Assistant Overnight Guide Sea Kayak with Alana

Alana Norie was a recipient of the 2023 Spring scholarship for outdoor education and received their Assistant Overnight Guide in Clayoquot Sound, BC, Canada

In Tla-o-qui-aht territories within Nuu-chah-nulth, laided the beautiful Clayoquot Sound cradled by the shores of cedar trees. Paddling in the sound, and camping along the beaches of Vargas Island was bound adventure, with the mixture of torrential rain and strong gale to storm winds coming our way, there was no lack of adventure to be had.

After day kayak guiding for the summer of 2023, I was ready to take a step forward in advancing my certifications. I was given the opportunity by Backcountry Squatters to take my Assistant Overnight Guide (AOG) with the Sea Kayak Guide Alliance of British Columbia. Jump start to early October, I began 9 days of leading and learning rescues, weather systems, emergency responses and surf landings. This time consisted of a lot of early mornings, and late nights studying in the tent.

Before jumping into the learning and adventures to be had on the course (cause there was no lack of it) I believe it is vital to look at the WHY behind progressing in sea kayaking guiding. While the intertidal life, sunsets, and calm morning on the water drew me to kayaking, what keeps me there is how powerful sea kayaking is for fostering community. As humans I believe we thrive in community. To me, a community can reveal itself in small ways through hugs, uplifting each other, through paddling, and through food. These actions are all practices of community building, as they all communicate “I care for us, and I will continue to care for us.” This is the WHY behind progressing my guiding skills and certifications, is so that I can continue to show up for folks who are deserving of an outdoor community that is inclusive and equitable.

So when I placed my two feet on the beach, I held a feeling of immense gratitude for taking a step forward in being able to invite folks to stand beside me one day. Taking one step forward to showing folks that someone will be fighting for them to take up space in the outdoors.

My AOG exam and course was filled with new knowledge. An aspect for me that I was very excited to dive into was weather! Understanding weather was something that as a guide I consistently hit a wall with. Getting lost in the terminology, or sitting feeling so out of the loop. This course allowed me to interpret weather in real life, increasing my understanding. The examiners were patient, always willing to draw diagrams in the sand, and continued to test me on what type of clouds were occupying the sky. This knowledge continues to serve me in all aspects of being outdoors. Getting tips, and new skills to implement in rescues and emergency response was another learning highlight. I got the chance to truly practice staying calm in emergencies, digging into tow client boats for long stretches of travel, and reveal to myself how capable I was in managing whatever came my way.

Not to forget the amount of soggy morning, giggles and good food that came our way when camping and paddling on the west coast. With a low weather system coming in at full speed we expired pouring rain (maybe 80% of the trip) and record winds that took our tents, and broke down large trees at night. I am truly proud of all the candidates who took on these challenges with me. We left with maybe only one dry item of clothing, but full of stories of resilience.

This course will allow me to offer supportive and affirming trips and experience for adults and youth this summer. I aim to support trips that create community for 2sLGBTQIA+ adults, as well as mixed hiking and kayaking experiences for youth. I take my role in the Outdoor Industry with great responsibility and pride, as I aim to be the representation I wish had while navigating outdoor education.

Before I wrap up this blog, I have one single message for folks reading this.

We belong.

It sounds oversimplified, but as I step into adventure spaces I am constantly having to find ways to prove to those around me that I am deserving of being there. With many experiences of being told I am too young, or laughed at for my queerness/transness, I am persistent in defending my right to take up space. These lived experiences are the fuel which inspires me to continue arguing that we all belong in the outdoors. The phrase “take space, make space” guides me as I practice taking up space, while simultaneously looking at how I can invite in, listen to, and empower others to take up their own space. I aim to center the voices and experiences of BIPOC, 2sLGBTQIA+, and other marginalized communities. I refuse to stay silent when others are told they don’t belong outdoors, because they do.

You belong, I belong!

See you on the ocean!


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