I’ve rambled on about how much I enjoyed Raft Guide School this past month, but one thing I haven’t yet mentioned is that to cost was actually QUITE A BIT higher than the $175 advertised… Because you are required to buy your own equipment before you can be hired as a raft guide.
Now granted, the gear is yours to keep of course, but it still was a bit of a shock in orientation to find out I’d need all of that.
I had originally decided I wasn’t going to bother buying my own equipment, because the costs are pretty high — well over $200 when it’s all said and done, and potentially much more than that if one chooses to buy gear that’s better than the cheapest available. But since you’re required to have your own gear as a raft guide, I had all the excuse I needed to give in to my own materialistic urges and buy stuff.
The most expensive piece is buying your own personal floatation device, or PFD. If you’ve ever been to the Whitewater Center, you’ve probably noticed that the raft guides all have PFDs very different from the ones that customers wear. They’re smaller, differently colored, and in general “cooler” looking. Here’s the one I purchased:
Next up is my own personal helmet… Having your own helmet lets you find one that is a perfect fit for your noggin, and thus is much more comfortable (which is important when you’re wearing it all day.) It also gives you the chance to personalize your helmet to your liking, with stickers and decals and such. (Naturally I’ll be looking for a Gator sticker!) Here’s the one that I purchased:
And yes, I deliberately picked an orange-and-blue combination. Go Gators!
There are other items that are required, such as a throw bag full of rope for rescuing people, locking carabineers, a flip line to flip your raft back over if needed, a knife (still don’t know why!), and a whistle… But the helmet and PFD are the immediate distinguishing marks of raft guides. If you see someone with their own gear, the chances are high that this is someone who can help you.
One note: you are absolutely NOT required to purchase these things from the Whitewater Center directly, so this isn’t some fiendish scheme for them to squeeze more money out of you. In fact, they give you a pretty great discount off their retail price for required gear while you’re in Guide School and for a few weeks afterwards, so it ends up being much cheaper to buy from them than just about anywhere else, unless you get used stuff on eBay. So you won’t hear any complaints from me about there being any racketeering going on here, because it turned out to be a great deal.
But yes, all in all it ended up being much more expensive than I’d thought, and I will probably be working weekends at the USNWC over the summer just to earn back the money I spent on guide school and gear. But still, even if I never earn a dime over there, I’ll still have felt it was worth it.
Did I mention that you should consider Raft Guide School next Spring?