River Guide School Text Book
For The Guide Staff Of Marble Mountain Guest Ranch And Associates.
The material here is copyrighted, but may be used by permission along with an in-bound text-anchored link from your quality web site to ours. Contact us for details.
I. CORPORATE ZEN RAFTING & THE IDEAL RIVER TRIP
The successful operation of a Klamath River Trip, CAL Salmon River Trip, or any river trip depends on the coordinated efforts of all participants in a precisely executed preplanned trip itinerary. This united team effort by lively well groomed talented staff, eager to meet their guest crew of scantily clad wealthy fashion models, will finish the trip after flawless runs on an un-crowded river with the guests tipping in one hundred dollar bills. However, the impossibly complicated logistics, lunatic guide personalities, equipment in various stages of decay, unpredictable weather and river conditions, obese hung-over last-minute add-on clients and highway patrol officers with vendettas can occasionally shift you into the parallel rafter’s universe sometimes known as SURVIVAL RAFTING (SEE GLOSSARY). The perfect river trip is always in direct opposition with the physical laws of entropy and chaos, and will thus, seldom if ever be experienced by guides in this lifetime. But wait! Those who seek happiness and gainful whitewater employment (which is different from the financial independence provided through multi-tiered marketing) can do so with the help of CORPORATE ZEN RAFTING and will simultaneously become experts at running IDEAL, if not “perfect” rafting trips.
The first step in running an ideal river trip is to “learn your job.”
II. WHITE WATER RIVER GUIDES GENERAL JOB DESCRIPTION:
On a one-day trip, a typical days work begins with all the guides meeting at the warehouse to load gear for a trip, AND THE TRIP ENDS AT THE WAREHOUSE TO CLEAN-UP AFTER THE TRIP. The work day on a multiple day trip or on a one day trip with dinner is extended to include all times when your clients are still guests of A.T.A./MMR. What this really means, is that guides are responsible for their guests 24 hours a day until the guests are on their way home. Now, quickly, figure how much you make per hour as a guide. After this exercise you will realize that money must be only a part of the motivation to guide and that there must be serious benefits beyond the paltry pay rates.
In many ways the guide must assume the role of a proxy parent to the guest. The guest is looking to the guide for directions to the outhouse, for instructions on how to paddle, for notification of the dinner-time, and possibly for clues on how to save their own lives during an emergency. This proxy-parenting role is extended to the task of a disciplinarian when guests in any way jeopardize the safety or quality of a trip. YOU CAN ABORT THE TRIP AT YOUR DISCRETION!
Under ideal circumstances a quick review of the trip and assignment of specific duties will prelude the actual loading. Some specific assignments that should be expected to be shared include pre-shuttling vehicles, host duties, pre-trip vehicle checks, gear checks and loading, food packing, inflating and rigging rafts, arguing over who gets the leaky boat, advance food preparation, meal preparation and clean-up, emptying coolers, arguing over who will empty the port-a-potties at trips end, unexpected raft repairs, entertaining guests, guiding clients downstream (this is the glory part), and IN GENERAL ANYTHING REQUIRED TO COMPLETE A SUCCESSFUL TRIP. While our job title is "river guide", it should be obvious that guiding clients downstream is often the smaller portion of the days work.
Certain jobs such as food buying, selling and organizing trips, and routine maintenance of gear and vehicles can on occasion be done by guides as additional work with pay above and beyond the daily guides pay.
It is critical that in the fulfillment of all required duties that a Spirit d' corps be fostered, that arguments are limited to the port-a-potty clean-up and leaky boat, and that work be shared equally between staff. We expect company owners and first year training guides to bear equal volumes of work when working jointly on a trip. Of course, there will be differences in the specific tasks required of trip staff (i.e. port-a-potty clean-up and leaky boat assignments). We want the salesperson for a trip to be able to host the arrival of guests and we want the trip leader to oversee tasks he/she is accountable for. The assignment and fulfillment of tasks should be done in a way that fosters respect for the other guides and causes no unfair burden to be placed on one guide.
Finally, I would like to share an observation. Guides who BOND with their clients will get the big tips, return guide requests, more trip assignments, and the movie offers from the famous producers in their boats. Too many guides think that their clients were so impressed with the days run on the river that they can leave them alone at the campfire to bask in the after glow, while they leave to drink and schmooze with the other guides. The best way to bond with your guests is to spend time with them. That means including them in the guide stories around the campfire, sitting with them at dinner or lunch, rubbing their sore shoulder (stay decent guys!), playing riverbank games, and allowing them to feel a welcomed part of the crew. If you love them, they will love you more. This does not mean that if your customers are drinking Jack Daniel's that you should do the same. Nor, does this mean that if a client wants some river guide loving, that you should give it to them. We need to remember that if customers are drunk we are still responsible for there safety and we need to be able to call 911, provide first aid and drive someone to the hospital if needed. Being drunk in camp or waking up in a customers tent can not be tolerated and is certainly not the expected behavior of a professional.
