When does one officially become a career raft guide?

Kaituna River, New Zealand

This is going to sound a bit ridiculous to most of you, but that’s OK. I know I’m going down that road anyway. Many years ago I was told by a fellow river guide that you aren’t really a career raft guide unless:

  1. You’ve been boating for at least ten years
  2. You’ve worked commercially on more than three rivers
  3. You’ve been down the Grand Canyon on a private trip

At the time #2 was my only accomplishment, and I thought his statement was most certainly, the most absolutely ridiculous thing I had ever heard. I thought he must of designed these guidelines to make me feel low on the seniority totem pole that dominates river companies. But for some reason it stuck with me. My entire identity is nestled into the rhythms of river cultures. I speak the jive, I sport the look, I am good at talking myself into or out of most situations, I like to laugh, I liked to get paid to laugh and at many points in my career- I was darn good at maneuvering a raft through all kinds of rapids.

14 years later, I pass all three requirements. I made the cut years back, but I thought I’d give this concept a try in a blog. Does anyone agree with these strict guidelines? Or if you had to make a list of requirements to really be a professional career river guide- what would you put down?

The photo? Kaituna River, North Island, New Zealand

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  • Jen Browning

    Heidi, I knew this was your post just from the photo. You definitely make the cut!

  • Gna86

    While I am not a guide, I am not sure a private trip on the grand is a requirement? I think the grand is probably one of the best trips out there, but why this one?  I think 10 years, and worked a number of rivers is good enough to be considered a pro…

  • http://www.facebook.com/brian.megaw Brian Megaw

    It took me 26 years to become a pro guide then as it was that long before I was lucky enough to be on a private trip through the Grand Canyon. There is some great rafting in New Zealand – have a look at the Rangitikei River

    • Heidi

      Pretty tough list – isn’t it? I’m not sure I agree with it, but there is definitively a difference between a weekend warrior/ a “during my college years” guide and someone who has embraced it as a career. I’m sure that private Grand trip was well worth the wait! 
      I actually have been on and worked the Rangitikei River too! Did you get to see the Wairora? Hands down- one of my favorite rivers anywhere!
      Thanks for your post- puts it into perspective how hard it is to define.

  • heather lukacs

    Hi Heidi! I would have to say the “career” part of being a career river guide is key to this question. I think to be a “career” river guide you would have to have chosen river guiding over other “real jobs” that could have been your career. Just a thought…

    • Heidi

      Well put, Heather. I couldn’t agree more!

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