The day begins early. Gotta be up and rolling by 6:30 or 7:00 am. I shake the sand out of my hair from yesterday’s trip, brush my teeth, take a quick shower, and it’s out the door for breakfast, coffee, and on a good day an amazing take-out burrito from one of a couple nearby burrito shops. Believe it or not, the best burritos in town are from a gas station a half mile down the street!
With breakfast in hand, it’s off to Raft Masters. On the way over we swing by the guide porch, the home of “The Board”, the cryptic dry erase white-board, to get a quick look at the days’ schedule. Next stop: our gathering place known as “Flavor Country”, our little hideaway behind the shop. It’s where we meet, eat, socialize, and wait for the day to unfold.
All of the rafts at Raft Masters have names. We have a tradition here of naming them in honor and memory of beloved pets, friends, and loved ones who have taken the journey to the great river in the sky.
As the guests begin to arrive, it’s time to get to work. Most guides have favorite rafts, which need to be prepped, inflated properly rigged to each guide’s preferences, outfitted with everything we’ll need for the trip. Gotta make sure you’ve got everything – paddles, oars and rowing frame if needed, straps to tie down gear, personal gear, life jacket (they’re technically called PFD’s, Personal Flotation Devices, but nobody knows what a PFD is), throw bag for rescuing swimmers, dry bag for storing dry stuff – duh, helmet and guide stick (our name for the guide’s personal paddle).
Next up, load the rafts on the trailers. Bigger ones on the bottom, smaller as the stack grows. The fun part is the 4th or 5th raft on the stack! Have to get a 12 or 14 foot long raft 10 feet up on a pile of boats. With practice, and we’ve got plenty I guess, it looks pretty effortless. Looks can be deceiving.
Boop…boop…boop, the sound of the paging system coming on. “Guides to the life jacket shack” announces it’s time to get going. Our first encounter with the day’s guests is fitting life jackets, over scattered protests of “it’s too tight, I can’t breathe”. Hey, you’re talking so you’re breathing!
Next up, sort the guests into groups to get on the proper bus or van, load everyone up, and head to the river. The drive can take anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes depending on the trip you’re on but the time is dedicated to the “safety talk”. The dos and don’ts of whitewater rafting. How to have the best experience on the river, how to swim and be rescued if you fall out of the raft, what to do when things go south. Kinda like what they tell you to do on the airplane if it crashes. Not likely, but good to know, so pay attention.
Now the best part, actually rafting! Unload the rafts at the beach, meet your crew, and go over your personal “paddle talk”. Where and how to sit, how to hold and use a paddle, and away we go.
The rapids are the most exciting part of the trip, but it’s not all rapids, so there’s plenty of time for conversation. Introductions and chit chat, a little bit of geography and local history, jokes, and next thing you know you’re on the float out to the ride back. Once we’re all loaded up it’s a shorter ride back to the office. Along the way we’ll have the “after river talk”, what to do when we get back. Not nearly as scary as the safety talk! Once we’re there it’s time to collect and put away life jackets and head back to "Flavor Country" for some lunch and get ready for the afternoon trips. And if I did a good job maybe I’ll hear “boop…boop…boop…”me” to the front office”. A chance to say goodbye to my guests, and maybe get a little something slipped into my palm!