Tristan Oluper

My first canoe experience was with one of my childhood friends, his father and a few others. It was along the mighty North Saskatchewan from Nordegg to Rocky Mountain House in Alberta. My friend and I, like many beginners, checked off all the mistakes in the book, navigating various rapids going sideways, backwards and gunnel grabbing. Sound familiar? Somehow, miraculously, we stayed upright the whole time. A seed had been planted.

The seed sprouted in the form of a guiding career in 2006 at HeLa ventures (operated by two veteran NRA guides). I developed an affinity for the river and had no idea how one summer would mold the rest of my life. For the next decade I fully immersed myself in the art of river navigation via canoe, raft, kayak and once (or twice) on an inflatable turtle. I am grateful to have worked on various rivers throughout Canada in BC, Alberta and Ontario as well as around the globe in Zambia, Chile and Australia to list a few.

In 2017 I accepted a full-time position with a municipality in my hometown near Edmonton, AB. The guiding community defines this as “a real job”. Though the quantity of river time decreased, the quality of rivers I explored mainly by kayak did not. I was able to supplement self-supported expeditions to incredible locations around Alberta and BC. Between personal trips, “a real job”, and whitewater kayak races, I also managed to guide my first trip down the South Nahanni in 2017. The experience was profound and left me craving more of the North.

What is my favourite part of guiding? That the draw of the river tends to bring people together who may not normally converse or interact. It is so cool! What do I bring to a river trip? My inability to outgrow childish wonder, curiosity and play is contagious. I mean I can paddle a canoe in a straight line most of the time and am aware of a rescue skill or two but mostly what I said first. What is my favourite river story? There are many, so you will have to ask.

“If a person can pack a heavy load across a portage, if they can do whatever they have to do without complaint and with good humor, it makes little difference what their background has been. And if they can somehow keep alive the spark of adventure and romance as the old-time voyageurs seem to have done, then any expedition becomes more than a journey through wild county. It becomes a shining challenge and an adventure of the spirit.” -Sigurd F. Olson, The Lonely Land