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, Grenada, Chile and the Bahamas. He is past board member of the Sea Kayak Guides Alliance of BC and current board member of the North Island Marine Mammal Stewardship Association.
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.
Adam Rosenbaum | Kayak Guide
Adam was born and raised in Toronto, but spent his formative summers paddling and portaging wood canvas canoes through the lakes and rivers of northern Ontario, Quebec, and Labrador. A business management degree with a major in environmental sustainability led him to numerous roles across eCommerce, hospitality, fundraising, and food tech, but in 2019, he hung up his dress shirt for the last time and traded in his laptop for a kayak paddle. After completing the Adventure Guide Diploma at Thompson Rivers University in 2022, Adam moved to Campbell River and can now be found enjoying all that the ocean, mountains, and rivers of Vancouver Island have to offer. Through transformative multi-day sea kayaking trips, Adam hopes to share his awe for the natural world with others and highlight the importance of protecting wild places.
Alana Columna | Kayak Guide
Alana grew up in the industrial city of Hamiliton, Ontario, but took up a love for the natural environment when her family moved to Vancouver Island. Growing up in a Dominican household, she was introduced to adventure sports later in life, but she was hooked the moment she sent her first outdoor climb. Soon after, Alana graduated with a certificate in Adventure Tourism from Thompson Rivers University. Today, you can find Alana living out her days in her camper van, surfing in Tofino, climbing, hiking, kayaking both in the ocean and in raging rivers, and teaching others how to snowboard.
Aleia Wyldawkes | Kayak Guide & Office Team
Aleia grew up in Coquitlam, BC, and has always had the water and mountains as their backyard to play in. They took the Adventure Studies program at TRU, where their love for kayaking and guiding began. Aleia’s favourite part about being in nature is that every moment of every day is different and always offers new experiences to share. Given the opportunity, they can be found sitting by tide pools for hours at a time, watching the lives of the many tiny creatures unfolding slowly in the still water. When not guiding, Aleia can be found climbing, riding their bike, snacking or finding new and narrow places to squeeze their kayak into.
Alex Smith | Kayak Guide
While growing up in Vancouver, Alex developed his love for the outdoors skiing, hiking and paddling around BC. He completed the COLT program and has gained his guiding experience from working with school outdoor education programs. When not on the water, Alex can be found skiing or hiking around the Sea-to-Sky backcountry and has a healthy appetite for adventure.
Alex Wiebe | Kayak Guide
Alex is a tea-lover who thrives on sunshine, hugs, and a good adventure. Her love of the outdoors started at a young age while camping and climbing with her family. As a competitive swimmer and lifeguard, it is no surprise that she led canoe trips and summer camps while in university. While studying biology and international development, she combined her fascination with the natural world with her desire to promote wellbeing in the community around her while doing research at the Experimental Lakes Area and leading an outreach team on a medical ship in Papua New Guinea. She is extremely excited to share her passion for the outdoors and paddling with you this summer!
Ali Funwin | Kayak Guide & Base Camp Operations
Born and raised in British Columbia, Ali has a lifelong passion for adventure and outdoor exploring. She is a recent graduate of the North Island College Adventure Guiding program and lifelong student of the flora and fauna. When she's not on the water, Ali can be found in the woods foraging for mushrooms or in the kitchen workshopping new recipes. Ali looks forward to sharing her enthusiasm and knowledge for everything our North Island coast has to offer.
Aricel DesChamp | Kayak Guide
Aricel has spent the last 6 years traveling and adventuring - from spending a year living and working in New Zealand to working above the Arctic Circle in Norway. She is an outdoor enthusiast, steward of the sea, and someone who enjoys interacting with diverse groups of people! Aricel loves helping curate unforgettable memories for her guests. Her goal is to leave a positive impact on those who join her out on the water. Afterward, you will most likely find Aricel around the campfire entertaining her peers.
Beka Brown | HR & Team Support Manager
Growing up on Quadra Island, Beka was lucky to have the quintessential Island childhood exploring the beaches and forests. After leaving to spend some years in the the mountains, she decided to return home so her children could experience the same island magic. Beka has 25 years of Tourism and Hospitality experience and loves being surrounded by this passionate team of people at Spirit of the West.
Beverly Marshall | Lead Kayak Guide
Bev's love of the outdoors has always been amplified when sharing it with others and it has brought her to guiding in locations all over the West Coast. Whether it's slowing down to take in the scenery or waking up with a destination in mind, Bev brings infectious energy, humour, and care to each tour. She keeps busy in Nelson in the off season. She spends her free time with friends hiking, skiing, surfing and practicing meditation and yoga.
