Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Mike's Story: Man and his Paddle!

Mike started rafting a couple of years ago. He came on a few of our trips as a paddling client. He started contacting us to get on trips as a lone reservation. He was hooked on rafting. We started referring him to other outfitter's trips because we could tell he really loved rafting & when we get that type of client we want ot share our love of rivers, too. He did all three forks of the American River with W.E.T., the Merced, Tuolumne, Yuba, Cherry Creek and many other rivers in California. He was seriously hooked. This year, he approached our staff and asked to actually train in our guide school! W.E.T. has a funny guide school... not really open to the public. If you can get passed the front desk, you'll probably get accepted into the guide school. Mike was welcomed and invited to join the 2006 guide school this early spring. Here is his personal story...

"Spring break 2006 will live in my memory for the rest of my life. In the weeks and days coming up to this time, I was filled with excitement and fear. I was heading off to guide school, but this was no run of the mill guide school. You needed to be invited and no slackers were going to make the grade. I had been a commercial paddler many times, but I knew it was different being a guide. How different? Who knows? The real question was; can I do it? I know it has to be harder than it looks. I hate to fail. I told myself I was going to embrace the challenge. Fortunately, I had paddled commercially with a great group of people and I was lucky to be accepted to a well-regarded tightly knit company's education program! At least I knew I had good support. Once I arrived at guide school, more apprehension overcame me. Will I be able to pull this off? Can I really get a boat down the river? Fortunately there were a great group of folks around to show all of us trainees/newbies the ropes. Andrew (lead guide instructor for W.E.T.), Zak, Maggie, Saul, Jonny, Justin, Ryan, Jason and many others who I have probably forgot to mention, and for that I apologize.

The first day was a blur. We all got to know each other a bit and get oriented with the great South Fork American River. I told myself long prior to the school, when the opportunity came about to be the “guide,” I was going to jump on it. Well the first try was ferrying the raft over to our great spot at Camp Lotus. What a humbling experience!!! So damn hard! Well, I told myself I was still going to jump on the stick when the next opportunity came about. Well…I did not have to wait long, the next morning the offer came to lead our crew of newbies from Chili Bar, and I seized the moment. I blurted out, “I will do it” with as much confidence as possible, but inside I was thinking, “What the hell am I doing! If I screw this up I will be in the starring role of an upcoming campfire story for who knows how long." Fear was truly a factor. Fortunately, I had a great crew, Gavin, Josh and Jeff paddled on command and somehow the river gods took it easy on me. I also knew Eric our safety kyaker had our back, thank god! We made it through the Chili Bar section without incident, but after that experience I knew just how good the vet’s really were; they made it look so easy (I so want to make it look easy).

The rest of the days were filled with various adventures. Drew was/is always trying to give us various swimming experiences, such as good swims at Blue House, Chutes & Ladders or any other good drop (all a bunch of fun). Then, there is the Guide Olympic drills we put together. Again, this just goes to show you veteran technique will always beat inexperienced enthusiasm. To Drew and his crew, one day, maybe I can get you! Drew, I still want to get you on the golf course. Then, there are the days where some folks decided taking the “right” line at Fowler's Rock would be cool. Well, I think that resulted in an “epic” swim. Thank god the SFA and the river gods can be so forgiving. Speed forward and you get those days I am convinced to take a 13 ft boat at over 6,500 cfs down the SFA (R2 style). What the hell did I get myself into? I do know this, moves need to be made very early, or you will be swimming the hole at the end of Meatgrinder and doing the taco in the hole at Maya (BTW, this SUCKS!!!!). After many fun-filled days, my fear has dropped slightly, but I have an amazing respect for the river. I also crave additional experiences. I want to hone my skills, become a better guide and really earn the title “professional.” I want to be able to bring my love of the river to others just as the great crew at W.E.T. River Trips has done for myself. I have just completed the first chapter of a life long adventure, oh what fun it should be. Thank you all for contributing to a great time and I look forward to working with you!

Mike; our official newest trainee on staff::

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