About Us

Meet the Owners

Spirit of the West Adventures began in 1996 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. Originally founded by John Waibel and Christine Portmann, longtime guides Breanne Quesnel and Rick Snowdon joined John as owners in 2006 and continue Spirit of the West’s commitment to providing fun, safe and ecologically sound kayaking experiences in BC. While they all 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 homes on Quadra Island, BC, a testament to their love for the BC coast and the amazing opportunity for sea kayaking. As seagoing folk, John, Breanne and Rick were born to live and breathe British Columbia coastal air.

jd in kayak

John was born in the Victoria area to a German father and Canadian mother. A passion for outdoor fun, including mountain biking and kayaking, has taken him around the world and at 23 John owned and operated an overland travelers hotel in Malawi in the heart of the African continent. Every summer, John would return to the BC coast and for 6 years his summers were spent fishing commercially along the West Coast. It is the coastal environment which keeps John stimulated, and reminded of life's fascinating ecosystem and cultures. John is always keeping busy biking on Quadra Island's trail system, kayaking British Columbia, Johnstone Strait, or just around Quadra. Checking his prawn traps keeps friends and some of our guests who stick around Quadra Island, BC well fed on local prawns, not to mention giggling constantly.


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.

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