III. TRIP LEADER JOB DESCRIPTION
A veteran guide qualified on that trip’s river location will be assigned the trip leader.
The trip leader has as a prime directive the management of risk exposure and secondarily the enjoyment of the trip by the guests. In no case are the priorities to be reversed so that guest’s pleasures are caused to jeopardize the safety of staff and guests. Accordingly he/she is responsible for the successful execution of all aspects of the trip and has power to assign tasks to guides, determine lead and sweep boats, manage on river operations, remove unqualified or unruly guests from the trip and cancel the trip when conditions warrant. The trip leader will be given a trip manifest detailing the specific requirements for the trip and a list of guests and staff. When regulations require the filing of a trip ticket prior to departure of the trip, the trip leader is also responsible for this filing. Upon completion of the trip, the trip leader must complete the trip report and evaluate the successes and failures of the trip as well as the performances of the staff.
IV. LEAD BOAT/GUIDE JOB DESCRIPTION:
The lead guide is the trip leader or is assigned by the trip leader. The lead guide should be someone with a depth of experience on that trip’s river such that he/she is familiar with the emergency egress points of the river, allowable rest stops, the sequence of rapids, the proper lines through the rapids, and the subtleties of varying water flows on the river. Management of space between our trip and any downstream groups is also the duty of the lead guide. When our trip overtakes another company trip, the lead guide communicates with that trip’s sweep boat and determines if a stalling technique should be used to allow that trip more space or if we should pass. Respect and diplomacy are the key words when dealing with other groups and on crowded, low water, river trips this task can become the single most difficult job of the lead guide.
V. SWEEP BOAT/GUIDE JOB DESCRIPTION:
The sweep boat is the last boat in the group and carries the wrap kit, first-aid, and repair kits. This boat should be guided by one of the more experienced guides on the trip who in addition to the normal requirements of guiding can be watchful of signals from downstream rafts needing assistance. While this position requires running last in the group it also may require pushing trailing boats to keep up with the pace set by the lead-boat. The sweep guide needs to in general choose more conservative lines through rapids so as to reduce the risk of a situation where his/her boat is wrapped on a rock with the required wrap kit buried under water. The sweep boat may also need to diplomatically discourage other groups from speeding into the middle of our group and disrupting our boat order. When possible, the sweep-boat and the lead-boat should be an oar-powered raft. By placing experienced guides in the lead and sweep positions and by placing oar-powered rafts in these positions we can increase the chances of having responsible and capable staff available to assist with emergencies. Extending this concept one step further requires us to place the boats most exposed to risk, such as inflatable kayaks and paddle rafts with weak crews, in the center of the group.
VI. SHUTTLE DRIVER JOB DESCRIPTION:
When a guide is hired to drive shuttles for a trip his job description also includes ALL the normal duties of a guide except that the shuttle responsibilities replace the guiding responsibilities. After completion of a morning shuttle the driver may be required to drive into a lunch site and prepare the lunch for our guests, or return to camp and pre-cook portions of our dinner menu. At the put-in sites the driver should comb the beach for any gear that may have been inadvertently left by the departing trip. As with the other guides the shuttle drivers job ends after all the vehicles and gear have been cleaned and returned to the warehouse.
VII. RISK MANAGEMENT AND ON-RIVER TRIP OPERATION
The first tendency to be manifested by many new guides is the kamikaze style of rafting. After a short season of successful class III runs, the new guide often begins to feel invincible, imagines himself as a class V stud-muffin, and chooses lines that expose his boat and guests to the biggest waves, steepest drops, and closest proximity to obstacles. This approach maximizes the adrenaline rush experienced by the guide and guests and SOMETIMES increases the size of the guide’s tips. The more tenured guides also know that this approach illustrates the new guide”s lack of respect and understanding of the risks involved with a raft trip.
As a new guide matures and experiences situations that become uncomfortable, embarrassing, and sometimes life threatening, a more balanced respect for the forces at play on a river trip become manifest and the kamikaze attitude is replaced by the skill of risk management.
Risk management in the rafting arena is a concept where various elements that rafters are exposed to are manipulated to keep the risk of injury or death at an acceptable level. The elements of weather, age and skills of the clients, the flow rate of the river, the gradient of the river, the experience level of the guides, the quality of equipment, etc. all interact to create a situation that may or may not be manageable in exposing guests and staff to the risk of injury.
