For many people working in the outdoor industry you need to be able to do many different things to either make ends meet or avoid job burn-out. One of these multi-talented people is Steve Weileman from Washington State. When not sitting in front a computer as a web-developer/database administrator for a small outdoor retail business he is off instructing or taking clients out on trips as a sea kayak guide.
Along with a passion for paddling, Steve is an amateur historian and film maker researching many of the small abandoned communities along the Washington coastline.
Over the next couple of months Steve is going to be putting his talents to good use as he was recently Steve was asked to join The Ikkatsu Project (which we highlighted here) to help document the Japanese tsunami debris which is starting to wash up on the Washington coast. Look for reports to be posted on the project website when the project starts in June.
I recently sat down with Steve to find out what his job is like and what makes it the greatest way to making a living ever.
1) How long have you been working in the outdoor industry and what got you started?
I’ve been in the industry for 12 years and ironically what got me started was a mishap while kayaking onVancouver Island, which I wrote about in Sea Kayaker Magazine. That misadventure led me to start looking for advance training which in turn led to the BCU, which in turn led to my first job offer as a guide.
2) What’s the best part of your job?
There are many aspects of guiding that are rewarding but for me the most rewarding is when you see the excitement in someone who is experiencing the outdoors for the first time in unique perspective you get from doing so in a kayak and the relationships that develop as a result. I receive regular emails with either questions or trip reports from clients who I introduced to the kayaking from years back.
3) What’s the most difficult aspect of the job?
The long hours. Yes, you get to go to some cool places but you’re up well before the first client getting coffee and breakfast ready, and usually you’ll be the last to hit the sack. It can be a bit of an endurance game.
4) What are two tips you can give to somebody who wants to get into the world of guiding?
One, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. It has to be a labour of love; I don’t know a single wealthy guide!
Two, take the time to get a system down. When I first started I was putting in 18-20 hour days. Now, using a program to plan my meals, doing as much pre-trip prepping of food, gear, and such I’ve whittled that down to about 12 hours. Over a long multi-day trip that can make a huge difference in your energy level which in turn ultimately makes the trip more enjoyable for you as well.
5) What about your job do you think would most surprise people?
I think people have a misconception that guiding is all about going to exotic places and for sure guiding has gotten me to places like Alaska and Newfoundland but that’s only part of the equation. By far this is a service industry which involves taking care of and providing for clients; cooking, cleaning, carrying, towing, setting up tents, packing, etc. You need to have your eyes wide open if you really want to do this.
6) What was the coolest thing you remember finding when you were a kid out exploring?
In middle school I went to visit a friend on his family’s farm. We went exploring well beyond his fields into an area he’d never been before. We came upon an abandoned farm where I found a trunk up in the rafters. Inside were dozens of letters. Turns out they where letters written by a soldier to his wife while serving overseas in WWII. I spent most of that afternoon living vicariously through his letters. I really think that was the spark that ignited by love of history and explorations.
7) If you could tell something to your 18 year-old self, what would it be?
It would be simple. Don’t buy into someone else definition of success. Determine what your definition is, then make it happen.