The Gauley River in West Virginia: it’s a special place. And you’ve probably read about the big rapids and the big fun. But you may be wondering about a key ingredient – the guides!
I’m a bit biased, but the guide can take your trip from “pretty cool” to “absolutely awesome.”
Unless you have requested your favorite guide, the Trip Leader will point you to a boat and a guide at the river’s edge. It’s kind of like a blind date without the awkwardness. Even before you meet each other, your guide has been preparing for the “big day” with you. Nice, huh?
To become a Gauley guide, someone has to work plenty of trips on a Class V stretch of water and then pass a “check out run” test with a senior guide. They have to prove their skills at “reading water” and anticipating the nearly constant action of the Gauley River. If they do well during the training process, they get to be Gauley Guides. If not, they become video boaters. HA! Just kidding, guys.
Once they’re checked-out, they get scheduled for trips and show up at the crack of dawn to prepare for the day. This may involve loading, unloading, and inflating boats. Or it could entail wetsuit and gear fittings. It takes a lot of behind-the-scenes work to get you all dressed and ready for some rafting.
So back to the river’s edge, your guide will introduce themselves, ask a few preliminary questions, and maybe crack a joke or twelve. My advice for first-time rafters is to listen carefully and play along! The guides truly care about your safety and enjoyment. Even if you’ve already been rafting 98 times, approach the day with a fresh attitude because you probably already figured out that you’ll never have the exact same experience twice.
So go ahead and laugh, paddle, and enjoy the wonder that is the Gauley River!
Oh, and a quick P.S.: I mentioned requesting a guide. You have to do that when making your reservation and it’s not a guaranteed process, but they’ll try to get you on that second (or tenth) date with your favorite guide.
Got a favorite Gauley Guide? Give ‘em a shout out in the comments!