A river trip starting at a high elevation can begin with a strong crew, appropriate equipment and experienced guides but suddenly transform into a survival trip when a surprise snow storm cools the ambient air temperatures to near freezing. In this case appropriate risk management for a trip beginning at a high elevation with volatile weather conditions means including wet-suits and other cold weather gear on the required gear list. This scenario also would warrant a quick switch from any kamikaze rafting to the most conservative lines in an effort to reduce exposure to chilling river water. The lead guide might also quicken the float pace so that time in the river canyon and exposure to the weather is reduced. Of course, the final call in risk management might be to abort the trip entirely prior to launching. It is better to refund money, than to sorrowfully write accident reports that might have been avoided.
Perhaps the most important general conditions that should be monitored for the days of a proposed river trip are the forecasted weather patterns, and the current and projected river levels. My two favorite sources for river flow information are Dream Flows, and the USGS real-time water data site and we have ther Klamath River and Cal Salmon river flows and conditions compiled at "The Klamath River Report". I cannot stress enough, the importance of a pre-trip check of both weather and flow patterns for the stream you intend to boat. Many lives have been threatened or lost by boaters underestimating the changes that happen to a river as it's flows increase outside the familiar levels of the boater.
Risk management should be the first parameter examined in any decision regarding the operation of a trip. If one or two guests are unusually obese or fragile, or if a small boat rip delays the trip, the entire staff may need to be discretely informed that the trip is switching to more conservative routes to minimize exposure to risk.
The subtle changes in on-river operations, that are designed to accommodate fluctuating levels of risk, are seldom required to be discussed with guests. When an overcast afternoon precludes stopping at a swimming hole, the guides should not elaborate on all the activities that the guests are missing out on because they happened to choose a cool day to raft. When a guide switches to conservative lines through rapids to accommodate a young child in the raft, the diplomatic guide will highlight the trip with historical anecdotes about the canyon, he/she will inject humor into the trip, and emphasize every other positive feature of the river experience in addition to the white water thrills.
VIII. SCOUTING RAPIDS:
The two methods of scouting are “boat scouts and “shoreline scouts.”
The boat scout is a quick and less thorough approach accomplished by the guide standing up and attempting to determine the proper line through the rapid, while remaining on the boat. The boat scout is only used on rapids that are clearly visible from the point of entrance through the last move of the rapid. The guide should also have recent experience in the rapid if it is anything more than an easy class III and if the guide expects to be routinely successful with a boat scout. “Read and Run” rafting in class IV and V water should be reserved for private boating while in groups of “known” skilled boaters.
Shoreline scouts require stopping the trip, hiking to various vantage points along the bank and reconnoitering for a good line. A shoreline scout is called for anytime there is a blind entrance or passage through a rapid, anytime the guide staff is unfamiliar with the proper line, or anytime flows or other conditions have caused the normal lines to become questionable. WHEN IN DOUBT, STOP AND SCOUT!
A few procedures need to be vigorously adhered to when initiating a shoreline scout:
1. LEAVE YOUR LIFE JACKETS AND HELMETS ON.
2. CARRY YOUR THROW BAGS WITH YOU WHEN YOU LEAVE THE BOAT TO SCOUT
3. INSTRUCT YOUR GUESTS TO REMAIN ON THE BOAT IF THE TRAIL IS TREACHEROUS
The purpose of each guide carrying a throw bag is to encourage frequent setting up of safety-lines and to assist less cautious boaters that progress into the rapid while we are doing our scout. The guide who leaves his helmet and jacket on the boat while scouting is not able to assist in any rescues at that rapid, is endangering himself if he should happen to slip and fall into the rapid, and must return to his boat for gear if he is elected to remain and act as a safety for the first boat’s probe through the rapid. If you already have guides fully equipped at the rapid, you will be more likely to set-up a safety line for that first boat passing through rather than taking the quick “lets-just-go” approach
IX. ON-RIVER TRIP ORGANIZATION:
1. BOAT ORDER AND INTER-BOAT SPACING:
Since the most common way for the lead and sweep guides to communicate is through messages relayed between intermediate boats, it is imperative that the trip not become so dispersed that boats are isolated from the group. The rule of thumb is that a guide should ALWAYS have the boat immediately down stream and the boat immediately upstream in sight. There is nearly a 100% guarantee that if one boat stops for 15 minutes to pick blackberries while the rest of the trip proceeds downstream, the remaining boat will hit an invisible snag as soon as it reenters the current and rip a six foot hole in a main tube. Of course, the repair kit in this scenario will be in the lead boat, now miles downstream. An even worse scenario could be a client getting a bee sting while picking the blackberries, entering into anaphylactic shock, then the guide hitting the snag while trying to race downstream to catch the boat carrying the repair kit and the trauma kit. So you think this is rather unlikely? Well, reality will be even worse. In this case, the careless guide would probably create a situation where a client is stung, the boat is ripped in the dash down stream, the swamped boat is then wrapped on an inaccessible rock mid current, another client becomes entrapped between the boat and rock, and all the paddles are washed downstream followed by a slowly sinking beer cooler! GUIDES NEVER BECOME SO GOOD THAT THEY CAN ALLOW THEMSELVES TO BE SEPARATED FROM THE SUPPORT OF THEIR COMRADES.
