kayaker's world. Melissa has applied her passion and creativity to marketing, media and graphics for the last 3 years with Spirit of the West. Meanwhile she loves the BC coast like a local and appreciates having the opportunity to combine her skills with an outdoor life in the mountains and the newly explored deep dark water.
Kristen Nammour | Office Administrator
Kristen is originally from San Antonio, TX but has lived in Canada for almost a decade. The lure of the BC coast has brought Kristen and her kayak guiding husband, Daniel, out to the islands to stay. Kristen is new to the Spirit of the West Adventures team this year and is working behind the scenes to help ensure the smooth running of the office. With a BBA in Marketing from Texas A&M University, Kristen has worked in various roles in marketing and administration for a number of small businesses. She is passionate about sustainable communities and resilient, localized food systems. In the winter, Kristen works with Young Agrarians, an organization dedicated to growing the next generation of farmers in Canada.
Amber Gall | Base crew
Amber has called Vancouver Island home for 10 years now. She has a tremendous appreciation for the outdoors and loves to spend her time hiking, climbing, wild-harvesting and gardening. She also spends a great deal of time in the kitchen cooking and preserving. In her gardens she grows a big portion of her yearly produce and also several different herbs for her business Red Cedar Herbs. At Spirit of the West Adventures, Amber helps out with food prep and the many other wonderful duties that help the business go round.
Robin Humphreys | Guide
Born and raised in the Discovery Islands, Robin has spent much of her life on the ocean. In addition to guiding in many areas of the BC coast, she has also had the opportunity to lead trips with Spirit of the West in Chilean Patagonia and the Bahamas. In between kayaking seasons Robin has worked as a snowmobile guide and, more recently, a ski patroller at Mt. Washington on Vancouver Island. When she's not working Robin can be found riding her mountain bike, skiing or plotting where her next kayaking adventure will take her. With a life long love of her home on the BC coast Robin brings a passion and local knowledge that she is keen to share. Rain or shine she's at home! 2016 will be Robin’s ninth (!) season with Spirit of the West Adventures.
Sam Lam | Guide
Sam grew up as a good Canadian kid from North Vancouver BC. Like many other outdoor professionals, he completed the Wilderness Leadership Program at Capilano University. His love for kayaking doesn't end with guiding either. He spent a year as a kayaking teacher and is often trying to find waves or current to test his skills. Besides kayaking he loves to ride bikes, go skiing and eat chocolate. Also, if you like piña coladas and getting caught in the rain, Sam is the guide for you!
Ryan Seigel | Guide
Ryan is an exceptional personality with a sense of humour to match. Talented on the water (and in the water - master diver, rescue diver and instructor) he's led trips with Spirit of the West for 4 years now. Outside of the summer months you can find Ryan somewhere in the south teaching diving.
Ashley Hamilton | Guide
Ashley is an adventurer, outdoor educator, and traveller who lives for exploring the natural world and meeting new people. Her passion for the outdoors began in Niagara On The Lake, Ontario where she was born and spent almost every summer day mountain biking the Niagara escarpment and swimming and canoeing in lakes and rivers. Her thirst for adventure continued through University where she led social justice programs abroad for young adults to Morocco, India, and Belize. She is a certified teacher with a degree in biology and psychology and has spent the past six years working with inner-city youth from Toronto teaching and directing at an outdoor experiential school. Ashley is excited to be working as a guide sharing her passion for paddling and the environment with others while experiencing the beauty and inspiration of the West coast.
Janna Rist | Guide
Janna was trained as a conservation biologist and now works as an outdoor guide and instructor during the summer, spending her winters as a paramedic and volunteering for Mt. Washington Ski Patrol. Originally from the UK, she now calls Vancouver Island home and volunteers for Comox Valley Ground Search & Rescue. In her free time she can be found training at the gym or riding her bike on the Cumberland trails.
Lee Jackson | Guide
Lee loves the outdoors and the unique seasonal lifestyle that only Vancouver Island can offer. A professional ski patroller, tree planting foreman and of course, kayak guide, he happily transitions between these passions and has called Victoria, B.C. home for the past 11 years. When he's not on his skis, he's likely on the water, or perhaps both the same day!
Daniel Nammour | Guide
Daniel started guiding on the Rio Grande on the border of Texas and Mexico, spent some time wrangling horses in Kananaskis country in Alberta, and worked the Colorado, San Juan and Green Rivers of Utah’s canyon country before he finally reached the BC coast. Here he has found more wilderness than he could explore in a lifetime. When not doing so, he enjoys growing good food and eating well cooked meals with good company, preferably by the water and under the stars.
