Our Team & Your Safety - Sea Kayaking & Ecotourism Professionals
|West Coast Expeditions is in a league by itself.|
|Paul & Sue B., Yellow Point, BC|
|We have a new appreciation for the true meaning of the word guide... you exemplified the profession.|
|Andy & Judy F., Courtenay, BC|
We take care of the logistics and behind-the-scenes details that help you to fully relax and be absorbed in your holiday, savouring the remote wilderness of your base camp kayaking or expedition kayaking experience on the west coast Vancouver Island.
In January 2016 we were honoured to receive the "Employee's Choice Award" in the Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce Community Awards, and were shortlisted as finalists for the Small Business of the Year Award.
Learn about our history - we've has been doing personalized wilderness adventures in Kyuquot since 1972!
Our Team - Managers, Sea Kayak Guides, and Staff
|Bev Michel, manager, is an Indigenous woman with a love and respect for the ocean and nature, as taught by her late dad, Michael Hansen and her late mom, Hilda Hansen, who recently passed in Sept. 2020 as the eldest of the Elders at age 98! Bev has diverse talents and a smile that will make you feel welcome in her home territory of the Ka:'yu:'k't'h / Che:k:tles7et'h' (Kyuquot / Checleset) First Nations.
Her cultural knowledge about the cedar tree and traditional weaving techniques is only part of what she shares. Bev has been a trained Assistant Guide through North Island College's Adventure Tourism Certificate, and is an experienced west coast boater - active running water taxi services, and recently completed Coast Guard Search and Rescue training. She has a dual degree in Tourism and Hospitality Management (Vancouver Island University), which included a study experience in Ghana. She is also an Emergency Medical Responder in the community.
Guests appreciate Bev's comfortable, unassuming, knowledgeable, curious, and helpful nature. She loves being on the water or out on hikes, while learning about and sharing her home place. Before West Coast Expeditions and tourism, Bev worked for years in First Nations administration, including as a band manager, bookkeeper, and economic development coordinator.
|Dan Smetaniuk, camp operations and lead guide, is a flatlander by birth from Alberta, but now considers Vancouver Island and the ocean home. His passion for the outdoors was fostered through many adventures in nature with family and even from a young age he’s had strong awareness and concern for the environment. When Dan was eight years old he was inspired by a family trip exploring Vancouver Island. Little did he know that many years later he would return to cultivate a career as an outdoor guide.
Dan comes from an engineering background and has completed a Masters Degree in Electrical Engineering. His pursuits and interests have taken him around the world, from teaching English in El Salvador, designing micro-hydro turbines in Germany, to building off-grid solar systems in remote Peruvian villages. In the winter, he still works designing solar technology.
A graduate of the Adventure Guiding Certificate at North Island College, Dan has lead kayaking expeditions since 2017 in the Johnstone Strait, Broughton Archipelago, New Zealand, and now in Kyuquot Sound. He is a Level 3 Guide with the Sea Kayak Guides Alliance of BC. On land, he has cycled over 3000 km self-supported from Vancouver Island through the Rocky Mountains to Edmonton, Alberta (and back!). Dan is very excited to combine his varied backgrounds and bring his sense of adventure and learning, passion for sustainability and conservation, and systems thinking to the experience on Spring Island (Tle:hoh). When not working or guiding, Dan is often found wandering, wondering, or playing music.
|David Pinel, consulting former owner and lead guide, has been playing in salty water all of his life. He has been kayaking, boating, and leading west coast marine adventures since 1985, and organizing personal adventures long before that. Since joining West Coast Expeditions in the mid-90's, guests have long appreciated Dave weaving together the finer details while keeping the big picture in mind. Dave appreciates welcoming and close relationships with many of the Ka:'yu:'k't'h' -Che:k:tles7et'h' people.
He fell in love with the Pacific coast as both a student and faculty at Lester B. Pearson United World College (Victoria, BC) and while working in fast-response Coast Guard Search & Rescue for five summer seasons. Dave established and helped grow one of Canada’s first comprehensive sea kayaking instructional centres at Ocean River Sports in Victoria.
|...nobody else has been leading kayak tours there as long. No other paddler knows the area, its weather, and its people, as well as he does.|
|Alex Matthews author of "Sea Kayaking: Rough Waters"|
|Dave is a veteran Guide Trainer and Examiner with the Sea Kayak Guides Alliance of BC and long committed to marine and wilderness stewardship.
Together with the rest of the West Coast Expeditions team, he eagerly anticipates each summer, d sharing the joy and magic of Spring Island and the Kyuquot area. Despite all this serious stuff, he can let his hair down (oops, he doesn’t have any).
|Caroline Fisher, consulting former owner, loves plying the water in kayaks, exploring beaches and forests, eating well, and laughing. She has been a leader in outdoor education since 1990 and has extensive experience travelling and working internationally in South Africa, Mexico, Central America, New Zealand, and the United States (Four Corners region). Other forays have also included guiding mothership-based tours in Vietnam and Croatia.
