Monday, March 26, 2007

Jonny, Jonny BoBonni Banana-Fana FoFonni...

Jonny is our longest tenured guide for W.E.T. River Trips. He is a remarkable man of distinct personality, far different from the standard guide on the river.

Jonny started out at the warehouse at age 14. He and his best friend would hang out there trying to get on a whitewater trip. The older brother was also quite well-known around the paddling community as a very accomplished kayaker, so Jonny always had his big brother ahead guiding the way towards the rafting community.

He started training and guiding when he ended high school. There was a joke around that time about his time management skills as we always referred to "Jonny-Time." A loving reference to his delayed execution to just about anything including preparing lunch or packing gear. We all loved him regardless, and he has stayed with W.E.T. for many years. Here are his words...

My first experiences with whitewater rafting started in the spring of 1982. A wet spring and I would hear all about the adventures of my oldest brother David when he came home from raft guide training. A high water year, and he had lots of stories to tell. I was drawn-in by the adventure of it all. A year passed, and I was overjoyed and surprised to find that David had offered to take me, my family and a friend down the South Fork of the American for my 14th birthday. I remember seeing Chili Bar for the first time, as well as helping David blow up the raft with a foot pump. Even though it was July 18th, the water was still high. I remember David knocking my dad out of the boat by maneuvering it into rocks. My dad was a bit shaken but he was fine. The thought of having a captive audience and total control of one's environment seemed pretty appealing. I must admit I thought big brother was pretty cool. Later that summer, I met the W.E.T. boss, Steve.

A few years later, big brother said I should try to be a raft guide and train with the crew... Along with my best friend, Bruce, (who is currently a Grand Canyon Guide and Firefighter) I headed up to Coloma right after graduating from high school in 1986 to try to find work with a company who would train us as a guide. We ended up at a rafting company, which shall remain nameless, who hired us to deliver lunches to designated sites on the river. Nonetheless, that company never trained us to be guides. It was later that summer and the following spring and became trained as guides with W.E.T. River Trips, the original "Punks on Water."

I remember reading a whitewater handbook which had helpful information as well as stuff that looking back I just wasn't going to use, such as the 15 or so signals to be given on the water. C'mon, face it, when it gets squirrely, the guy across the river is either going to give you an all ok sign or shoulder shrug sign of we're screwed. I received my practical on river experience from Steve. It was under Steve's watchful eye and expert tutelage that I slowly becamed trained in the art of hydrological adventuring. I remember running into a lot of rocks that first year simply because I couldn't be decisive about decisions on the water.

Guiding teaches you to be decisive and commanding as well as forcing oneself to look at the big picture in terms of planning and executing a professional rafting experience. I know many a guide who have had to adjust their thinking to keep up with W.E.T. protocol. By the time I became a guide, my big brother had started his outdoor clothing line of and opening his Snowboard shops in Sacramento, Placerville and the summit. I do, however, enjoy the rare day when both of us work together on a rafting trip.

Currently, I am teaching math in northern California. W.E.T. has had a lot of teachers work as guides over the years. I think because Steve is an educator and relates well to others who teach. Being a teacher helps when working as a raft guide because you have to think quickly on your feet. Being creative and being positive often helps when dealing with various situations in the classroom or on the river.

In the fall of 1995, I married my wife Megan who recently was hired on as a full-time Sociology professor at Sierra College. Yea! I am very type B, and she is a motivated type A. Her book "Fight Like a Girl" came out mid-January 2007. Megan is the best thing that has ever happened to me. She knows I enjoy working as a raft guide and supports my efforts to do so. Besides, she likes going out to dinner every now and then with my tip money! We are expecting our first child early July 2007. Another Cancer in the family. I am very excited and can't wait.

In my tenure over the years I have been more of a role player than a key player. I would like to acknowledge many of the key guides that I worked with over the years. People such as Ian, Andrew, and Saul. It was only this past rafting season that I took on such a role. It was satisfying as well as daunting at times.

I have been a guide for W.E.T. many years because even though the guides may change, W.E.T. always feels like a family. Steve treat us all very well and make us feel appreciated. And, yet, he will tell us when we are screwing up. I know that Steve wants the best for each and every one of us. When the guides get together and shoot the breeze, the tenor is often irreverent and playful. I recall Saul often saying things like, "Always remember you're unique." It was guides like Ryan, Nathan, Saul, Andrew, Vlad, Zack, Maggie, Alex and Jason among many others to keep it lively and interesting.

I will share one funny story from a raft trip. It was after a long day in which a group of guides just finished a full river trip on the South Fork of the American. We loaded up the people on the bus and sent the head guide Ian with them. It was after loading up all of the gear in the equipment truck that we realized that Ian had the key in his pocket. I remember sitting on the hood of our vehicle at the Salmon Falls parking lot and asking the other guides if anyone wanted to listen to the radio while we waited. I don't know about you, but that one killed em dead at the time.

As per me being the naked guy, I'm not sure how that started. I don't doubt that it was coaxed out somehow by Barb's trip. I distinctly remember a former guide named Lara who did an ass-out backflip off of the boat on one of Barb's trips and daring me to do the same, so. . . I did. I saw how much doing so charged the atmosphere and people were just giddy. I think I like seeing people's reaction when I do something unexpected or risque. I guess deep down I am just a people pleaser. I would like to say that it is really special having Barb's trip come every year and request me. I am truly feeling the love. Those gals are great. It is really fun just cutting loose and letting it all hang out (so to speak). It is an added bonus to watch Saul squirm because he gets uncomfortable with such things.

So many rivers to see... Life is an adventure, we need to all get out there. Don't take life seriously, it is not permanent.