Any river lover remembers the magic of that first whitewater rafting trip well. We remember the anticipation, excitement, and nerves involved with stepping into an unfamiliar world. Descending the river with pace, desperately trying to master a communal paddling rhythm while in constant contemplation of what’s around the next corner. The waves, the splashes, the shouting, the laughter, and the unique river environment available only to those committed enough to make the journey through the river canyon. And we remember the guides, who exuded a seemingly endless love for rafting. The dedication of teaching a team of strangers to work as a team whose sole purpose was to smash into waves, avoid obstacles, and get into a flow state with the river. We remember the skill it took to narrowly miss rocks, weave through rapids, drop off waterfalls, all while narrating the surrounding scenery. The river was the attraction, but the guides made the trip.

While it is hard to duplicate the feeling of that first trip, most people return to whitewater rafting sporadically throughout their lives. The excitement never wears off, but rather begins shifting towards confidence, and a natural curiosity emerges; what would it be like to guide the raft?

Where Would I Even Start!? 

Progressing from a passenger to a guide can feel like a daunting, impossible task, inspiring all sorts of questions. Where do guides learn? What if I just want to raft for fun? Am I too old? Is it safe? Do I have enough time? 

The simple answer is that while all raft guides have a different journey, we all start from that same point of unfamiliarity. Nearly every professional raft guide began with a guide school run by a rafting company. While this is an amazing opportunity for what is typically a younger crowd looking for a summer job, it can leave out folks who want the skills of a commercial guide, but would rather raft for fun. Starting in 2006, Wet Planet designed a comprehensive beginner guide school that is designed to teach the skills needed for those who want to guide privately and professionally. White Salmon, WA, and the greater Pacific Northwest region is perfectly located to learn, play, and thrive on the abundance of rivers found in the area. In recent years Wet Planet added a 6-day Rowing School on the Main Salmon River in Idaho for even more learning opportunities. Our July course is designed specifically for those seeking to focus on rowing and multi-day rafting trips on Idaho’s iconic Class 3 Main Salmon River.

Bridging the Gap!

The April Wet Planet Guide School is an 8-day course spread out over two weekends in White Salmon, WA and a 4-day descent down the gorgeous Owyhee River. The aim of the course is to give everyone the well-rounded, hands-on experience needed to guide a paddle raft, row an oar frame, read whitewater, pack for a multi-day trip, cook on a multi-day trip, and learn the fundamentals of river safety. This type of hands-on experience inspires confidence and gives people the tools they need to keep progressing, both personally and professionally.

One of the great opportunities with rafting is exploring wilderness rivers that take multiple days to complete. The  remarkable Main Salmon River is the BEST environment for people of all experience levels looking to learn not only how to row a raft, but also how to prepare for six days of living on the river! This deep, gorgeous, desert river provides budding boaters a blank canvas to create a skill set essential for multi-day rivers across the country. Participants leave the course feeling confident in creating a menu, packing food, rigging rafts, selecting campsites, cooking, and river ethics for Wild and Scenic areas.

The best skill any rafting guide can have is judgment. Knowing where to go, when to go, how to go, why to go, and with whom to go is crucial for positive experiences. Skipping steps, cutting corners, and making assumptions is a recipe for trouble. These courses set students up to ask the right questions, pursue the right adventures, and start their own unique river journey!

Learn from Professionals!

Wet Planet Guide School instructors are people who have made pursuing rivers around the country and world a fundamental part of their lives. That wealth of knowledge is at the disposal of our participants to soak up and use for a massive head start.

steve merrow raft guiding

Steve Merrow 

Steve began guiding in Alaska, pursuing 9-14 day expedition rafting trips on the Alsek and Tatshenshini Rivers. That unique environment came with unique challenges and has led to a wealth of knowledge of how to operate in wilderness areas. After moving on from Alaska, Steve pursued guiding Class 4/5 whitewater on Rio Futaleufu in Chile, and numerous other rivers around the world. Steve has a passion for teaching and enjoys nothing more than watching new boaters gain confidence and skill on the water. 

Todd Collins

Todd is one of the most experienced and knowledgeable raft guides and whitewater professionals in the country. Co-founding Wet Planet in 2002, his vision was to make whitewater rafting, kayaking, and rescue training enjoyable and accessible to everyone. Our guide schools are an extension of that vision, embodying Todd’s love for the river and deep desire to help people build the correct foundation of experience, knowledge, and confidence.

Giani Beneviento

Giani joined Wet Planet in 2008 bringing a level of skill and professionalism that has been honed on rivers around the country. Giani used his expertise to help develop multi-day programs on the Main Salmon, Owyhee, and our Guide School. No guide has logged more hours on the rivers we run during guide school than Giani!

Sydney Lynch

Sydney sharpened her guiding skills in Colorado, running multi-day and day trips on the Animus River. Joining the Wet Planet team in 2021, Sydney has developed into a core leader at Wet Planet. Trip Leading on the Main Salmon, Owyhee, White Salmon, and our Guide School has allowed Sydney to share indefatigable passion for sharing rivers and teaching the skills needed to find the same success she has found.

Marcus Tarzian

Marcus hit the ground running at Wet Planet in 2023 and has not slowed down! Recently certified to teach river rescue, Marcus is taking full advantage of all that we do at Wet Planet. Marcus’ poise, confidence, skill, and medical training makes him an ideal trip leader, multi-day guide, and guide school instructor. Marcus came to guiding later in life giving him a unique ability to understand and relate to those learning and progressing in a raft.

What’s around the next corner?

Pursuing rivers is a journey without a destination. What’s around the corner? There’s always another river! These are the sentiments that have motivated rafters to explore the seemingly endless whitewater possibilities in the US and more specifically the PNW and intermountain West. Each river is a new opportunity to grow as a guide, a person, as part of a community, and foster the endless pursuit of whitewater. The first step is always the hardest, but in this case it doesn’t need to be! We look forward to seeing you on the water!

Explore our Guide School this April.