April 10th, 2016
Written by Melissa Wickihalder
Kayak guides wear many different hats; wilderness guide, gourmet chef, historian, interpreter, entertainer and role model, among others. All have a real passion for paddling, wildlife, and their outdoor lifestyle; and nothing makes them happier than the opportunity to share these with guests. Our guides come from all walks of life, and each brings a unique style and perspective to their tours. Some work in the outdoor industry year round, as ski patrollers or instructors; others follow the sunshine and escape the winter months by guiding tours in the southern hemisphere. Almost all juggle a number of different professions; amongst our crew we have students, forestry workers, writers, farmers, paramedics, and teachers to name a few!
Our guides are all certified by the Sea Kayak Guides Alliance of British Columbia (SKGABC) which is a non-profit society setting standards for professional guides in BC. Guides are certified to four different levels which determines the types of trips they can lead, as well as the location of those trips, according to factors such as remoteness, exposure to current, difficulty of landings, and length of crossings. Level 1 guides take a 5 day course and exam. The next step up to Assistant Overnight guides requires the completion of a 9 day course and exam. A Level 2 guide must have logged 30 commercial overnights as an assistant and pass a two day exam. A Level 3 guide will need to have logged 80 commercial overnights and pass a three day exam. During exams guides are tested on weather and navigation theory, hard skills such as strokes, rescues, navigation, and camp craft, as well as their leadership and judgment through a tough scenario based assessment. Becoming certified to Level 3 may take a guide anywhere from 3-5 years to complete. All guides must also possess a current first aid certificate with CPR, a VHF radio license (also known as a Restricted Operators Maritime Certificate), submit yearly logs of their commercial guiding experience and participate in regular professional development, such as guide exchanges run by the SKGABC.
Pursuing a career as a professional kayak guide can be a challenge; it offers a seasonal income, long hours away from home, can be very physically and mentally demanding, with little time for rest, maintaining relationships or pursuing other interests. However, the rewards of leading others in the outdoors are huge, especially in the areas that we guide. Those once in a lifetime wildlife encounters, conversations around campfires, challenges shared and overcome, and new friendships made are the real paycheque for us!