whitewater rafting guide

Think back to a time in your childhood when fear was something that you and your friends actively looked for: riding off planks supported by bricks, seeing how high you could go on rope swings, daring each other to push yourselves just that little bit further – especially when the adults told you not to!

Well, today’s interesting job will transport you back to a time when the only rules were “there are no rules” and “if there’s a rule, do the total opposite”. Yes, this occupation is all about fun and adventure and the great outdoors as a way of life. We’re talking about becoming a whitewater rafting guide; one of those rare jobs that combines the rogue elements of thrill-seeking and danger with things more associated with an office environment, such as problem solving, decision making and the challenge of working as part of a team (even when half the team can’t speak because they’re so scared and the other half have fallen out of the boat!)
Sadly, the fact that when you were ten you were the best one at jumping across the widest part of the river without falling in, won’t be enough to impress the people who run whitewater rafting training schools and private companies. Being fearless isn’t necessarily the key core value, although nobody’s disputing it’s not a crucially important part of the role. Therefore, in order to make sure that you are both responsible enough to navigate the waters and also adept enough to do this while calming down a crew of less experienced individuals who fear for their lives more in those few minutes than they probably will ever, these organizations put all candidates through a strict training scheme or internship. Once a candidate has proved his or her worth – which can be tough, depending on the person and their attitude to all of the above – they achieve certified status and are considered trustworthy.
Courses vary from country to country and range from basic to degree level (basic training lasts just six weeks, while degrees take considerably longer, up to four years). Where you train is up to you, but you have to get certified if you are to pursue your dream at a professional level. Either consider a course at a college – and learn whitewater rafting as an integral part of the course – or approach a private rafting company who specialize only in that. Many private firms offer training programs which comprise of interacting with the job at a first-hand level and will supplement this with in-class theory lessons, for all the things that are over-looked during the excitement of practical training. The benefits of going with a company are that a) due to your hands-on experience you’re likely to have an advantage when it comes to finding a job and b) in many cases you’ll be entitled to accommodation discounts while you do your initial training.
There are a few downsides to even this fantastic and thrilling occupation of course. One of the main ones with whitewater rafting is the seasonal nature of it, meaning that most accredited guides are obliged to seek out a second job during the winter to fund their lifestyle, even after volunteering for as long as a year after becoming a credited guide. An alternative to working a second job is to travel widely, making the job all round, some do this by working in South America during the winter and North America during the summer.
One thing that should be noted is this: it’s not all about how cool and tough you can look while in the mouth of madness; most courses cover all aspects of rafting (yes, even the boring ones), including potential hazards, how to “read” a set of rapids, learning to tread water and rescue training in emergency situations (like when an entire boat capsizes in the midst of the most challenging section of the river). Although some of this might be considered superfluous – despite its fearsome reputation most whitewater rafting is remarkably safe and surprisingly event free – it’s vital to be safe in the water, and never more so than when instructing people who are relying on you for their overall safety.
Finally, there is a very serious side to whitewater rafting that many don’t get to see, unless it’s in the movies. This occupation can be as dangerous as it is exhilarating. Every year accidents do happen and due to the the very nature of the job, accidents can sometimes be fatal. But that’s not to say that the job isn’t worth the risk, successful, sought after guides can earn up to $180 a day (not including tips) for their effort. The final amount depending entirely upon each individual guide’s manor and their ability to make the inexperienced crew’s outing as fun, safe and enjoyable as possible. So if your interested in one of the most exciting jobs in the world, check out a new career as a whitewater rafting guide.


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