All In A Day’s Work — A Raft Guide’s Life

The day of the raft guide starts the night before, as the last thing we all do is check the schedule before we go to bed.

The reasoning for this our river trips can change in an instant. Working for ACE, the largest outdoor resort in West Virginia, trips consistently change, depending on the guests’ needs. This task is left up to the 3 Managers on Duty (M.O.D) in charge of scheduling the tens of thousands of guests who visit ACE each year.

For a guide, the day starts long before those guests show up.

A guide must show up 1 hour and 15 minutes before the scheduled trip departure. (10:15 trip = 9:00 Show Up). This allows for the guides and Trip Leader (TL) to have a pre-trip meeting discussing duties, as well as a plan for the day. Generally, the TL will have half the guides go to the river to prepare the boats, while the others stay back and help our guests get outfitted with PFDs (life jackets), paddles, helmets, and wetsuits.

After everyone is outfitted and the TL makes the last round with the key basket, it’s time to load into the unmistakable blue ACE school bus and head off to the river. Guides generally huddle up in the back of the bus with the gear and coolers, allowing for everyone else to sit up front and hear the Trip Safety Speech. Also, it’s quick access out the back door to unload and get to the boats to strap in gear.

We meet the other guides at the put-in who have been inflating the boats and the lunches for the trip. After strapping in all the gear to the boats, there is a quick, last-minute trip meeting with the TL before crews for each boat are selected.

And the moment of truth — Will I be taking down Girl Scouts, a bachelor party, a family, or a school group? You never know until your crew walks up and you get to meet them.

No matter who they are, it’s always a good time sharing the river with new people.

Now the fun part begins: 5 hours of beautiful river antics, filled with jokes, history, jump rock, swimming, a hot lunch on the river, and of course world-class whitewater.

While guides may do the same stretch of river frequently, it’s always different, which is one of the many reasons my job as a river guide is so great. Meeting a new cast of characters everyday to take down some of the most scenic river sections in North America.

Once the trip concludes under the New River Gorge Bridge, we load up the boats and hop on the bus and head back to ACE. Once we get back and help our crew return their gear, it’s back up to the office to have a post-trip meeting, send out our thank you cards, and return any equipment we may have used.

From there, we have a short time to change out of our river gear and head down to the “Big Top” to watch the world premiere of the whitewater video from the day. The video signals the end of the day for us raft guides, as we all disperse for the evening. Some head to the restaurant for dinner, others back to camp, while others return home.

And, right before bed, it’s one last look at the schedule.

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