PaddleWise Discussion on Guide Training

From: Chuck Holst
Subject: [Paddlewise] Guide Training
Date: Mon, 16 Feb 1998 11:25:21 -0600

A few years ago a kayaker named Sam complained to me that though both the ACA 
and BCU have instructor training programs, those programs do not necessarily 
train you to be a guide. Now, Sam is a professional guide, but I think that 
many if not most of the skills of a professional guide are also needed by 
amateur guides -- in other words, leader and organizers of both personal trips 
and club trips.

What brought Sam's comment to mind is a sea kayaker I know who has ACA   and (I
think) BCU instructor training, who nonetheless has on several occasions 
shown poor judgement by leading club trips in conditions that were beyond the 
capabilities of some of the participants. Two trips resulted in capsizes and/or 
tows, while on another trip the leader felt compelled to use his tow line to 
help participants land through surf. In my opinion, those paddlers should not 
have been taken out in the first   place in conditions that they could not 
handle by themselves.

What do you think? Does instructor training also equip one to be a guide,   or 
is that a separate, if related, discipline that deserves its own   program?

Chuck Holst  

From: SGScorpio Subject: Re: [Paddlewise] Guide Training Date: Mon, 16 Feb 1998 12:58:48 EST IMHO seperate. While instructor training emphasizes teaching technique in a controlled environment, guiding usually involves leading people in a variety of conditions. The most challenging situations I have encountered have always been in guiding, not instructing. Students usually know what is to be expected of them in a class. Clients on a trip may be asked to handle conditions that were unexpected. (ie: weather, surf etc.) We teach both. The instructor is much easier to train than the guide. Steve Scherrer President Alder Creek Kayak and Canoe
From: Mark Zen Subject: Re: [Paddlewise] Guide Training Date: Mon, 16 Feb 1998 11:31:24 -0700 (MST) and i would have to agree, being both an instructor and a guide occasionally. when teaching, my students are given a [bunch!!] hand out about what to expect, what we will cover, what to bring, etc, etc... i generally teach the basic courses, and go under the assumption the students know nothing. when guiding on the other hand, [also depending on _why_ i'm guiding/leading] everyone shows up at a designated site, and unless i've taught or paddled with someone, i _really_ don't know their experience level. _i_ don't lead any trips over class II for the RMCC, because of people's representaions of their skill levels. we had the same issue when teaching the advanced classes. the RMCC finally had to say "OUR intro courses ARE the prerequisites" as many people would say "oh yeah, i did that course with XXX" and they showed up totally unprepared/unexperienced. so to add "quality control" we had to say the prereq., was a course from one of our club instructors. mark #------copaddlr[at]netbox[dot]com-------------------------------------- mark zen o, o__ o_/| o_. po box 474 [/ [\/ [\_| [\_\ ft. lupton, co 80621-0474 (`-/-------/----') (`----|-------\-') #~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~@~~~~~~~@~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~@~~~~~~~~@~~~~~ [Colorado Paddlers' Resource] [Rocky Mtn Sea Kayak Club] [Rocky Mtn Canoe Club Trip Page] [personal]
From: Wayne Langmaid Subject: Re: [Paddlewise] Guide Training (long winded) Date: Wed, 18 Feb 1998 20:34:05 +1500 G'day - Here are my two cents worth as an Australian operator of a full time year round sea kayak tour company. This guide/instructor issue a situation I have experienced many times in the past and is a point close to my heart . I have included the opening letter of a discussion paper I submitted to a national body. The idea was dismissed as not really needed - by a board consisting largely of kayak instructors (hmmmm, and why am I not surprised???). Here goes (you should maybe get a beer first!!!) There has been discussion as to the need for a Sea Kayak Guides Award in the ... (name withheld to protect the guilty).... Program. At this time I can provide the names of ten operators who are either at present operating, have recently started up or will be starting up their operations in the very near future in New South Wales. Whether these official operators are operating with operations manuals, standards, approvals or insurance is a matter of conjecture. What the unofficial operators are up to is even more unclear. "Section of preamble snipped" At the moment there is nothing stopping someone from grabbing a couple of boats and paddles and declaring "I am a guide with a sea kayak company." The inevitable negative results of this are rather daunting. Waterways (our regulatory authority) as you know are in the process of setting up a code of practice for commercial operators. There is a distinct need for a process specifically geared to provide training and resources for the guides and operators themselves. There are many issues that I feel are very important, especially in the context of the guide involved in sea kayaking. I also believe that there are considerable issues which differentiate the sea kayak guide from the sea kayak instructor and I will explain briefly some of the issues here. I am willing to propose how these ideas could specifically be incorporated into a training scheme, but will leave this until later. Please find the following points which highlight