Raft Guide School FAQs

Is it necessary to have experience to be a USNWC Raft Guide?
How do I sign up for Raft Guide School?
Do I need to be certified in First Aid and CPR to register for Raft Guide School?
Attending Raft Guide School does not guarantee a job at the USNWC. What does that mean?
What topics will be covered in Raft Guide School?
What equipment do I need, and what should I wear during Raft Guide School?
After I complete Raft Guide School, what are my next steps?
What is the required guide gear, and how much will it cost?
Once I am hired, how many hours will I be scheduled?

Is it necessary to have experience to be a USNWC Raft Guide?
No, it is not necessary to have prior experience; the majority of our guides have received training through the USNWC. If you have no previous experience as a raft guide, you are required to complete USNWC Raft Guide School before you will be considered for employment. Experienced guides should submit an application online.

How do I sign up for Raft Guide School?
Go to the USNWC Raft Guide School page – all available dates are listed at the bottom of the page. From there, select the course that works best with your schedule, and complete the registration process. You can also register for Raft Guide School over the phone by calling Guest Services at 704.391.3900.

Do I need to be certified in First Aid and CPR to register for Raft Guide School?
No, you do not have to have a current certification to register for Raft Guide School – only active employees are required to have the certification. If you are not certified, we cannot schedule you to work. We do offer a First Aid, CPR, & AED Certification course at the USNWC. We also offer SOLO WFA and WFR courses periodically throughout the year.

Attending Raft Guide School does not guarantee a job at the USNWC. What does that mean?
Raft Guide School is considered as an extended interview process, where you will be evaluated on both technical skills and overall compatibility with our organization. We are looking for guides who are energetic, positive, hard-working, and friendly. In most cases guide school graduates are offered the opportunity to complete the guide qualification process. After completion of the qualification process, all employment offers are subject to successful completion of a background check. USNWC is a drug-free and smoke-free establishment.

What topics will be covered in Raft Guide School?
Our course is broken down into six days:

  1. Orientation and hydrology
  2. Gear, rafts/equipment, paddle strokes, student guided runs on the Wilderness Channel (Class II and Class III whitewater)
  3. Knots and ropes, student guided runs on Wilderness Channel, flip drills
  4. Basic swift water rescue, emergency and weather related protocol, student guided challenge runs down the Wilderness Channel
  5. Student guided runs on the Competition Channel (Class III and Class IV whitewater), surfing on the Wilderness Channel
  6. Student challenge runs on the Competition Channel

What equipment do I need, and what should I wear during Raft Guide School?
During Raft Guide School, the USNWC will provide the following equipment:

  • Whitewater specific Personal Flotation Device (PFD)
  • Whitewater specific helmet
  • Paddle

Wetsuits, booties, and splash jackets are available for rent.

What you should bring/wear:

Cold weather (not required but highly suggested): swimsuit, board/athletic shorts, rain jacket, warm/quick drying clothing, secure footwear (old sneakers, water shoes, or sandals with a heel-strap), and warm socks

Cotton clothing and jeans are not recommended as they will only make you colder.

Warm weather: swimsuit, board/athletic shorts, t-shirt, rash guard/quick drying clothing, and secure footwear (old sneakers, water shoes, or sandals with a heel-strap)

Other: eyeglass strap (if needed), sunscreen, towel, change of dry clothes, and shoes

After I complete Raft Guide School, what are my next steps?
Upon completion of Raft Guide School, you will take part in a brief evaluation. If we decide you would be a good fit for our team, we will invite you to complete the Check-Out process. Being on-time and having an enthusiastic and positive attitude are two of the most important factors in our consideration. Most Raft Guide School graduates are invited to complete the Check-Out process.

The USNWC Check-Out process:

  • Turkey Boating and Ride Alongs:  Turkey Boating refers to practicing your guiding skills with other guides or Guide School graduates. Ride Alongs allow you to learn from experienced USNWC guides to get a feel for how we run our trips. A minimum of three Ride Alongs are required. Repeat these two steps until you are comfortable enough to begin your Check-Outs.
  • You will now be required to pass two Check-Out runs. You will be the guide for these two trips. Your skills will be evaluated by a Trip Leader riding along with you on your trip. You must own all of the required guide gear for your final Check-Out.

What is the required guide gear, and how much will it cost?
You will need to purchase certain gear before completing your final Check-Out. While in Raft Guide School, you will receive a 30% discount at the USNWC Outfitters. Used gear can commonly be found and is a great option for reducing cost.

Before completing your final Check-Out, you will need the following gear:

  • Whitewater specific helmet:  $50-$150 (new with discount)
  • River knife (a standard pocket knife will do):  $5-$10
  • 2 locking carabineers:  around $7 each
  • Flip line (a flip line is a piece of flat webbing that you can wrap around your waist at least twice):  $2-$4
  • Whistle:  $5-$10
  • Throw bag:  $40-$70
  • Waterproof/water resistant watch:  $10+
  • Secure footwear (no flip flops):  $20+

Once hired, you will need to purchase:

  • Staff PFD (two options):  Astral Yonton ($80) or Astral Green Jacket ($140)
  • Staff Guide Shorts:  approximately $30

Payment for your PFD and Guide Shorts, is accepted up front or through our payroll deduction option ($40 per check until gear is paid off).

Once I am hired, how many hours will I be scheduled?
This job revolves heavily around weather conditions and school scheduling. We are unable guarantee our staff a certain amount of working hours. During the spring season (March through May), hours are relatively low at 0-20 hours a week. Once schools release in June, hours will pick-up to 15-40 per week. Your flexible availability is a big factor in how many hours you are scheduled. First year guides may not be scheduled for 40 hours a week, but there are always plenty of opportunities to pick up extra shifts to get you to your desired amount of hours. Hours are fairly steady through the end of September, provided good weather.