Training our guides

Picture of kayak guides getting safety training

Safety is our primary concern.

By Jack Stone

In an earlier post I mentioned our staff’s training in terms of first aid. You might ask what we require of our guides. Let’s start with our kayak guides. All guides go through an inhouse training program every spring. We bring in an American Canoe Association (ACA) instructor to review and train anyone who is taking guests out on the water. This is a three-day course. On the last day, we also cover Stand Up Paddleboards. The instructor reviews everything from basic strokes to self-rescues to rescues of other paddlers.

Safety is our primary concern. And just to make things interesting, on the last day our guides are expected to tip their kayaks into the cold Lake Superior waters. We want our guides to know how cold and uncomfortable the lake can be and why the speed at which they get a paddler out of the water is crucial. Less than 60 seconds is the goal.

But if the water is that cold, what else do we do to ensure our guests’ safety? Each participant is fitted with a wet suit and PFD (life jacket). This gives a person a greater margin of error if one were to fall into the lake. Of course, this is where our training kicks in to get you out of the water fast. But we use stable kayaks and the incidence of people going in for an unwanted swim is low.

We give our paddlers instruction on land before we go out, so they can have a pleasant experience. We also use solo kayaks instead of tandems. We feel it gives each person an opportunity to learn and enjoy the sport as an individual, without having to worry about their boat-mate. If someone is insistent on going in a tandem, we can provide that service, but we really like to see everyone be on their own.

Our risk management plan contains strict guidelines as to wave height, wind direction and velocity and visibility. If the Big Lake doesn’t cooperate, we go inland to a lake where it is safe. Or we cancel for the day. We want you to enjoy your trip and fighting the elements doesn’t always make for a fun vacation.

What about our guides? Our guides are all experienced anywhere from a couple of years to 10 to 15 years. Our more experienced guides take the more experienced paddlers to more challenging routes.

When booking your trip, know that if you want a challenge we can give it to you, within reason, and we assign a guide who is comfortable with your wishes. Our trips to Lake Saganaga and Isle Royale utilize our most experienced people. Any concerns or questions can be addressed directly to me and I will do my best to put your mind at ease.

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