Cait Woolner | Kayak Guide
Originally from Ontario, Cait traveled westward to the coast 5 years ago. The lush landscapes of the Pacific Northwest lured her in, and she’s never looked back. You can often find her strolling through the woods, guide in hand, looking for new and familiar friends. In classrooms she studied brains and human biology, but more often now turns to the natural world as her teacher. The outdoors has always been a place of learning and growth for her, and as a guide Cait wants to continue nurturing those connections for herself and others.
Cass Sica | Kayak Guide
Cass is a guide, outdoor educator, and teacher who loves to explore and play outside. He has a passion for ecology and helping people find their connection to the natural world. When he is not engaged with youth programming he can be found paddling, climbing and hiking across the coast.
Christina Morrow | Kayak Guide
Christina moved to coastal BC almost 20 years ago and fell in love the rainforest and ocean almost immediately. She naturally chose a career where she can share that love with others. While relatively new to kayak guiding her passion and energy is infectious. Christina has spent most of her life traveling and exploring, when she’s not in a kayak she can be found hiking or practicing yoga.
Daniel Nammour | Kayak 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.
Dominic Bakota | Base Camp Operations
Dominic is an adventurous islander who’s lived on Quadra nearly all his life. In his spare time he often finds himself biking, canoeing/kayaking and rock climbing, anything to get himself outside to appreciate the wonderful outdoors of BC.
Elizabeth Hodgins | Chef & Kitchen Crew
Born and raised in small-town south eastern Ontario on a family-run farm, Elizabeth has always had a love for animals and rural life. Her enthusiasm to see the world and desire for new experiences has taken her on many adventures, including the path that led her to the beautiful coast she now calls home. With a passion for all things edible, Elizabeth has over a decade of experience in food and hospitality, including completing Niagara College's Pastry Arts program in 2015. When not singing in the kitchen, Liz loves to be amongst the flowers in her garden, hiking the trails, playing guitar or exploring with friends.
Gareth Wasylynko | Kayak Guide
A passionate, adventurous and generally silly individual, Gareth's guiding experiences have taken him from Desolation Sound to Nova Scotia and then, back to BC waters where he is stoked to paddle with Spirit of the West. When on land, Gareth enjoys showcasing his unorthodox dance moves, conversation and exploring places on foot. Despite growing up in Surrey and his interest in cities, he has always felt at home exploring islands, communities and the wilderness, and strives to share this curiosity with others.
Gigi McLaren | Kayak Guide
Gigi was born and raised on Vancouver Island, and has a lifelong adoration of the great outdoors. She grew up spending her time exploring mountains, lakes, and oceans throughout coastal British Columbia. She completed Capilano University's Outdoor Recreation program and now splits her time between sea kayaking in the summer and snow sports in the winter. She is always thrilled to share her love and passion for nature with those around her.
Gwen Chabot | Base Operations Coordinator
Born in the Discovery Islands on the northernmost end of the Strait of Georgia, Gwen has grown up an island boy. Spending time with his family engaging in activities including but not limited to sailing, biking, climbing and hiking, he has come to feel most comfortable when in nature.
Jacinta O’Reilly | Base Camp Operations
Jacinta was born and raised in Christchurch New Zealand and spent weekends and holidays exploring the Marlborough Sounds. Her love of the ocean, nature and mountains is what attracted her to Canada. Spending her winters in the mountains snowboarding and her summers by the ocean swimming, hiking and biking is where she feels most at home.
Jake Wan | Kayak Guide
Jake has grown up in the mountains of BC, yet has had a lifelong love of water sports and the ocean. His training at the College of the Rockies has prepared him to lead you into exciting areas and share with you the amazing creatures that call these places home. Sharing the views, laughs and amazing experiences is what really excites Jake to be a part of our community!
Jenna Horembala | Kayak Guide
Born in North Van, Jenna was introduced to the backcountry and coastal life at a young age by her parents. Spending summers Sea Kayaking in the Southern Gulf Islands and doing Canoe trips planted a deep passion. She went to Thompson Rivers University for the Adventure Guide Diploma program. Currently, when not in a kayak you can find her ski touring or somewhere in the mountains.
Jon Badger | Kayak Guide
Born and raised on the West Coast, Jon has always felt most at home near the water. This love for the ocean only grew when attending Westcoast Adventure College in Sooke and starting his career in backcountry guiding. He has spent the last several years paddling the BC coast as a kayak guide and instructor, and his goal on every trip is to show guests the beauty and tranquility of this corner of the world.
