White water rafting is an exciting means of getting out into the great outdoors. And it brings the great outdoors to a wide variety of people.
It doesn't matter how many times a guest has gone rafting. Unless they spend their spare time out from behind their desks floating white water in a life jacket or getting intimate with white water in a hard shell or inflatable kayak, when we meet them at the river side for their day of rafting, they are 'babes in the woods', as far as white water knowledge goes. Regardless of whether they know it or not, our guests are counting us to demonstrate prudence and good judgment on the river.
In other words, professional river rafting guides need to know the 'That's Stupid' rule and stick to it.
Let me be alliterative.
Cockiness, complacency and carelessness create consternation, chaos and - possibly - catastrophe. The deadly C's.
No guide is immune to falling under one or all of those spells. It can happen to the thirty year veteran as easily as it can happen to the 20-year old. Of course, the trouble is, you need only let down your guard once.
It happened to me on the Skykomish River. Feeling positively elated by a clean descent of Boulder Drop Rapids, I nonchalantly captained my raft of novice paddlers toward the infamous Lunch Hole. It wasn't as if I didn't know the hazard existed. In fact, I had been assiduously skirting it for more than a decade fully cognizant of its potential to humble raft guides.
I watched as the boat in front of me seemed to hit the hydraulic and emerge unscathed. I made a mental note that the guide that toyed with the Lunch Hole was a younger, less experienced guide and perhaps that realization played into my nonchalance. Regardless, it was then I let my guard drop.
I tried to catch the edge of the hole, but by venturing close, my raft wound up taking on the 'whole enchilada'. The violence of the flipped raft was remarkable. And for me, and a few of my guests, the violence of the swim was equally remarkable. In fact, that twenty yard unexpected swim was my worst ever. And, in my career prior to this, I had found myself out of a raft at the bottom of Boulder Drop, through ALL of Lava Falls and most of Hell's Half Mile in Dinosaur National Monument.
All it required was one moment of cockiness, carelessness and complacency.
People wonder why Orion has so many female river guides. When I was thinking about writing this post, I thought back over the past several decades of boating and I tried to recall how many cocky female river guides I had encountered. I couldn't think of any. I know BOLD female rafters. I know female guides who are assertive and unafraid to voice their opinions. There is no shortage of women who choose to run rivers and are abundantly confident in their abilities.
On the other hand, I have met plenty of males with a white water attitude. Males who can't (or choose not to) empathize with their customers. Maybe it's a testosterone-thing. Who knows?
So, what Orion favors are non-cocky, careful guides who do their best to stave off complacency. And guides who demonstrate their professionalism by showing prudence and restraint - saving their 'stupid guide tricks' for the private 'busman's holidays' trips.