1. Class III rafting is fun
I know, it’s kind of obvious right? If you have been rafting before, you know how much fun it is. If you haven’t you should come and find out for yourself. Whether you are just floating down a calm pool chatting with friends or if you are slamming through giant waves as you are paddling your hearts out – rafting class III is just really good clean fun. One of the things that is so great about white water rafting is that it is a shared experience and as a raft guide you have the opportunity to show your non-rafting friends or paying guests a good time. They will love you forever (depending on how many times you accidentally knock them out of the raft!). Class III rafting brings out the kid in people – sometimes you will laugh so much that your face hurts, sometimes you will slide up a rock – just ‘cos - and sometimes you will paint your face with blackberry juice. Whatever your inner child looks like – you will be sure to see it on a raft and you will become an ambassador of fun to all of those who step into your raft.
2. Nature is your office
It is no secret that being outside in nature is fundamentally fulfilling to most of us. As a raft guide the river is your office. The sun replaces fluorescent lights and if you are lucky enough to be a multi-day guide, you get to sleep out under the stars every night. Sometimes you will start to notice little things, like the surge in the river changing, like how every spring the buckeyes bloom at a slightly different time, like how during the full moon the forest is forever rustling with animal life. Life starts to feel simple.
3. You get to help others enjoy the outdoors
Sometimes people get into your raft all wound up. Maybe they have a busy and stressful life in the city. Maybe they drove 7 hours in Californian traffic to get to the river. Maybe it’s been too long since their last vacation. Great! These are the best days because you get to watch them slowly relax and enjoy the river. The first time you hit a wave the cold water splashes them in the face - everything changes. You are charged with the responsibility of showing them a good time in the great outdoors. There is nothing more satisfying as a raft guide than seeing someone chill out and enjoy themselves all because you did a great job.
4. Raft guiding is a trade and an art
Raft guiding is a unique skill. You can travel all over the world and get jobs, not necessarily based on your résumé or classes you have taken but because you can demonstrate a proficiency in navigating the river in an inflatable raft. Of course, it is good to have references and relevant certificates but none of that means anything if you can’t guide well. As a new class III raft guide you get to practice these skills every single day. Through experimentation and continual improvement, a good raft guide will start to see their trade as an art form. The river provides endless opportunity to improve your craft and over time –you may paddle class IV and V rivers with more experienced guides and practice your class IV skills by R2-ing a raft. You may even go on to be a commercial guide on more difficult rivers. There is always something new to learn. You will never master the river but through consistent practice and refinement, the river may let you feel that you have sometimes.
5. Raft Guiding can be financially rewarding if done right
So yeah being a raft guide is fun and all but can you make a living doing it? Yes, you can! Raft guiding is often a seasonal job which works well for some people because it means they can get some variety in their life. Some raft guides are school teachers or nurses which often have long periods of time off or flexible shifts. Some raft guides are in college and work their summer vacation to save money. Other more committed full time commercial raft guides travel to other hemispheres to work the rafting season in another country so they can raft guide year-round. Whatever you choose to do it is important to know that your first season may not come with a lot of paid work because you will need to develop your skills to become employable. With dedication you can get the skills necessary to be a successful commercial class III raft guide really fast. After that it is important to find the right job. Wages and conditions vary widely across the industry so don’t be afraid to ask about pay scales. Working in the USA you may also receive tips, so the better you perform as a raft guide – the more you can earn! There are a lot of guides out there who have made it their life long profession and some even go on to run their own rafting companies. It all depends on how hard you work!
Check out River Runners’ Guide School here!