A self-professed “ecotourism geek”, she has grown and shared her passion for Responsible Travel at several international conferences and as former Faculty with the Capilano University Outdoor Recreation Diploma and Wilderness Leadership Program, and with North Island College's Adventure Tourism Program.
Her Bachelor of Tourism Management degree (Vancouver Island University) has led to some consulting in community-based tourism planning, including for coastal First Nations and the sea kayaking industry, and work with strategic planning for the Wilderness Tourism Association. Passionate about the coast and the health of our coastal ecosystems, she was a volunteer Director with the Georgia Strait Alliance for two years.
After many seasons of kayak guiding with top companies in Clayoquot Sound and Johnstone Strait, our Kyuquot location became her “chosen place”! She maintained her Level 3 Guide certification with the Sea Kayak Guides Alliance of BC for 6 years. Caroline brings lively energy and a keen sense of fun and humour to our West Coast Expeditions family. Caroline supports many of the behind-the-scenes administrative and operational details, guides when able, and skillfully pursues her love of healthy eating and delicious food as co-choreographer of our menu and meals.
|Jeanne Rankin, camp chef, brings a lifetime of passionate cooking and baking to WCE, and an inimitably delightful energy and spirit.
She grew up in Winnipeg, and after high school left the prairies to travel the world for several years. On her journeys her love of food and cuisine grew so she settled in London, England to train under the legendary Roux brothers in their Michelin starred restaurants.
She returned to North America and worked in Vancouver and the Napa Valley for several years before moving back to Ireland where she co-owned and ran restaurants, cafes and a bakery for 25 years. She co-hosted 3 TV (BBC) series called Gourmet Ireland, and co-authored 6 cookbooks. The most recent publication, The Well Being Cookbook, was for Cancer Focus (Northern Ireland).
Jeanne returned to Vancouver Island in 2015 to earn her Diploma in Holistic Nutrition at Pacific Rim College in Victoria, BC, and is now halfway through a dual Diploma in Phytotherapy (Herbalism). She now resides in the Cowichan Valley, west of Duncan, BC. Jeanne loves being out in Nature. She is an avid rock climber, hiker and camper. The West Coast has opened the door to being on the water and kayaking now fills her spare time as well. We are thrilled to have her on our team - applying her lifetime of cooking experiences and recent Diploma knowledge in the unique environment of Spring Island and WCE!
|Kellan Thorlakson, assistant guide, is a graduate of the Adventure Guiding Certificate at North Island College (NIC). Kellan decided to pursue guiding after returning from personal travels: he realized there were so many incredible places in his backyard (the west coast of Canada) to get to know and share with others...like Kyuquot! He's pumped about every summer season, and primed to keep building on his training from NIC, and his Assistant Overnight Guide certification through the Sea Kayak Guides Alliance of BC.
From the get-go when Kellan joined WCE in 2018, we've appreciated his thoughtful, observant, and caring nature - usually the first one up and the last to bed, wanting to ensure that all details are taken care of so that the next day is ready to go! He likes to help wherever he can, be it on the water, at camp, or in the kitchen - you can always find him lending a hand. Even though it can be hard to tell, as evidenced by this photo, under his bushy beard there is always a smile!
|WOW! A perfect blend of showcasing this magnificent environment, great food, and just the right amount of 'creature comforts'. You are all amazing hosts redefining hospitality.|
|Steve L., Australia|
Your Safety and EnjoymentFrom our website and pre-trip information to your actual adventure holiday with us, we do our professional best to communicate with integrity, match guests with suitable experiences, and have the right people and systems in place to make it happen in fine form.
|Our kayaking guides are trained and certified with the Sea Kayak Guides Alliance of BC, Association of Canadian Sea Kayak Guides, Paddle Canada, or as appropriate for the specific program. For over 2 decades, we have helped to set safety standards for guided sea kayak tours in BC and Canada. We follow and frequently exceed industry practices for guide-to-guest ratios, safety equipment, contingency options, and certifications, including appropriate first aid credentials and experience. Our team is carefully selected for complimentary skills and how they make decisions: operating within their training and experience, and keeping our guests' safety and enjoyment at the centre of every decision.
With our base camp trips we have more staff resources and daily flexibility than are typical for a guided kayaking
|There are many resource layers and contingency options for guest safety in our remote location, including: our staff's training and attitude, established base camp facilities and equipment (including substantial first aid supplies), a versatile power boat, local knowledge and network, many communication options (including VHF radio and satellite phone), and proximity to medical care at the Village of Kyuquot's Health Centre (10 min boat ride from base camp and little to no waiting time).|