As soon as a guide successfully negotiates a difficult rapid he should eddy-out or at least stall in the current while watching the upstream boat. In turn, the upstream boat will stall at the end of the rapid and watch for the next boat. This procedure assumes that the lead guide has assigned a boat order and that each guide knows who is preceding him and who is following him. Under no circumstance should a trip be run where guides meander casually through the entourage and become ignorant of the status of any part of the group. The price for this rigidity in on river boat operations is that clients in the lead boat may never be able to share experiences with friends in the sweep boat, the trip may move slower, and you may have to deal with pesky boats from company X invading your group and destroying your boat order. (Try periodically changing boat order to bring various friends into closer proximity, try staying in slower current rather than stopping in eddies as you stall to watch upstream boats clear a rapid, and try opening valves of invading boats to discourage their procession through your group.) The rewards of maintaining boat orders and watching for your peers will be enhanced trust, camaraderie, organization, accessibility to emergency equipment, and quicker emergency response times.
Establishing the speed of the float and maintaining proper space between our trips boats is the responsibility of the lead guide. The lead guide should be far enough ahead of the second boat so that there is enough space to do a river scout and signal upstream to the following boats when changes in the normal line are required. As with all the boats in a group, the lead guide should stop and wait for the following boat the instant that boat is out of sight.
THE LEAD GUIDE IS THE FINAL FENCE THAT CAN CORRAL SWIMMERS AND LOST BOATS. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD THE LEAD GUIDE BEACH AND LEAVE HIS/HER RAFT IN DANGEROUS WATER UNTIL ALL BOATS AND PEOPLE ARE ACCOUNTED FOR. HE/SHE MUST ALWAYS BE PREPARED TO DO A RIVER RESCUE OF PEOPLE FLOATING DOWN FROM AN UPSTREAM ACCIDENT.
2. ESTABLISHING A SAFETY:
A safety or safety line is a guide with a throw bag who is waiting at a critical spot along the shoreline of a rapid. As the first boats negotiate the rapid the safety guide is ready to toss the throw bag to swimmers or to the boat if it should become wrapped in the rapid. The safety guide should be trained in accurate throw bag tosses, quick throw bag recovery, and should be well anchored and braced for the force of a swimmer pulling on his safety line. Establishing safety lines should be a routine consideration anytime the guide staff is assembled for a shoreline scout. The first boats through a rapid should return the favor and establish safety lines for the guides who acted as the first safety.
By keeping the leading and following boats in site, it is also possible to relay hand signals through the group and inform others of incidental needs, emergencies, or scenic views (wild life and wildlife). When a signal is received from another guide, the receiving guide MUST REPEAT THE SIGNAL TO THE GIVER so that the signal is acknowledged to the giver. The guide who receives the signal must then turn and relay the message to the next boat in the procession and wait for acknowledgement of the signal from that boat. There is not much more frustrating than giving an emergency signal to a following guide who does not return the signal to acknowledge its receipt.
3. ON RIVER COMMUNICATIONS:
The roar of the rapids and the distances between boats necessitates some special techniques for communications between boats. Two low-tech methods are by the use of hand or river signals, and now-days we are seeing float trips with two-way radios carried by the lead and sweep boats. For the low-tech boaters, here are some pointers on hand and whistle signals.
HAND & WHISTLE SIGNALS:
When using hand signals to show routes, the giver of the signal always points to the good line rather than toward the obstacle. A directional signal is also to be taken at face value regardless of it being given with the left or right hand.
Unfortunately there is not a single system of hand signals universally accepted by boaters. The following set of signals is one based on common sense and is accepted by many boaters.
STOP OR EDDY-OUT, SWIMMER, PIN HEAD GEEK, EMERGENCY, RIGHT & LEFT, MOVE BACK BOZO, HURRY UP, FIRST-AID, FOOD/LUNCH, ROPE, CALL FOR HELICOPTER, LOOK THERE,
WRAP, SCENIC VIEW, READY?
