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4 Types of Guides You Will Meet Rafting

4 Types of Guides You Will Meet Rafting

OK so you booked a whitewater rafting trip with your friends on an awesome river. You’re super stoked to be going on an amazing whitewater adventure. You show up at the outfitter's camp, they give you a safety orientation, and introduce you to your guide. Now you really want to make the trip special, but how do you communicate that to your guide? Well here is a quick rundown on how to work with your guide to make sure that trip is really memorable.

Hopefully you did your homework with the outfitter and selected an outfitter that actually lets you have fun rather than the cattle-car of a raft trip that you could buy on a daily deal site. This is the first step to having a good trip and you can find out more about outfitter selection in our 8 things to ask a rafting company article. Next you want to understand who your guide is.

The Trip Leader

First you want to know if you are in the Trip Leader’s boat. The Trip Leader is generally the most experienced full time guide on the trip, but this is not always a good thing for you unless you are rafting with the kids or grandma. Since the Trip Leader is responsible for almost every aspect of the trip including every guest, there is a really low chance that this person will be able to relax enough to let you play on the river. While you are having fun jumping off rocks and swimming rapids, the Trip Leader is watching the flock like an overprotective shepherd. Luckily unless you are a group of hot girls, weak-looking paddlers, or rich-looking people, odds are you probably won’t be in the Trip Leader’s boat. Trip Leaders tend to cherry pick their crews since they are the ones who get to assign them. The good Trip Leaders (like the one pictured above) pick up the slack for the other guides, while the bad ones pick the crews that are most likely to tip or get them laid.

The Professional Staff Guide

The Professional Staff Guide is the core of the guide crew they work commercially sometimes 7 days a week throughout the summer and usually 3-5 days a week in the shoulder season. Typically these guides also do one of three things in the winter: travel, work at a ski resort, or work at another rafting company on the other side of the world. The good news is that this guide is generally highly professional, has a high degree of skill and can pull off any move, and is overall really entertaining. The bad news is that this guide can be really tired or burnt out. They may lack passion for the job or they may just be super sleepy from working for the last 30+ days straight.

The Weekend Warrior

Weekend Warrior in Action

If you really want to have a ton of fun request the Trip Leader assign an experienced Weekend Warrior to your crew. Odds are that this guide has a real job and is just working on the weekend for fun because they love guiding and they want to share their passion of the river with others. These guides typically will have the experience to pull off any of the moves that you really want to do while still showing you a good time. As an additional perk this guide is there in a mostly social capacity and is notoriously bad at actually getting any camp work done. Now that’s not to say they are not a good guide, it’s just that they no longer have anything to prove to the other guide staff and they would rather chat with you than move boats and trash.

The First Year

This person is the most excited river guide you will ever meet! The First Year guide is so excited that they will not be able to hold it in. After months of training, learning, absorbing information, listening to guide stories, cleaning the grease trap, and swimming in garbage this guide has been put through their paces and a pile of crappy camp work just for the opportunity to take you down the river. Odds are that this is either their first trip or they are lying and telling you that they have “been on the river a while” either way you are going to have an exciting trip. Sure they can’t pull off the moves of the other guides, and your boat is generally spinning out of control through a rapid after the slightest move went badly, but hey they are having so much fun and so happy to be out there that you won’t mind the swims. Yes you will swim, yes you will wrap, and yes you will flip, but at least you will have fun doing it. Just don’t expect that grandma will enjoy the trip with this guide.

So, which guide is the best?

This is entirely up to your group dynamics, but you should always communicate with your guide and your rafting company about what you want and who you want to boat with. Sometimes logistics dictates that you cannot get exactly the guide you want, but you will certainly get a guide that will show you a fun time on the river. Either way you will come out with a good day and some great stories.

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