Wet Planet lead Rowing and Paddle Raft Guide School instructor Giani Benevento has been commercially guiding whitewater since 1995 and is celebrating his twelfth season guiding at Wet Planet this year. The experienced guide and instructor has been working Wet Planet’s Guide School since 2010 and started leading the course soon after. I recently sat down with Giani to get to know our Guide School a little better and here’s what I learned:
What makes the Wet Planet Guide School better than others?
With everything we do here at Wet Planet, three components are the backbone of our business: our expert staff, professionalism and the work we put into creating the best possible guest experience. Our guide school is the epitome of those strengths. Todd Collins, whose river resume is too long to include here (read some highlights), created the Guide School course back in the mid 2000’s with the goal of creating a more comprehensive, well-rounded and formal guide school than what was available at the time. Todd says, “A lot of guide schools have the goal of teaching guides specific rivers. Guides learn the ins and outs of that river, and only with some time and experience they can take those skills to other rivers. In creating Wet Planet’s Guide School, we wanted to teach participants the necessary skills and knowledge to proficiently and confidently run raft trips on a variety of rivers”.
Since Giani started leading the guide school several years ago, Todd has stepped behind the scenes and let Giani lead the way, but is still very much involved in the curriculum, course planning and annual adjustments. Giani’s biggest strengths and favorite aspects of guide school are paddle guiding instruction and cooking. One thing he absolutely loves about Wet Planet’s Guide School is the hands-on, dive-right-in nature of the course. He says, “you arrive the first day and we get right out on the White Salmon River.” Giani also loves the variety of rivers the course gets to run. He says, “we get out there and stuff happens; that’s how you learn.” He chuckles and says, “you get stuck on a rock and you learn the best way to get unstuck from a rock is to not get stuck on a rock in the first place.”
Wet Planet Guide School instructor Nicole Tunnell has been instructing the course for four years. An expert raft guide with a great deal of international river experience, she brings a positivity and encouragement that is unmatched, and a specialty in running multi-day river trips, including our Main Salmon River Multi-day Rafting Trips in Idaho. This year will be Jeremy Bisson’s fifth year instructing Wet Planet’s Guide School. He’s an expert kayaker, raft guide and instructor. His strengths are his patience and warm teaching style that inspires people, helping them understand and master skills quickly and completely. Jeremy’s specialty is rowing instruction and he has a passion for teaching participants how to be proper stewards of the river. With three unique styles of instruction and execution and a low student-to-instructor ratio, Wet Planet’s Guide School gives participants an exceptional breadth of skills and experience to work from moving into running rivers on their own.
Our meticulously crafted whitewater rafting Guide School curriculum.
When discussing the difference between Wet Planet’s Guide School and that of other whitewater companies, the first thing that comes to mind for Giani is our curriculum. Wet Planet has meticulously crafted a curriculum and Guide School manual that instills the necessary skills to guide whitewater, the confidence in those abilities and in making informed time-sensitive decisions into each student.
Experience guiding on six sections of four rivers in two states.
Equally as important, the other dividing factor between Wet Planet’s Guide School and similar courses from other whitewater companies is the wide range of runs participants get to guide. Depending on water-levels, students usually get on five or six sections of four different rivers in two states, including the White Salmon River, Klickitat River, Hood River and the multi-day trip on the Owyhee River (water dependent). Each participant gets plenty of paddle raft guiding experience, rowing experience and gets to be fully involved in the planning and running of a four-day multi-day river trip, all with expert instruction and guidance along the way.
One Guide School guest turned staff member, Leah, remembers the most surprising part of her experience was the confidence that filled her as she first guided the raft. A usually pretty quiet person, Leah, as well as her instructors, immediately noticed that when she got the guide stick in her hands confidently and succinctly gave her paddling crew instruction, navigating the raft through class III rapids her very first time at the helm.
Speaking of past guests, who should take Wet Planet’s Guide School?
Every year we have participants with a variety of backgrounds so there isn’t one true “person” that takes our Guide School. We usually get a few people who have guided some calmer whitewater rivers with friends and family, decided to step it up to more remote or more difficult whitewater and realized that their skills didn’t match their desire to explore. There are always a few people who want to guide commercially, whether it be multi-day trips or paddle raft guiding. Additionally, there are always a few folks who have a big trip coming up where they may not be the trip leader, but they want to be better skilled to participate in scouting, group decision-making, and navigating the river they’re embarking on. Sometimes, rafting guests just want to see what goes on behind the scenes of the rafting trips they’ve taken.
Last, but not least, we want to create high-quality river stewards.
Last, but certainly not least, the instructors say one of the most important parts of taking Guide School is becoming part of the greater river community upon the course’s completion. The course teaches river etiquette, stewardship, Leave No Trace practices and sustainability throughout its duration. Whether you’re an occasional paddler or daily river runner, on the river for an hour or a month, you are not guiding properly if you are not practicing river stewardship — on and off the river. Jeremy says, “It’s amazing, every year guests either stop in or report back that a few of the classmates have gone out and explored rivers together, recounting their training, and practicing the skills they learned, and that feedback really makes me feel like we succeeded in our instruction.”
Author Mikey Goyette works on Wet Planet’s Marketing team. When he’s not in the office, you can find him in his kayak on the river, or on the river bank playing Spike Ball.