X. READING WHITEWATER:
As is often the case when learning a new skill or subject, the vernacular or nomenclature for the subject must be mastered. So students, take good notes because spelling counts! The following glossary is a partial list of commonly used whitewater terms that could help you get your point across to the would-be rescuers waving at you as you sit perched on top of that rock in the middle of the river.
CELEBRITY GUIDE-The one time temporary hire that comes to work with an attitude of supreme greatness and generously applied body glitter. The celebrity guide allows their divinely attained skills and experience to justify minimal exertions, selective acceptance of job duties .
CFS.- “cubic feet per second” Most rivers have a gauge that shows river height in feet. Since this is meaningful only to those who know the particular gradient and features of that river, a more useful measure of the river flow is given in cubic feet per second, or CFS.
CURRENT-moving water, or electrons traveling through a...oops, wrong class! IMPORTANT SAFETY NOTE!!! Surface current is usually different from subsurface current.
A subsurface current can be racing downstream while the surface current is simultaneously slowing, cresting, and breaking backwards into a re-circulating hole.
CUSHION/PILLOW-a build-up of water caused by water pilling up in front of an obstacle
DOWNSTREAM FERRY ANGLE-a down stream angle of a raft or boat’s vector relative to the current. In other words, you are paddling or rowing downstream at an angle to the current. Downstream angles increase your speed through a rapid and are great for “punching through” holes and waves, maximizing momentum, heightening the adrenaline rush, and general KAMIKAZE rafting. For slower, more controlled boating see “upstream ferry angles”
DROP-steep vertically downward moving water.
EDDY-current that is caused to move up-stream due to friction along a shore-line or due to lower current pressure areas behind midstream obstacles. Aviators could perhaps think of the “Bernoulli effect” to understand how water can flow “uphill.”
EDDY FENCE (OR EDDIE WALL AT HIGHER FLOWS)-the line dividing current from an eddy
EDDY-HOP-catching successive eddies. This can be useful when you need to move cross current without traveling too far downstream, to slow your descent in a long or steep gradient rapid, and to “boat scout” when sheer canyon walls prevent shore line scouts.
FALLS-a vertical drop greater than 5-6 feet, or a vertical drop of ANY size that happens to munch your boat.
FERRY ANGLE-the vector angle of a raft or boat relative to the direction (vectors) of the current
HORIZON LINE-a surface line of water with obscured downstream visibility. Imagine the horizon line as the last bit of visible water prior to the water dropping out of site over a waterfall
GRADIENT-the change in elevation divided by the change in horizontal distance. Usually river gradients are measured in feet/mile.
HOLE-a depression in the surface of the water, often created by the downward flow of current after passing over a riverbed obstacle. A typical “hole” might have a smooth “horizon line” visible at the entrance and a wave breaking at the downstream edge of the hole. Holes come in a myriad of varieties including “keeper holes” (re-circulating), “monster” (BIG) and “anal” (re-circulating and BIG
IDEAL RIVER TRIP- a successful weaving together of preparations, management decisions, and acceptance of the reality of your river trip. Boating reality is nothing more than your actions when faced with the laws of chaos and white water rafting entropy
MOMENTUM-the product of the speed and mass of a boat. Heavier boats are harder to start moving or to stop moving due to greater energy required to initiate moving the larger mass. You will probably understand momentum the first time you try to stop a swamped bucket boat while in the grip of a strong current that is directing you to a monster hole.
POUR-OVER-a vertical drop at the downstream side of a shallow obstacle, with a small enough volume of water flowing over it to prevent the water from jumping far beyond the obstacle. Often pour-overs are recognized by a horizon line as you approach and an exit hidden from view. (See “falls” if the vertical drop is greater than 5-6 feet.)
RAPID-turbulence caused by current meeting obstacles. Three general factors impact the nature of a rapid, the volume of water flow, the gradient, and the riverbed geology. (A fourth factor, time, also changes the nature of a rapid. Note that a rapid increases in intensity after it has been experienced and is being relived around the campfire. Some also will argue that alcohol can have a catalytic effect on the impact time has on the nature of a rapid.)
READ-AND-RUN BOATING-This is the true and accurate source of the term “seat-of-the-pants.” When you are traveling downstream at a speed within your skill level for the given rapid, and when you can clearly see a good line through the rapid from start to finish, you can stay seated on your pants and enjoy the ride while boating WITHOUT stopping to scout. This is the good stuff. Long runs may require you to slow your descent in micro eddies behind rocks and obstacles to allow quick picks of new lines and re-evaluations of approaching white water stretches.
