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Spotlight on Guides: Amy Benskin, Level Three Guide and Guide Trainer

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Name: Amy Benskin

SKGABC Level 3 Guide and Guide Trainer

Certified kayak guide since 2005, joined the SKGABC in 2016.

1. Where do you work / paddle and for whom?: I guide for a few different companies which have allowed me to work all over coastal BC, including Haida Gwaii and the Central Coast. I facilitate guide training and expedition programs through SKILS, teach whitewater canoeing and kayaking for the COLT program at Strathcona Park Lodge, and whitewater and sea kayaking outdoor ed programs for SMUS in Victoria. I also guided some trips this summer in the BGI for Kevin and Phill from Hello Nature.

2. What's your "origin story"? How did you get in to paddling / guiding?: Having grown up in Victoria, my family was really into sailing. I became a sailing instructor in high school, and a scuba diving instructor shortly after. Wanting more of a challenge, I did the COLT program at Strathcona Park Lodge in 2005. From there, I started instructing outdoor ed programs on the ocean, rivers, and mountains. I never was really able to choose one sport to focus on…. so I still love to mess around in any kind of water-craft, from rafts to sea kayaks to solo whitewater canoes.

3. Do you have a side / winter gig or study?: For a long time, I was teaching scuba diving and driving dive boats in Victoria. However, I just graduated with a teaching degree as a Secondary Math and Computer Science teacher from UVic…. So now I’m putting that degree to good use as a substitute teacher in Ukee during the winter. I can make my own schedule and go boating when the rivers are running or the surf looks good J

4. What do you like to educate or inspire guests about?: I really enjoy the technical aspect of paddling, whether it’s on the ocean or a river, and discussing and experimenting with how your boat will move based on changes to your boat, body, and blade. Seeing the progression of my students is really inspiring and motivates me to keep learning as well. When I’m guiding somewhere new I get a lot of joy from learning about the natural and anthropological history of the area and sharing that with my guests. I think above all, it is important for guides to share not only the pre-contact history of the local first nations with our guests, but also our recent colonial history and present-day efforts and successes towards reconciliation.

5. What's a challenging memory or trip you've had as a guide and what did you take from it?: Four summers ago, I was in the last week of 8 weeks straight guiding in Gwaii Haanas. We had an incredible frontal system approaching and were set up to go south around Benjamin Point once it had past. I beached us on the first day and turned us around on the second day, much to the disappointment of my guests. But on the third day, we flew south with the ebb on smooth seas, and managed to still make it to SGang Gwaay and back to Rose Harbour for pickup. We pushed ourselves with some long days to make our goals, but everyone, including myself, was glad to have waited til the storm had passed. I discuss that story with my students, reiterating that as guides we are constantly changing the plan based on conditions, and that employers should always support your judgement to say no, despite outcomes or expectations.

6. What's the order of priorities when you finally get home from a long trip?: I don’t think I have a usual order, but I’ll tell you about my craziest turn-around. I had just finished a 12 day trip to Hesquiaht Harbour for SKILS. I unpacked and cleaned everything at the base, threw all my gear in my car and drove home to Victoria, where I did laundry, repacked, slept for a few hours, and was at the airport the next morning for an 11am flight and three weeks guiding in Gwaii Haanas. I learned not to book my schedule like that ever again!

7. What's a time you admired, or learned from, the conduct of another guide you were working with?: Everytime I work with Laurel Archer! She taught me how to paddle on whitewater back in 2005, and I have now been teaching those same programs with her for 12 years. I have learned so much from her and am so grateful to have had her as my mentor and friend all these years. She calls me her mini-me (even though I’m a foot taller than her!). Oh! And if anyone knows how to go about buying a duck, please let her know.

8. What's a favourite memory from an SKGABC Exchange or exam?: It had to be the Strathcona exchange, teaching sea kayak guides how to whitewater canoe and kayak. So fun J

9. Favourite meal to make as a guide?: Coffee

10. Favourite spot in the world to arrive at and pull up your kayak: Has to be somewhere in Gwaii Haanas. I can’t choose one particular spot, but I do love pulling up to Tanu or Windy Bay when Mary, Sonny, and Raven are there. Mary and I will take Raven swimming or have coffee with fry-bread while Sonny does the tour. Those are pretty special moments!