some important issues: - The trainee/assistant/lead guide must have good group management techniques. In sea kayaking there is potential for the group to end up spread out and fragmented, and therefore out of the control of the guide. This ability to assess the need and maintain “pod cohesion” is a critical skill that cannot be overemphasized. It is a skill that comes with both education and time on the water with groups. There is currently not enough focus, in my opinion, on this aspect with current instructor standards and this is obvious from anecdotal references to incidents both here in Australia and overseas involving very well respected instructors and experienced paddlers. - The trainee/assistant/lead guide must have the ability to empathize with the client. Far too often I have seen extremely fit and skilled guides fail in their role simply because they were so skilled and so fit that they did not realise that their group was tired, unfit, scared, etc. due to the fact they were so far removed from those feelings they couldn't relate to the position the client was in. - The trainee/assistant/lead guide must have a good sense of judgment in regards to group safety and the uncommon trait of common sense. This is of course hard to quantify - but I would sooner have someone who is lacking in specific paddling skills as a trainee or assistant (which I can identify) than to have someone who is lacking in common sense on safety issues, which is harder to determine. - The trainee/assistant/lead guide must have an excellent ability to read and understand the motivating factors behind their clients participation in the activity. This is a big request as it often means attempting to develop an understanding of a person in a very short period of time. An understanding of the different types of personalities in our society are important. In addition to this, the guide needs to understand the principles and methods available to bring out the best in each individual and the best experience for them. - The trainee/assistant/lead guide must have an excellent ability to communicate with the client and the group as a whole, both as a companion and a leader. - The trainee/assistant/lead guide must have an excellent knowledge of risk management and safety management principles, policies and procedures, including those of the company for which they are employed. - The trainee/assistant/lead guide must think of the groups well being as important as his own well being. There needs to be an acute awareness of their responsibilities and the requirement for professional conduct. - The trainee/assistant/lead guide needs to be aware that they are performing a service - not out on an afternoon or weekend lark. In the outdoor industry there is a tendency for people to see the activity as a fun thing to do, on the side - not a professionally held position. - In regards to the previous paragraph, the trainee/assistant/lead guide must understand that they are professionally representing not only themselves and a sport but a company for which they work for as well and as such need to have some basic understanding of business principles and customer service. - Finally, the lead guide needs to have an above average awareness and skill in paddling techniques, navigation, meteorology, environmental and physical hazards, group issues, human limitations and all that has been previous noted simply because of the higher amount of exposures to potential paddling problems. Put simply - if you teach classes five times per year you are a lot less likely to have an incident that requires good management and a test of your abilities than if you are a guide on the water with groups in excess of 200+ times per year in a variety of conditions. Now isn't that all a mouthful!! All the best - Wayne Langmaid Central Coast Kayak Tours - only one hour north of Sydney Australia
From: Cooksre Subject: Re: [Paddlewise] Guide Training (long winded) Date: Wed, 18 Feb 1998 09:52:49 EST Greetings, Very well stated Wayne. I was a full time guide in Maine from '87 to '92 and I continue to work full time in the industry today. I agree wholeheartedly with you that it is much easier to teach boat handling skills than "Guide -Sense". I still know a number of highly skilled paddlers that are not very suitable as trip leaders because of their inability to relate to their clients. Thanks for the well written post. I hope you are having a great season down there. Sincerely: Rob Cookson
From: Bearss, Steve Subject: [Paddlewise] Guide training Date: Wed, 18 Feb 1998 11:11:45 -0600 I agree with the comments on the distinct skill to be a guide. I was an interpretive naturalist for many years. I led kindergarten children on 45 minute walks up to adults on wilderness canoe trips. I was also involved in training new naturalists. Leading (and being responsible for) people in the outdoors requires an empathy that many skilled paddlers, or others, often do not possess. Many individuals become involved in paddling and other challenges as part of their individual growth through approaching their limits. After a level of expertise is acquired, an attitude develops. Not that this is bad, but it often does not lend itself to guiding and influencing "blank slates". Training and development of guides should be quite apart from skill development. Does anyone know of schools/organizations who do such training, other than NOLS which trains people to be NOLS instructors? Just curious as this is an area dear to my heart.