Ocean River Sports and Adventure

Ocean River Sports and Adventures We caught up with the General Manager, Lee Phillips to get some insights about the importance of mentorship in guiding and what it takes to become a great guide.

What is the best part about guiding? 

For me, it’s the never ending meeting of new people and sharing skills and knowledge with people that they never knew existed. It is exciting to share this with tourists and visitors, but it is especially rewarding to show locals what is right in their own backyard. It is their energy and excitement that reinvigorates your work.

You also become part of an amazing community of incredible people. These are not only fellow guides and coaches but also guests that have joined us along the way.

In kayaking, there is a huge coaching element we provide to clients but also to other guides. It is really rewarding to create opportunities for that “Aha” moment and help others tap into their potential and capacity.

Everyday I get to share something that I love. We have a really rich natural and urban history that is uniquely experienced from the water.

No two days are ever the same. I have been paddling here on Vancouver Island since 1987 and I am never bored. Of course, getting close up encounters of orcas is life changing but the marine environment is so dynamic there is always something new to explore and learn.

What is the hardest part about guiding? 

Making the decisions or more specifically the anxiety that comes with not wanting to make the wrong decision.

Making the hard decisions and judgement calls that keep people safe but still run a successful enjoyable trip is a real skill.  Keeping people on the beach or changing the destination due to weather may be the best decisions for safety but may mean other objectives are sidelined.

As a new guide, these choices are sometimes more difficult because you have less experience to draw from that helps inform your decision making.

As you gain experience, your skills become more dialed, routes become more familiar, and weather patterns become more recognizable. As these skills build, your confidence is less easily questioned (from yourself and others).

When guides get into situations, it is usually when they have overstepped the parameters of their skills and training or their ego got in the way. 

What makes a great guide? 

My best guides leave their egos at home. They come with open minds, ready to learn with calm confidence. They have something to share through life experience or research and can tell stories about the landscape. The best guides are authentic and are good with people. Guides that can read the crowd, pay attention to their clients and adjust the trip accordingly always have better trips.

It takes a really observant leader to find solutions to problems before they become problems and put their detect and correct skills into play.

What roles does mentorship have in guiding? 

In my opinion Mentorship is hugely important for guiding. It’s important for the value of seasoned experience being passed down to new guides and in turn, for those experienced guides able to give back to the community that supported them. But it can be challenging to become a mentor because a lot of people have monetized their time. Real mentoring can only come from passion.

At Ocean River, we help pay a portion for courses to help advance our employee’s training. But the most valuable part of our business is sharing our time and knowledge.

An example of the value of mentorship is when a 15 year old walked onto the docks one day and asked “Would you mentor me, I want to get into kayaking”. He had so much enthusiasm, we started right then, we worked everyday. A year later, he came to me and asked for help planning a solo trip around Vancouver Island. He accomplished this goal and became the youngest to do so. He is now also the youngest level 3 SKGABC guide, one of the top rough water paddlers and teaching guiding courses.

I was so happy to give my time and experience to someone who was so passionate and driven. Mentorship opens doors, creates community and reminds us that we need to share our knowledge. Giving back to that community keeps it strong and vibrant. 8 years later, we are still paddling together and he’s now teaching me some new tricks!

Are there any WAC graduates that stand out on your team? 

Gina Hill was an excellent part of our team. She really thrived in the community. She has since gone on to work with BC Ferries. Every now and then she joins us on staff paddles as our door is always open. 

Jon Badger was recently promoted to site manager for our downtown location. He has built his skills to a Level 2 SKGABC and Level 1 Instructor with Paddle Canada. Jon had already proved himself a great guide but we knew he was exceptional when he initiated a partnership with Footprint BC. Now we operate a 5 day and a 3 day Desolation Sound tour paired with a Paddle Canada course. That kind of initiative is rare but the opportunities are there for those who are creative and passionate.

Cedric Torres has been a great addition to our team. He has a really wonderful way of connecting with people. A tour with Cedric is based on true passion for providing a high quality experience for his clients.

Rebecca Merner has been working as a dock assistant for the past few years. She is a current student at WAC and we look forward to welcoming her as a guide when her training is complete.

Why is Ocean River a great place to work? 

We offer adventure work within an urban landscape. This means you can maintain your social support system and “regular” life while still working in adventure tourism. We have locations in Oak Bay and the Inner Harbour as well as our Discovery Island tours.

It is a fantastic place to solidify and hone your paddling, group management, decision making and heritage interpretation skills.  There is a lot of diversity in our clients, giving opportunities to work with different types of groups.

There is a great paddling community on the South Island that loves to play when we’re not working. Whether you want to get into kayak surfing, strong current conditions, beach landings, or just enjoy a paddle, we love mentoring and working on skills.