ROOSTER TAIL-fast current striking an obstacle and forced into an upward flowing fountain
SIEVE-a type of strainer created by numerous boulders (boulder sieve)
SLACK WATER-slower moving surface water, often found downstream of submerged obstacles that would otherwise create eddies at lower flows
STRAINER-boulders, trees or brush in the current, or any obstacle that allows water to pass through but not boats and people.
SURVIVAL RAFTING-The epic battle to reduce risk on a boating trip when threatening evil forces have gained the upper-hand as rag-tag boaters struggle to find refuge from white-water hell.
TONGUE-(a.k.a. “v”) the smooth surface current that usually indicates the cleanest line down a drop. This is usually deeper water and is often bordered by obstructions on either side.
UPSTREAM FERRY ANGLE-an upstream angle of a raft or boat’s vector relative to the current. In other words, paddling or rowing upstream at an angle to the current. This technique tends to slow the descent through a rapid and is more frequently used by oar powered boats and technically skilled knowledgeable finesse boaters that like to appear cool and in control in the face of mayhem.
XI. ON RIVER OPERATIONS & THE ACCEPTANCE OF REALITY
PRE TRIP MEETING: Prior to every trip whether it be 2 boats or 20 boats, the trip leader will hold a pre trip meeting to discuss who the clients are, special needs, take out times, logistics, safety issues, job assignments and any other pertinent information that will make the trip flow smoother and be less chaotic.
POST TRIP MEETING:
After every trip there will be a post trip meeting to talk about any issues from the day. This meeting will be held after gear is done and before tips are given out from the trip leader. This de-briefing should be short and to the point. It is also the ideal time to report any deficiencies in equipment, lost gear, consumed items such as first-aid equipment, or to make note of equipment in need of repair. It is also important to further mock, jeer and poke fun at the senior guide who swam the class II riffle.
Introduction - Welcome to Marble Mountain Ranch, or River and Rock Adventures, or (name of company) we are on the ...(name of river, such as the South Fork of the American, MF or NF). Thank the trip leaders for their efforts to organize the trip. Life jackets (sizes and how they should fit and that they need to stay buckled and on the whole time on the river)
Paddle safety (t-grip, don’t push off rocks and don’t hit anyone) Boat care ( wash feet)
Water fight safety (no jumping from boat to boat)Quiet zones and respect for local events or Native American ceremonies that might be in progress.
RIVERSIDE WELCOME AND ORIENTATION OUTLINE
1. INTRODUCE STAFF
2. VERIFY SIGN-IN ON LIABILITY RELEASE FORM!
3. OVERVIEW OF DAYS ITINERARY
4. ACKNOWLEDGE EFFORTS OF GROUP ORGANIZERS
5. VERIFY APPROPRIATE CLOTHING FOR GUESTS (NO JEWELRY, ENOUGH WARMTH)
1. GROUP PARTICIPATION REQUIRED
GUIDE IS BENEVOLENT DICTATOR (REVIEW GOVERNMENT AGENCY FINES)
HOW TO HOLD YOUR PADDLE
COMMON COMMANDS VOICED BY GUIDE
RULES OF ETIQUETTE (QUIET ZONE, NO BOAT JUMPING, NO LITTERING, SMOKING ONLY AT RIVERS EDGE, NO SMOKING AT ALL IN SOME CASES)
HIGH SIDE COMMAND
2. HAZARDS INHERENT IN THE SPORT
DROWNING (LIFE JACKET STAYS ON WHEN ON THE RIVER)
SUNBURN (PROPER USE OF SUNBLOCK & CLOTHING)
HEAT EXHAUSTION (KEEPING COOL, BIO FEEDBACK)
DEHYDRATION (DRINKING ENOUGH POTABLEWATER, NOT RIVER WATER)
HYPOTHERMIA (PROPER DRESS FOR YOUR TRIP)
SHARP ROCKS & GROUND HAZARDS (SHOES STAY ON)
POISON OAK, SNAKES & BITING INSECTS
CUTS, BRUISES, BROKEN BONES (SIMILAR RISK LEVEL AS SKIING)
FOOTCONES USED AT OWN RISK (YOU STAY IN THE BOAT BETTER BUT THERE IS MORE RISK OF TWISTED JOINTS)
