At the beginning of the week, some of us wouldn’t have known a wave train if it pulled into the station. Others could already j-stroke in their sleep. But all of us left guide school looking at the river differently. The dazzlingly skilled instructors let us learn a lot by keeping their mouths shut and (painful though it was) resisting the temptation to throw in strokes. The way I see it, every rock I get perched on is a rock I (probably) won’t get cozy with again. We practiced reading the water ahead of us, learning to recognize pour-overs, holes, pillows, standing waves, and – most elusive – the current. We all grew into our guide voices about as smoothly as thirteen year old boys shifting octaves. And, more importantly, we figured out how to muscle our way back into the boat after going for a little swim.
Off the water, we tested our culinary mettle on such meals as “Marinated Tri-Tip” and “The Destroyer.” We rigged and de-rigged, safety-talked and boat-on-heads-walked. And deep in the night Austin fell off a rock.
I still had a lot left to learn at the end of guide school – how to feel confident behind the stick, how to manage a crew of weaker paddlers, how not to run Double Trouble. Luckily, I’ve had plenty of time these past months and generous teachers at Ma Lode to help me work on all those things. What I did grab a hold of during that first week was a love for the river and for the folks that guide it. I don’t plan on letting go any time soon!