Jenn Elliot

Jenn graduated WAC in 2018. She shared her great experiences and advice for future guides.

What have you been up to since graduating?

I’ve had a great mix of jobs and travel since graduating in 2018. I started my first season at Victoria Kayak, followed by two amazing years at Clayoquot Wilderness Lodge.  I have been guiding kayaking, heli hikes, canyoning trips as well as a naturalist for wildlife viewings and day trips. 

Sadly with the pandemic, cuts from the team were necessary. In 2021, I moved to being a saltwater fishing guide at Queen Charlotte Lodge and will be returning this summer season for a second year. 

During the winters, I have traveled to SE Asia and Central America, and was a ski patroller in Banff.

In 2020, I used my love of drawing and my knowledge of flora and fauna from WAC, to create a colouring book on red list species in BC. I donated all the proceeds to the Tofino fish hatchery where I helped with salmon rehabilitation. 

What are your favourite parts of guiding?

I get tired of the same thing daily. With guiding, even doing the same activities or routes are always different due to guests and conditions. I love being able to coach and push people past what they believe is their limit. It is really fulfilling to help others find their confidence to continually strive to push their boundaries in a healthy manner. 

I love being on the water. It is a real gift getting to see the seasonal changes in the animals and habitats that surround me. It is incredibly special to be fishing and have a super pod of Orcas roll through. To have Humpbacks feeding, or Stellar Sea Lions effortlessly steal all the salmon around you. When at Victoria Kayak, you regularly have Harbour Seals dancing below your kayak, and babies that are learning to push boundaries hop on the back for a quick ride. 

For the most part, I get paid to do activities and trips I would in my own time. Everyday I get to share my passion with others.

What are the greatest challenges about guiding?

I’ve always found myself in frequently very cold, windy, and rainy conditions. It can be tough to prevent, navigate and mitigate the potential problems caused by these conditions as they strain our guests.  Working with people’s comfort levels within various activities can change plans last minute. 

Both lodges I’ve worked at are multifaceted and involve a wide range of skills. These range from guiding activities to maintenance on boats and equipment. It is a demanding role that requires a lot of physical and mental stamina for long seasons. 

What lessons have you used most from your training?

First aid is always on the top of my list for useful skills, especially being in remote wilderness settings, and patrolling on big mountains. I’ve had to deal with broken bones, chest pains and heart problems in cold conditions, and pain relief management. With the training from WAC I have been able to bridge First Responder courses on top and give a high level of care when necessary.

Group management is always a massive role in day to day operations, especially when having multiple family groups put in one zodiac for a day trip. 

Being able to find common ground and manage all parties’ expectations for the day is crucial for everyone’s enjoyment. 

During my first year at CWL, I had multiple families of 10 kids all trying to get on and learn at our climbing wall. One child was on the autism spectrum, and finding it very overwhelming to learn the new skill. With his mothers’ help and giving him as much support as possible, I was able to get him and all others up the rock wall. The left full of joy and confidence. 

Pre-trip planning is crucial for a tour’s success. Being flexible with your plans and having backups is always important for changing conditions and ability levels. It’s better to have a secondary activity or source of joy rather than turning around when it gets to be unpleasant.

What advice do you have for new guides or students training to be guides?

Enjoy everyday in class. It’s a summer camp for adults. Down the line you’ll have friends and coworkers that become family, so show them all the care and love you have. 

Money isn’t everything. Don’t strive for a job that makes the most money. With how intensive guiding can be it can burn you out quickly. Finding an area and activities you are passionate about will keep you filled with happiness and a willingness to learn. 

Try all the activities you are trained for. Test out the waters of all aspects that your training can be used for.

Most importantly, remember to enjoy the journey, the changes, the challenges, and don’t be afraid to take a break and explore new areas of the world and their tourism practices.