SHOW LOCATION OF FIRST-AID KIT & EXPLAIN HOW TO GAIN ACCESS TO IT
EMPHASIZE THE RELATIVE SAFETY OF RAFTING
AFTER REVIEWING THE RISKS EXPLAIN OUR ALCOHOL & DRUG POLICY
3. SWIMMING IN RAPIDS
A. JACKET STAYS ON AT ALL TIMES
B. RELAX & LOOK DOWN STREAM TO SEE OBSTACLES
C. FEET DOWN STREAM, BUTT UP & BACKSTROKE,
D. POSSIBLE THROW BAG USE, OR EXTENDED REACH WITH PADDLES
E. PROPER AID TO SWIMMERS ENTERING THE BOAT
F. AVOID STRAINERS, OVERHAND CRAWL AT EDDIES TO REACH THE SHORE
4. HOW TO ENTER THE BOAT (WASH FEET) & LEAVE THE BOAT (SECURING HELMETS, JACKETS, AND THE BOAT).
5. ASK IF ANYONE HAS SPECIAL HEALTH NEEDS, ALLERGIES, MEDICATIONS, ETC.
7. FIT LIFE JACKETS & HELMETS. CHECK THE FIT OF EACH PERSONS JACKET & HELMET PRIOR TO STARTING THE TRIP!
ALWAYS MAKE SURE THAT EVERYONE HAS PROPERLY FILLED OUT A RELEASE FORM. THIS MEANS THAT ALL INFORMATION AND SGNATURES ARE FILLED OUT. (The only thing optional on the release form is their e-mail address)
The opening paragraphs of this guide to guiding describe contrasting forces that are in one case contributing towards the culmination of a perfect trip, and forces that are destroying a trip or leading toward more chaos, injury, and property destruction. Rather than presenting these forces as in “conflict”, with a goal to defeat and eliminate the forces of chaos, pain, risk, and free agency, the art of Corporate Zen Rafting will teach acceptance of both forces. Since we can never totally eliminate forces tending toward chaos, we must by necessity take a “managerial” stance and strive to achieve acceptable levels of chaos that can reduce the chances of property destruction and injury, yet add spice and variety to our lives. We don’t want to eliminate the thrill of whitewater rafting, but we want to strive for reasonable levels of exposure. The second step in learning Corporate Zen Rafting is to learn the skill of “risk management” described above.
We of course cannot, nor do we desire to, totally eliminate thrill seeking from a river experience. We can, however, adapt each trip so that the client’s abilities, the environment and the configuration of the trip approximates the level of risk we are exposed to.
XII. RIVER SKILLS AND THE SELF ACTUALIZED GUIDE or “River God”
Commercial guiding is obviously much more involved than simply driving a boat downstream. With the 24 hour workday and often ludicrous job duties, a logical thinker would conclude that river guides get paid the “big bucks.” WRONG! What is even more amazing is that we often see clear thinking professionals with real lives wanting to work as weekend warriors. I propose that the explanation lies in the “self actualization” of the guide. The successful guide has so many positive reinforcements (working in a natural outdoor setting, healthy food, adventure, camaraderie, respect from awe struck city dwellers who don’t know you, simulated respect from fellow guides who do know you, and imagined magical powers over bikini clad women who believe you when you claim to have made that last raft maneuver on purpose). A self-actualized guide is one who has found a niche in commercial guiding and is rewarded by ALL aspects of the experience. This guide has an expanded and more fulfilled personality than he/she would have without guiding, and simply enjoys the job. A key to becoming a self-actualized corporate Zen river guide is to master the river skills required to experience the rewards of navigating rivers successfully. The third step in Corporate Zen Rafting is to “learn river skills”.
The intent of this guidebook is to give additional insights to the commercial river guide (and to make millions on the royalties so as to fund my retirement in Costa Rica). As a group, the commercial guide is often looked down upon by the purist whitewater enthusiasts (i.e. megalomaniacal self righteous liberal lunatic granola head kayakers). “How dare you make money off the river?” “Do you enjoy screaming at idiotic hung over flat landers while navigating class V rapids in a zombie trance resulting from too little sleep?” Well, actually, yes I do.
The answers to questions such as these come in fortune cookies and in the infinite philanthropic potential that rafts on rivers provide. Only commercial guides have the ability, and access to assets required to routinely expose the masses to a river experience. The profit motive of an outfitter has a secondary effect of exposing thousands of potentially hostile dam builders to a canyon experience. Only commercial guides can be rewarded by the gratitude of now rejuvenated clients that have found a second wind in life after a brief exposure to outdoor recreational therapy. Only commercial guides have the resources to accommodate large numbers of under privileged and handicapped populations in a canyon experience. This is the key to becoming a “River God.” No, it is not the machismo oozing from every pore of your bronzed body as you deftly pivot your raft around the razor rock at the leading edge of a monster hole. It is giving of your-self. The final step of Corporate Zen Rafting is the act of donating your time and talents to worthy groups and “sharing the river experience.”