Jose Luis Ojeda Ampuero | Kayak Guide
Originally from Punta Arenas, Chile, Jose has spent his entire life immersed in the outdoors. Since the age of 13, has known sea kayaking is his deep passion. Currently residing in Puerto Natales, Jose has dedicated the past 20 years to guiding expeditions in Patagonia, while also instructing for the past 8 years. He loved guiding and sharing his knowledge. He is proud to be part of the Spirit of the West family and is committed to delivering the ultimate sea kayaking experience to all.
Karisa Koehl | Reservations & Guest Experience Specialist
Karisa enjoys finding comfort in the uncomfortable and exploring a variety of natural and social phenomena that make this world so beautiful. Born and raised in Saskatchewan, it is a dream come true for her to be working, living and playing on BC’s coast. When she isn’t working you can usually find her among big trees, on the water or taking in some beautiful water views. Beautiful forests and ocean views is what always makes her feel like she’s in the right place. She is passionate about sharing BC’s beautiful coast and is excited to be working with Spirit of the West so she can learn the ins and outs of sustainable tourism. In the future, Karisa is looking forward to gaining knowledge and experience in the realm of environmental and social activism.
Katie May | Reservations & Guest Experience Specialist
Katie’s love of adventure and commitment to compassion and care for humanity have taken many forms throughout the years. She has nurtured relationships with locals to assist ethical mountain treks in Nepal, worked as a tree planter, a care aid & nurse. Connection to nature has always been a passion for Katie, and something that is very important to her to pass on the her two children through gardening and exploration of the beautiful place we are so lucky to live, play & work in We Wai Kai territory. She joins our team in a commitment to reconnect to herself and with excitement to work with others who prioritize that nature connection.
Kayla Chamberland | Kayak Guide & Base Camp Operations
Kayla grew up in Langley, British Columbia spending most of her time in the marshes and woods near her parents’ home. As a young adult she was introduced to sea kayaking and quickly fell in love with the rhythm of life on expedition. She graduated from the Outdoor Recreation Management program at Capilano University with plans to cultivate a career outdoors in adventure tourism. When she’s not kayaking you can find her staring at the sky deciphering the weather, swimming in glacier fed waters, and enjoying the natural world.
Kenna Koronko | Reservations & Guest Experience Specialist
Kenna was born and raised in Coquitlam, BC and spent her weekends in a small town called Tulameen where she could roam free on dirt bikes and hike up hillsides with her cousins. That was where she developed her sense of adventure and desire to explore. Kenna is a recent grad of the Bachelor of Tourism Management degree program at Capilano University. Her passion for outdoor education and sustainable tourism is what lead her to a degree concentration in Adventure Tourism. When out of the office, Kenna can be found on trails, in trees, near the ocean, or seeking out that perfect sunset.
Kevin McRae | Kayak Guide
Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, Kevin is an overnight guide and instructor who has spent his life growing alongside the temperate rainforests in his backyard and the Pacific Ocean in his front yard. Intent on keeping these colossal environments at the heart of everything he pursues, Kevin has chosen a path that allows him to continue growing with his homeland while having the privilege of sparking that same inspiration and gratitude in others. When he is not out on an adventure he can be found with his guitar in one hand and a good book in the other!
Makinsey Shmanka | Kayak Guide
Originally from Thunder Bay, Ontario, Mak started sea kayak guiding in 2017 on Lake Superior. She has been guiding with Spirit of the West since 2019. Mak loves being a guide because every day is a different adventure and the views are incredible! She lives seasonally between Whistler and her sailboat on Quadra Island.
Martin Blanchard | Kayak Guide & Operations Manager
Marty was born and raised in New Brunswick where he fell in love with the ocean at a very young age. While spending 7 years in the Canadian Armed Forces as a Vehicle Technician in Ontario, he fell in love with whitewater kayaking on the mighty Ottawa river. He now lives on Vancouver Island where he completed his Adventure Guiding Certificate at North Island College. Martin can be found exploring his new love for mountains in his island backyard, running some whitewater rivers or kayak surfing the waves in Tofino.
Michael Herman | Kayak Guide
Michael is most comfortable living in a tent and exploring wild spaces for the first time. As a young boy, he gladly traded his comfortable bed each summer to sleep under the stars in his backyard while dreaming of living the life of an explorer. Following his love of nature, Michael worked in fish and wildlife management for the Ontario government and taught outdoor education for the Toronto district school board for many years. But it was his introduction to experiential education and wilderness therapy that led him passionately into teaching personal growth and development to teenagers through guided canoe and sea kayak trips with programs such as, Project D.A.R.E. (a wilderness therapy program for young offenders), Outward Bound Wilderness School and Trails Youth Initiatives. Michael has sea kayaked in the Great Lakes, Great Slave Lake, Nova Scotia, South Carolina and Georgia, and is ecstatic to be paddling the Pacific west coast this summer. Michael is a kid at heart and loves games of all sorts, telling bad jokes and paddling in big waves. Michael couldn’t be happier to be guiding with Spirit of the West.
