In case you missed it, our raft guides are pretty awesome!
With a minimum of 4 years of professional guiding experience and tons of passion for the rivers of this beautiful world, they are already fun people to profile. However, our guide Bekah is not only skilled with her paddle but also with words.
We were excited to hear about her projects, vision and how her journey led her to the river.
Bekah, why did your become a raft guide?
I always wanted to do something where I spent serious time in the wilderness and nature. So I became a climbing instructor. It sounded like a fun job, but you end up holding ropes most of the day. This made me realize that besides being in nature, I wanted to have a job where I get to have fun too and it turned out that raft guiding was that kind of a job.
So let’s start at the beginning…
I am from Wisconsin and spent most of my adult life in Seattle. As a climbing guide I lived in Santa Cruz, California. However, I was only 10 years old when my parents drove with me in a Minivan from Wisconsin to Colorado for vacation. Seeing the Rocky Mountains for the first time was significant! When I realized that raft guiding might be the right thing for me, it was the perfect excuse to make my way back to Colorado and spend some time here.
How did “let’s learn how to raft guide in Colorado” turn into your almost full time passion?
I trained with a small company in Buena Vista with another girl from college in 2007. In the beginning I thought that I would be guiding for a summer or two. However, floating through a canyon and really getting to know every turn and every rock or where certain hawk nests are and then being able to share this with visitors was the best feeling in the world. I fell in love with the river and I became a lifer! So now I am in my 6th Season of raft guiding.
What are you doing when you are not on the river?
I’m in the non fiction MFA program at the University of Iowa, and working on my first book. I am also teaching an essay class and in the Fall I will be teaching travel writing and introduction to non fiction.
What will your first book be about?
It’s about the journey of becoming a raft guide, which was in fact pretty far from the expectations I had. It describes the process of choosing my own path but it also describes the subculture of being a raft guide who drops out of society to live rough and guide rivers!
It’s a reexamination about what to live for!
How would you describe the guiding scene and rafting culture?
Pause of laughing and thinking…
It’s like all of your friends are working the exact same job. We go down the river, we spent half of the day guiding and the other half of the day talking about the river itself. There are always people around who are motivated to play and go boating after work. It is great to be around so many experienced people, we kind of push each other to do the next river section or to plan our next trip. We give each other a community to go exploring with. However, when we are here in Buena Vista we like to dress up in sequins and go dance to James Brown for Disco Night!
What would you tell other women who play with the idea of becoming a raft guide?
“I would tell them that I am a 5.2, small frame women and I can absolutely guide a boat! Once you prove to yourself that you can do it, you are out there on the water and your gender doesn’t matter, we are all out there together. I do feel like that there is a mutual respect between all the boaters here.”
What do you do to help ensure safety in the whitewater?
I think that spacing is important, it includes being close enough to the other boats in your group to have each other’s back but also giving them the room that they need. Besides the technical part I always try to learn everybody’s names. It helps to establish a connection and makes it easier to check in with them.