Peter Johnson | Guide
Peter discovered the joy of guiding on the water whilst rafting on the mainland a few years ago. Since then, he's been living on the island year round. He's taking a break from contemplating time to return for another season of paddling with Spirit of the West Adventures and other ocean lovers. A perpetual student, he's been known to enjoy trading fun facts.
Gaspard Laniece | Guide
Gaspard is a prairie boy who has found his love for the ocean and the mountains in BC with the Wilderness Leadership Program at Capilano University. Nothing brings him more pleasure than sharing wildlife sightings and the beautiful outdoors with guests, friends, and family. This is Gaspard's second season with Spirit of the West.
Todd Weisbrot | Guide
Beautiful BC has been Todd's summer home for the last 6 years (interspersed with winters guiding in New Zealand or Antarctica). Spending time all over the coast, Todd has developed a passion for the environment and the outdoors. He enjoys sharing his enthusiasm and knowledge with all who he comes in contact with. When not guiding, he's usually off on adventuring around either in the mountains or on the water. Todd known for his smile, also loves long walks on short beaches, spending time in the kitchen, and of course his beloved Edmonton Oilers.
Nerissa Abbott | Guide
Nerissa grew up living in Vancouver and spending summers with her nose stuck in various tidal pools along the sunshine coast. Asking her where she lives is now somewhat of a complicated question but the short answer is “in BC”. Nerissa’s passions for paddling, swimming in the ocean, and enjoying the wonders of intertidal life are true to her name which means “sea nymph”. In 2014 she completed a year-long Advanced Wilderness Leadership program at Capilano University and has been working in the outdoor industry ever since. Aside from sea kayaking, Nerissa loves training in martial arts, managing her small apiary, and cooking strange new healthy inventions.
Amy came to Vancouver Island 7 years ago looking for adventure and a change from a hectic life in London. After completing two degrees in Geophysics and Geology, she had gotten lost in a stressful career, rather than doing the fieldwork that initially drew her. On Vancouver Island she completed the Canadian Outdoor Leadership Training program and got hooked on the west coast lifestyle. Amy loves to travel and explore, whether guiding sea kayaking trips, dog sledding in Lapland, canoe tripping in the Yukon, hiking in the Alps, horse back riding in New Zealand, or crossing Canada by bike. For her, kayaking in BC is an amazing way to travel to places that relatively few people experience.
Tyrone Mutch | Guide
After five years of professional cookery Tyrone grew weary of the fast paced and high stress environment of the modern kitchen. An outdoorsman at heart, he dreamed of preparing epic meals at sunset with the sounds of the ocean at his back. In 2011, like many of his peers at Spirit of the West Adventures, he attended the Advanced Wilderness Leadership Program at Capilano University. With these newly acquired skills from school he began developing a career that has since brought him to some of the most beautiful places in BC. It was only a matter of time before he ended up in the Johnstone Strait. A tour with Tyrone means engaging conversation, warm humour, knowledgeable interpretation, and delicious food! Fair warning: any questions about mountain biking may result in a lengthy and passionate explanation.
Brittney Mechalchuk | Guide
Brittney is a local Vancouver Islander from the Comox Valley. Immersed in an outdoor lifestyle since childhood, she can be found exploring the ocean by boat or surfboard and hiking through the forests in her spare time. Some of her other interests range from cooking nutritious and delicious foods, having an active lifestyle and enjoying relaxing time with reading or music. Her other area of interest is in social work, working with children and teens with autism. Brittney is a friendly and outgoing person always looking forward to meeting new people.
Jess Williamson | Guide
Jess was born and raised in Ladner, BC. She grew up exploring all over the BC coast and interior. Jess loves to share her passion for nature and the outdoors with anyone willing to listen. A graduate from Capilano University’s Wilderness Leadership Program, she thrives on being able to work and play outdoors with kayak guiding in the summers and ski patrolling in the winter.
Tessa Stiven | Guide
A born and raised Vancouver Island girl, Tessa loves the ocean and mountains of her home. She has spent the last six years exploring the Island as an environmental educator guiding backcountry trips for youth. She is occasionally persuaded to leave the Island, and works internationally as a wilderness guide for college study abroad programs. When not guiding, Tessa can be found with her hands happily in the dirt on her permaculture farm in the Cowichan Valley.