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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Karisa Koehl | Reservations and 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.
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.
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.
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.
Kevin Nickerson | Kayak Guide
Originally from Alberta, Kevin now splits his time between the Canadian Rocky Mountains in the winter and Vancouver Island in the summer. Kevin spends his winters working as a Ski Patroller and Avalanche Forecaster at the Lake Louise Ski Resort, and is on the never ending hunt for powder. After a brief hiatus from the coast to fight wildland fires in Alberta, Kevin is very excited to make his return to the ocean. He has a passion for adventure and all things intertidal!
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.
Martin Blanchard | Kayak Guide
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.
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.
Mikasa Quaife | Kayak Guide
Mikasa grew up on Vancouver Island, which is where she first started kayaking. Wanting to explore the other coast she moved to Halifax to study marine biology but was drawn back to the West Coast most summers to work as an outdoor guide taking youth hiking, kayaking and canoeing. In 2016 Mikasa moved back to the island permanently and has filled her time in, on, or around the water since then. Some of her favourite outdoor pursuits (besides kayaking) are sailing, surfing, rock climbing, and talking about marine life with anyone with a willing ear!
Jeremy Beninger | Kayak Guide
Jeremy has been a kayak guide and instructor for the past ten years, working throughout British Columbia and in New Zealand. He has a deep connection with nature and loves to share his passion of the flora and fauna with guests! In the past 5 years, he has developed a yoga practice that has been incredibly important for the longevity of his love for working in this industry!
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.
Rowan Cassels Brown | Kayak Guide
Rowan is an Englishman who, like many travellers, fell in love with the Canadian wilderness. He strayed from his undergraduate path in the UK and found that he is happiest when sharing adventures with others on the water and in the mountains. He now calls BC home and is eager to help facilitate connections between people and the natural world.
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.
Brandon Exner | Kayak Guide
We love having Brandon on our guide team! His bio is coming soon...
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
Rebecca Merner | Kayak Guide
Rebecca was raised a West Coast gal on Vancouver Island but she is a nomad at heart. Through sailing and kayaking she fostered her love for the ocean. Schooled at the West Coast Adventure College in Sooke, BC, Rebecca loves to share the wonders of the beautiful coast she calls home
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!
Alex Smith | Kayak Guide & Base Camp Operations
While growing up in Vancouver, Alex developed his love for the outdoors skiing, hiking and paddling around BC. He recently completed the COLT program in the summer of 2021 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.
Gaspard Laniece | Operations & Kayak 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.
Aryaman Anand (Ary) | Base Camp Operations
Ary is from the Himalayas in Northern India where he had been working as a high-altitude hiking guide for the last 10 years. He is currently a student at the Adventure Tourism Business Operations Program at College of the Rockies and has been in Canada since September 2021. Although a mountain person, spending more time by the ocean and joining the Spirit of the West team is something that really excites him. He also runs his own adventure company in India and Nepal.
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.
Madison DePater | Base Operations
Madison was raised in Kemptville, Ontario, and moved to Banff, Alberta, to work in tourism after graduating from university. The past few years have been spent exploring the Canadian Rockies, pursuing her interests in hiking, backcountry camping, and skiing. Madison is excited to learn and grow within tourism through working with Spirit of the West and exploring the coast.
Ian Willmer | Base Camp Operations
Ian grew up on the prairies, spending summers backcountry hiking and canoeing in Manitoba’s lake district. His love for the outdoors has also taken him on wilderness trips across western Canada and the US. One of his favourite memories is going to sleep in the silence of a remote camp, knowing that no other humans were in that mountain valley for the night. He loves sharing nature experiences with others and is excited to make more memories on the beautiful BC coast this summer!
Kaydon Raven | Base Operations
Born and raised on the islands, Kaydon has grown amongst the wild beauty here on the west coast. Childhood days were spent playing in the forest and wandering rocky beaches. Education has been a combination of a small independent school to the public school system as well as homeschooling and unschooling with a focus on arts and outdoor education. Kaydon likes to spend time playing the guitar, bouldering, painting and drawing, skateboarding, paddling and walking in the forest.
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!
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.
Georgia Williams | Kayak Guide
Georgia loves everything that the West Coast has to offer, especially the wildlife in the ocean and the fungus on land. She fell in love with sea kayaking because it is an excellent way to find more of both! On trips she likes to spend any free time collecting driftwood to carve and cedar bark to weave, and she is happy to teach anyone who is interested! When Georgia is not guiding, she teaches elementary at a forest school in North Vancouver.
Brendan Kowtecky | Kayak Guide
Brendan (originally from Ontario) is a certified kayak addict, and for the past 12 years and has enjoyed sprint racing, whitewater, and sea kayaking. He studied Outdoor Adventure at Algonquin College before moving to New Zealand for a couple of years. Upon returning, he headed to the north shore of Lake Superior and fell in love with the open water. Since moving out to BC, he has been lucky enough to guide in the Canadian Arctic, Greenland, as well as the East Coast. In the winter months he heads down to Antarctica to do more kayak guiding.
Ashley Hamilton | Kayak Guide
Ashley is an adventurer and outdoor educator, who lives for exploring the natural world and meeting new people. She grew up in Niagara On The Lake, Ontario and spent almost every summer day swimming in local ponds, mountain biking, and canoeing. 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 science degree and has spent many years working with inner-city youth from Toronto teaching and directing at an outdoor experiential school. Currently she is working with First Nations communities across Canada creating culturally relevant language resources for schools. The rest of the time, she works as a polar guide spending Canadian winters with her penguin and whale colleagues in Antarctica and summers on the BC Coast paddling and learning as much as she can about the power and biodiversity of the ocean.
Beverly Marshall | 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.