By: Michelle Postma

2022 was my first year as a guide for Holiday River Expeditions. I was given lots of advice before embarking on this journey, but there were many things I had to find out for myself. Here are the ten things I learned as a never-ever raft guide!

Michelle International Womens Day 20231.Whoop!

If I’m having fun, they’re having fun. As a guide, I can set the tone of the boat with good energy and genuinely enjoying myself. Rafting the magical canyons is an unparalleled adventure. Point at cool rocks and yell during rapids 🙂

During guide training one of the head guides stood in the front of my boat, held onto the bowline with one hand, and swung his other hand in the air like he was riding a bronco. Water sprayed everywhere as Nick stomped the boat into the troughs of the waves. He whooped as we pulled away from a huge man-eating hole. It was the second class III rapid of my life, Coal Creek.


2.Hydrate or Diedrate

If you think water, drink water

I thought I was a pretty hotshot water drinker before I came to the desert. I can almost feel the air sucking the water out of my skin pores. I keep two water bottles filled so that if one runs out and I don’t have time to refill it, there’s another one on deck.

3. Let it rain on your skin!tent on boat in rain

Or not?

If it looks like rain, there’s a decision to be made. Do I set up a tent or risk it for the biscuit? Every guide has preferences and strategies when it comes to rain. Every technique makes some compromise between effort and potential wetness in the night. And I don’t mean rolling off the boat or peeing your pants.

Various Options:

Sleep out on the rowing bench & if it rains:

– pull a tarp over and wrap the sleeping bag like a burrito

– set up the two red umbrellas and maybe even strap them to things so they don’t blow away

– also set up a tent on the beach and move there once the rain starts

– set up a tent on the boat


Set up a tent on land and sleep in it. If it rains, it doesn’t matter; there’s a tent. Sleeping out on the boat under the stars is magnificent enough that it is a real struggle to decide what to do each time weather looms.

guest napping on boat in Cataract Canyon

4.Snacks and Naps

Most of my problems can be solved or completely avoided using these ancient technologies. I keep snacks easily accessible so I and my fellow rafters can snack at any time! For me there are not many luxuries which compare to a nap in the sun after a day on the river and a cold dip. If a nap cannot be had for love or money, afternoon coffee folks!

5.People are people

People just want to be loved. Everyone needs to be cared for – even if, maybe especially if, they’re tough.

The guests, my fellow guides, and me.

6.Light Check!

Something I learned from veteran guides. If you see some sick light, say “Light Check!” No matter what’s going on, it is amplified by taking a moment to  look around and say ‘hot damn it’s gorgeous here’.

Bat I Win! also does this, with a slightly different flavor. Whomever spots a bat first yells “Bat I Win!” and everyone else groans and is delighted.

7.Wrap it, dip it, drape it, dry with it, change in it, sit on itRainbow against red rock- Noah wetzel cataract canyon

Underground candidate for most beloved river item, the sarong. Its pattern’s delight and it can be used all day and all night.

Get yerself one and you’ll never go wrong. all Hail the al’mighty sarong!

8.Big Girl Pillow

One of the best upgrades I made my first river season was switching from my blow up backpacking pillow to my Real Pillow. The river bag is big enough. Maybe this year I’ll bring two pillows and no extra clothes.

9.Be Knoty!

The bowline and taut line hitch can be used for anything on the river, tying up boats, tying anchors, making a jump rope, laundry line, rain tarp, tying buckets under people rafts… Practicing knots in the kitchen with folks is knot! only fun, but that’s one more tool I have on the river to be a good guide.

10.Take care of your feet and they’ll take care of you!

My first river season I got foot rot or trench foot. EW After a month or two of having constantly wet feet they became spongy and rotted away like wet cake. It is better to wear shoes that expose most of the foot and allow it to dry out. Like Bedrock or Chaco sandals. Lotion is slimy but now it is my bff. Read more about the exciting topic of foot rot here

Michelle PostmaHi I’m Michelle Postma. I grew up in Columbus, GA and lived for summer camp every year in Brevard, NC – mountains of waterfalls, moss, and afternoon sunshowers. I love rowing, reading fantasy/scif-i, biking, doodling, and being a lizard in the sun. My favorite beverage is water or bean water. My favorite food group is salt. If you know any dad jokes, please tell them to me. Thank you!

What do you get if you cross a stream and a creek? Wet feet!