Guide school reservations for W.E.T. River Trips started on January 15, 2007. We advise that you complete your First Aid and CPR requirements before you start our school. Those of you in college who are working on majors in recreation and plan on making this a long-term career, should also look at Swift Water Rescue, Wilderness Medicine and even EMT (emergency medical training) certification. All will be beneficial for your whitewater guide training advancement. Rafting outfitters in the State of California are required to have guides trained with the minimum of First Aid and CPR. Most agencies that govern the rafting companies also require Swift Water Rescue training. So be prepared before you come to join us. The rafting company will look upon you more favorably and you'll advance more quickly.
Most white water guide schools in California are scattered from the far north, central and southern sections. In the north, rivers like the Cal Salmon and Smith are great runs in the early season starting in mid-March through May. In central California, the American River whitewater sections are best suited for rafting schools. The central California area has a very long rafting season from March through September. Most California guides work on the American River so no matter where you are employed, you'll end up there at least for a while. In Southern California, the Kern and the Kings are usually available for training purposes around May and June.
Top rafting schools include W.E.T. River Trips, a guide school that focuses only on professional rafting guides; Whitewater Voyages, a program that's been around since the 80's training both commercial and non-professional guides; and Zephyr Expeditions, a guide school open to the general public.
All guide schools should have experienced trainers leading the school. You should learn on the water and not from a manual. You should have a ropes component, swift water rescue techniques, emergency procedures, client-guide relationships, government rules and regulations for rivers in California, liability issues, food safety and preparation, warehouse management, equipment/raft management, and of, course, reading the water!
W.E.T. River Trips has chosen to focus only on commercial guides for our guide school. We decided that commercial guiding was too difficult of a subject to dilute with an open guide school program for the public. Commercial guides need to know so many more things than just techniques and gear management. Because we deal with the public on rivers that are very popular, our staff needs to have strong people skills and strong personalities to lead beginners, novices and advanced rafters down the river.
Our whitewater guides have to have many, many river miles before they are allowed to guide a commercial raft of clients. Because of this, our guide school starts in mid-March on all kinds of flow levels. Last season, one of our new guides trained in our guide school, and by the time busy May came, he already had approximately 45 trips under his belt. By the time August came around, he was a seasoned guide with approximately 100 trips.
Keep in mind that it's important that you start researching your options soon. Call the companies and see if the program works for your focus and your schedules.