Morgan Edison | Kayak Guide
Morgan grew up on Vancouver Island in the Cowichan Valley and has been lucky enough to always have had the mountains and the ocean in her backyard. However, Morgan’s love for the ocean really came to life when she moved to the remote archipelago of Haida Gwaii, where she worked as a social worker and began exploring remote beaches via kayak. Eventually, Morgan decided to turn this passion for adventure into her next career as she made the leap and traded in her profession for travel and adventure and began guiding overseas in New Zealand. Today, you can find her tramping in the mountains, diving, surfing or paddling across the coast and beyond!
Nadia Gilson | Kayak Guide
Nadia is a born and raised Vancouver Island girl. Growing up so close to the ocean and the mountains made it easy to fall in love with the outdoors. After doing the COLT program in 2017 she found herself a kayaking gig on Northern Vancouver Island and fell in love with everything kayaking brought to her life. The ability to show people what they are capable of in the wilderness and floating around in a boat became a vessel to show folks how cool her backyard is. When she is not guiding you will find her embracing her inner homebody and seeking out other adventurous ways to be close to the outdoors.
PJ | Kayak Guide
PJ has been a boat dweller and a guide on this coast for 9 years. With a passion for the sea and a unique skillset as a tradesperson, this water baby takes pride in making the marine / adventure industries accessible to folks from all walks of life. "We provide the safety nets. Nature provides the dopamine."
Rebecca Chin Bergshoeff | Guest Experience Manager
Rebecca is passionate about facilitating opportunities for people to connect with nature. This has taken her from coast to coast: Vancouver Island to Newfoundland, where she’s worked as a hiking guide and coordinator of outdoor recreation and environmental education programs. Through her Masters of Fine Art, she explored connections between art and our environment, and she continues to bring her creativity and curiosity to work and life. Rebecca loves her dynamic and varied role with Spirt of the West and enjoys supporting opportunities for people to experience the wild BC coast through our unique adventures.
Robyn Forsyth | Office Team, Social Media & Kayak Guide
Robyn was born and raised on BC's stunning southwest coast. With a family background full of global travel and outdoor pursuits, she has always felt drawn toward wild natural spaces and expanding her horizons. After coming home from living abroad in Australia and New Zealand, she discovered the Outdoor Recreation Management program at Capilano University and felt the instinctive next step was to seek out a career in the outdoor and adventure tourism industry. One of the greatest parts about guiding for her is the chance to allow others to create meaningful and lasting connections to the landscapes we are privileged to recreate in. In the summers, Robyn can be found kayaking, hiking, and backpacking while her winters are filled with snowboarding, splitboarding, camping, and the occasional icy dip.
Sarah Deagle | Food Manager
Sarah spends most of her waking moments preparing, dreaming and reading about food. When not at that, she can be found outdoors on one trail or another, often with her husband George and their black lab Gracie. As a child, Sarah spent her summers on the water, sailing with her family in the southern Gulf Islands and the Discovery Islands. It was a delight to return to Quadra seven years ago – this time to stay!
Serene Aston | Food Prep Assistant
Growing up in Portland and North Vancouver, Serene spent her summers on the Discovery Islands before moving in 2011 to the house that her late grandpa built on Quadra Island. While working towards a degree in psychology, Serene spends her free time camping, surfing, painting the natural world, and cooking meals from food her dad has hunted or her mom grows from the garden. At work, Serene enjoys laughs with all of the friendly faces at Spirit of the West and taste-testing the delicious baking made in the kitchen!
Sun Smith | Garden & Food
Sun has worked in the catering and hospitality industry for over 20 years, including her own boutique B&B which garnered her several hospitality awards including the coveted Visit Britain Rose award for service excellence. After many years living on the Caribbean island of Montserrat and then in the UK, Sun's love of the West Coast has brought her back to her roots on Quadra Island. She shares our passion for great food with an emphasis on healthy, local and sustainable farm to table produce. When she's not in our base kitchen, she can be found up to her elbows in compost in her organic garden or out foraging for wild edibles in the beautiful forests of Quadra.
Wade Bilton | Kayak Guide
Wade was born and raised south of the equator in Brisbane Australia. Fuelled by new adventures, she moved to Canada in 2018 to explore the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Here she fell in love with the diverse BC landscape from snow-covered peaks to coastal inlets. She graduated from the Adventure Tourism and Business Operations course at College of the Rockies in Golden, BC and moved to the coast to pursue her guiding aspirations. She is passionate about connecting others with nature and creating long lasting memories.