In Sum, the IDEAL RIVER TRIP is a successful weaving together of preparations, risk management, successful staff efforts, and acceptance of boating reality. Your boating REALITY will be chaos and entropy, tempered by your preparation, wisdom, skill, effort and adrenaline.
XIII A GUIDES PHYSICAL AND MENTAL CONDITIONING:
Minimum levels of physical conditioning are required to perform the duties of a river guide. In general, more difficult whitewater and more remote river runs require better conditioning of the guide. A river guide needs to be able to swim the rapids that they are navigating should the need arise, and re-enter their own boat mid-stream . Cross current swims, assisted swimmer swims, under-boat swims, throw-line swims, and self rescue skills are required.
Land skills also are critical. Guides should be comfortable sprinting quickly across the tops of slippery cobble rock and should have a basic rock climbing skill for scouting difficult rapid vantage points.
If the river guide has the requisite physical conditioning and learned support skills, the obvious follow-up of mental stability comes to the discussion. All joking aside, a guide should not be serving the public if he/she cannot perform under stresses of emergency scenarios, or is unbalanced in any way. Substance abuse also cannot be a concern. Guides need to be rested prior to the work day and be in no less a capable condition than an airline pilot who is responsible for the safety of passengers on a flight.
XIV CUSTOMER SERVICE:
Some added Comments from Chris Ashton at River and Rock:
Customer service- is an organization's ability to supply their customers' wants and needs.
Excellent customer service- is the ability of an organization to constantly and consistently exceed the customer's expectations.
This is our goal.
Accepting this definition means expanding our thinking about customer service; if we're going to consistently exceed customers' expectations, we have to recognize that every aspect of our business has an impact on customer service, not just those aspects of our business that involve face-to-face customer contact. For example when a customer drives in to our camp and gets out of his car if this first thing he see’s is trash on the ground, empty beer bottles from the night before and guides smoking, these things to me are poor customer service. My first impression would be if their camp is a mess and unorganized, then they must be like that on the river. If a customer walks in to camp and it is clean and organized, and the guides are all in there staff shirts ready to greet the customers and give them direction, then you have already started to exceed there expectations before you have even said "hello."
Improving customer service involves making a commitment to learning what our customers' needs and wants are, and developing action plans that implement customer friendly processes. The foundation you need is one of courtesy, caring, willingness to serve, and an attitude that lets your customers know that you they matter-and that you care.
Is the customer always right? This is something you always hear in customer service and most of the time by the customer himself. In whitewater rafting there are two answers yes and no. If you are scouting tunnel chute at 4000 c.f.s. and if your customers have all seen the pictures and videos and they will be very excited about running it. But after talking it over with the other guides, if the trip leader decides that a portage is the safest way to go, then the only answer is a firm "no" to the running of the rapid. When you tell your customers they are not going to get to run the rapid today, some of them will do everything they can to convince you to do it. They may even tell you that the only reason the came on this trip was to run that rapid, and they will demand that you run it. In this case you can not give in to the pressure of customers and put your whole boat in danger. Remember: Safety is the prime directive and pleasure comes in second place.
In this case the customer is not right about running the rapid. However, it doesn't’t mean you have to be antagonistic toward the client and every effort at diplomacy is called for. Remind them that you care most about their safety, and that there are plenty of great rapids that they will run. They are going to have a better day because no one got hurt running tunnel chute. I will guarantee you that 10 minutes down the river they will have forgotten about the lost rapid, and that by the end of the day someone (usually the mom) will pull you aside and quietly thank you for doing the right thing. We loose a likely injury, and immediate satisfaction, but we gain respect, better risk management, and most likely better tips and returning clients.
Another aspect of excellent customer service comes from being able to read your customers. You may have a person that comes in to camp that is afraid of water. The only reason they came was because all their friends talked them in to it. You need to listen to your customers, read their body language, reassure them and make sure they don’t get put in a boat with a wild group. Sometimes you may have a family with a couple of teenage kids that are gung-ho, but mom is conservative and worried. By being able to identify her anxieties early on in the trip, you might tell her guide to run conservative lines in the rapids and in the calm spots play games with the kids to keep them involved. This is great customer service that is well blended with risk management as the prime directive.
When we have returning customers that call the reservations office to book a trip, most of the time they can’t remember what river they did, or what kind of food we served. All they remember is their guides name, how great they were, and that they want him/her again. Guides that provide excellent customer service get requested and make the bigger tips.
Do you have some input or suggestions for this Guide School website? Get instant fame and notoriety by submitting a quality addition! We welcome all suggestions to this work. Doug Cole