An Interview with Hydra's Head Guide, Dave O.
Q: How did you get involved with rafting? Why did you become a guide?
A: I started my journey to becoming a rafting guide through my background as a white water kayaker. From the age of age of 12, I would spend my summers paddling for fun and racing both slalom and downriver through the Ontario White Water Association. In 1988, I found myself employed as a Safety Kayaker on the Ottawa River, then eventually working as a Raft Guide. For me, summers have always involved being on the river.
Q: During your experience as a guide, what are the main concerns of people going on a rafting trip?
A: As a guide, I've seen that the concern of most people going on a rafting trip is safety. The biggest safety risk is when I have folks who have booked a trip that is obviously not suitable for their abilities. Guests should try to be as informed as possible when they are booking river trips, especially if they're bringing kids. You don't want to be the parent that mistakenly thinks, "the river is very high right now and the rapids are going to be big, but my 11 year old child is a great swimmer and I think they should be able to go!" Or the inexperienced rafter who says "I cant swim, but I really want to run the Class 4 rapids section of the Lower Canyon." It's always best to be honest about your capabilities and experience and let Hydra match you with the right rafting trip.
Q: What is the best part of rafting on the Kicking Horse River?
A: The river is prefect for rafting. It's so much fun, with lots of rapids and white water throughout the entire season. For the biggest thrill, the Lower Canyon section is a great option when it's opened.
Q: How can guests have a great time on your rafting trip?
A: People seem to have the best time when they bring a bunch of their friends along on a rafting trip. It's always great to see groups of friends, wedding parties and coworkers out in the boats together. White water rafting is a great relationship building tool.
Q: What are the qualities of an effective river guide?
A: To be a great river guide you need to love being outdoors. We spend the entire summer out in the heat and rain on the Kicking Horse River. As a guide, you're required to have the safety qualifications to ensure that everyone stays uninjured and secure when you're out on the water. There is also an element of physicality to the job. You need to be able to handle paddling down the river for hours at a time each day. People skills are a must in our line of work. We meet with new guests everyday; they all have different personalities and levels of experience with rafting. Understanding and knowing how to deal with this can help a guide become successful.
Q: What keeps you coming back as a river rafting guide year after year?
A: I really enjoy working outside in the sun and the splash of the river! Being a rafting guide is a fun job that provides a lot of exciting experiences. I get to enjoy the summer weather, no work day is ever the same and I'm constantly meeting new people.
Q: When is the best time to book a rafting trip? How do the conditions on the Kicking Horse River change throughout the season?
A: I would recommend coming out for a rafting trip on the Kicking Horse River during the middle of the week. In my opinion, you should avoid the busier times on the weekends for a better experience. With regards to the water levels on the river, high water runs around the later part of June. The Lower Canyon section is not consistently open for runs until the end of July. The river provides incredible experiences all season long, but if you want the biggest rapids, try to book a trip during the high water. It's guaranteed to be a memorable time.