The (Unofficial) List of Things Kayak Guides Simply Shouldn’t Do

So I’ve decided to break my blogging silence (not entirely, but just for a moment) with a little summary of the past few months:


I just completed my third season as a kayak guide in Maine, and, having done so there are quiet a few things I’ve learned. In the spirit of full-disclosure and sharing my oh-so-valuable (i.e. laughable) experiences with the general public, I’ve decided to pass on some of the more important of these with you.

Thus, about halfway through the summer, myself and an equally rambunctious co-worker began compiling a list of things we’d learned in the trade. Please note that all these lessons are ones I’ve either learned from personal experience (like the fact that bilge pumps do make excellent squirt guns), anecdotes from others in the business (I really did hear someone tell the Coast Guard they were the “sea kayak shepherd”) or ideas I’ve been informed would be “inadvisable pursuits should you seek to continue working here” (like the mannequin thing…not many people appreciated that). When all was said and done, it’s really a miracle I managed to stay employed for three entire seasons.

Anyways, without further adieu, here you have it: The Unofficial List of Things Kayak Guides Simply Shouldn’t Do:

1)    “Good enough for government work” is not a valid standard

2)    Yelling “Shark! Shark!” is an inappropriate way to speed up your group

3)    The response “We’ll see!” is not allowed one when referencing safety issues

4)    Seals can, and will, bite

5)    The bilge pump is not a squirt gun (even if they did laugh at your sunglass tan line)

6)    “In the event of a capsize, blow bubbles to the tune of Taylor Swift’s ‘Love Song’” is no longer to be included in any safety lesson

7)    Cleaning the booties at the end of the day does not require you to shake yours as well

8)    No one has ever died on one of our kayak tours so stop referring to “poor old Johnny…”

9)     Furthermore, no one has ever been attacked by sharks on one of our kayak tours so also cease with the “…. he just couldn’t out swim that Great White.”

10)  Although we are competitors, the other outfitter on this island is not sabotaging your boats, so stop blaming all the problems on them

11)  Also, stop sabotaging their boats

12) “That’s what they said about the Titanic” is no longer to follow any questions regarding a kayak’s ability to stay afloat

13) Asking “are you on something?” is not the correct way to find out if a client’s boat is stuck on a rock

14)  Showing up to work in only a spray skirt and life jacket is inappropriate

15)  Drinking before a tour is prohibited

16)  Drinking on a tour is prohibited

17)  Drinking after a tour when you have another one immediately following is prohibited

18) Towing the guide is not part of the “quintessential kayaking experience”

19)  Don’t recommend the local tavern to under-age kids

20)  Don’t recommend the local tavern to anyone with a sense of propriety

21)  Just stop recommending the local tavern

22)  The islands along your route are not inhabited by pygmies, they do not have a small town called “Pogeyville”, and they certainly are not currently on tour with the circus

23)  Stop saying “in accordance with the prophesy” when asked what time the tour will return

24)  No trading boats for lobsters

25)  No trading clients for lobsters

26)  No referring to yourself as the “sea kayak shepherd” over the Coast Guard’s radio channel

27)  If you play chicken with the giant cruise ship in the bay, it will only end poorly for you

28)  Stop telling clients the sound of distant thunder is really whales passing gas

29)  “It’s better to ask forgiveness than permission” no longer applies to you

30)  “You do not talk about sea kayaking” is not the first rule of sea kayaking

31)  …Nor is it the second rule of sea kayaking

32)  It’s called a Personal Flotation Device and is abbreviated as PFD, not Life saving device and LSD

33)  “That’s above my pay grade” is not the correct answer to “where are your clients?”

34)  Holding your breath as you pass underneath a dock is not a means of warding off evil spirits

35)  Just because people cannot pronounce your name does not mean you demand to be addressed as “Oh, Great One…”

36)  Guides must wear a life jacket, even if the tan lines are “cramping mah style”

37)  Stop telling clients there’s pots of pirate treasure attached to the other end of lobster fishing lines

38)  No more sacrificing fake fish to appease the kayak gods before your tours

39)  “Safety” is not third on the list of our company’s priorities, nor does it fall behind “making a profit” and “staying out of prison”

40)  You did not learn how to kayak when you were doing time in “the slammer”

41)  Telling clients “sure, see how far you can lean without capsizing” is not an acceptable way to teach them how to perform a wet exit

42)  Stupid questions are not the reason you didn’t see wildlife and it’s not nice to tell your clients such

43)  Stop taping plastic Sponge Bob characters to random lobster buoys

44)  Stop depositing bottles with messages in them along your tour

45)  Kayaking in a hurricane is not a way for clients to “prove their manhood”

46)  You cannot spend your tour waiting in ambush for the competition’s trip

47)  No, you cannot drag a mannequin behind your kayak and tell your clients you’re hunting for sharks

48)  Drinking sea water does not cure sea sickness

49)  Inflatable beach toys are not to be placed along your route in advance and pointed out as rare species of migratory birds

50)  While driving the van, you must wave to other cars with at least two fingers

51)  The “Jaws” soundtrack is not appropriate music to play when transporting clients to the water

52)  Neither is “Gilligan’s Island”

53) Putting the van in “park” and parking the van are two different things

54)  Refusing to completely latch the boat trailer to the hitch “just for kicks and giggles” will not happen again

55)  I don’t care if you’re half-British, we drive on the right hand side of the road

And there you have it, folks. Should you ever choose to become a kayak guide, I highly suggest you take heed of these tips. On the other hand, if you don’t…it might make your life slightly more interesting.

On a side note, I will be back in the blogosphere soon…so stay posted!

5 thoughts on “The (Unofficial) List of Things Kayak Guides Simply Shouldn’t Do

  1. I especially like your #6 !

    Alex’s birthday is Monday….thanking God for his life. We appreciate the friend you were to him, Bryn.

    Grace and peace.

  2. Bwahaha! Thanks for sharing. I can confidently say that if I ever become a kayak tour guide, I will NEVER do any of these things. except for #25. I cannot give up #25. I love lobsters too much (in the culinary sense) and my “clients” (read: cadets & faculty) sometimes – not often, but sometimes) need to be traded for something better.

    Good to see you here again, Bryn! I look forward to reading about your journey through seminary. Also, you might enjoy reading this, if you haven’t already: Warning: some things on the list are not safe for work…or for delicate sensibilities. But they are all pretty darn funny, and I have it printed out in my office.

    1. Skippylist may or may not be the mantra by which I live my military life. He’s basically a hero to me and obviously we share the same spirit of shenanigans. Hope all is well! Thanks for still reading!

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