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 had the honour of receiving 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!
Your Safety and Enjoyment
From 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 experience. There is never any pressure to pack up and paddle if the weather or sea conditions are unsuitable - we don't need to move camp, and there are plenty of land-based activity options. With our expedition-style trips we maintain a small overall group size, similarly depart from our established base camp, have access to water taxi shuttles, and can easily alter the trip itinerary as weather conditions dictate.
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).
David Pinel, managing 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's dynamic, inspiring, and intuitive leadership style that weaves together the finer details while keeping the big picture in mind.
He spent much of his childhood on lakes in Ontario or immersed in the Atlantic ocean. 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. Occasionally lured away from Vancouver Island, his international travel and studies have taken him to India, Sweden, Norway, New Zealand, Australia, Western Europe, Mexico, Peru, and Ecuador.
|...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 coordinates and instructs the Adventure Guiding Certificate, and Aboriginal Ecotourism Training Program for North Island College (since 2002) on Vancouver Island and has a passionate interest in coastal ecology and culture. Among kayakers, his knowledge of the Kyuquot area and community is unmatched - he loves sharing this with guests.
When not paddling, teaching, or Nordic skiing, he's a professional planner who works with communities and organizations. His 1998 M.Sc. thesis (U. of Guelph) and later consulting work have contributed to community and economic development in the remote coastal area of Kyuquot. Dave is a veteran Guide Trainer and Examiner with the Sea Kayak Guides Alliance of BC, and has been an early and long-time contributor to shaping British Columbia's professional sea kayaking practices.
Committed to marine stewardship, he is honoured to be a Lifetime Member of the Georgia Strait Alliance after serving as a Director from 1998 to 2004, including 4 years as President. Currently he is a director with the Wilderness Tourism Association of BC, and is the Volunteer Warden of Checleset Bay Ecological Reserve - BC's largest marine ER.
Together with wife Caroline, son Morgan, and the rest of our West Coast Expeditions team, he eagerly anticipates each summer, hosting you and 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, owner, guide, and host, 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). Her most recent forays have been 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 Faculty with the Capilano University Outdoor Recreation Diploma and Wilderness Leadership Program, and more recently with the North Island College Adventure Tourism Programs.
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, Kyuquot is now her “chosen place” – she’s seen the light and knows a great thing when she sees it! An experienced Level 3 Guide with the Sea Kayak Guides Alliance of BC for 6 years, she now maintains her Level 2 Certification. Caroline brings lively energy and a keen sense of fun and humour to our West Coast Expeditions family.
Caroline juggles many of the behind-the-scenes administrative and operational details, guides whenever able/needed, and skilfully pursues her love of healthy eating and delicious food as co-choreographer of our menu and meals.
Morgan Fisher Pinel is an old soul who comes from the sea, and loves bumpy boat rides and paddling. Aptly described by one West Coast Expeditions guest as a “little heart thief”, he ensures that everyone feels welcome while on Spring Island - adults and kids alike. Given the chance, he will take your hand or beckon you to the beach to see the little things, hear the owls and sea otters, and be a kid. Morgan is an apprentice interpreter on forest walks and intertidal explorations, and gets into or out on the water whenever possible. Maybe he'll invite you swimming on a warm afternoon?! He can answer most of your questions, and if not, knows who can. He offers the most comprehensive camp tours, and loves having Spring Island as a second home, having logged over 75 weeks out here in his first 7 summers!
Bev Hansen-Michel, owner and guide, is a First Nations woman with a love and respect for the ocean and nature, as taught by her late dad, Michael Hansen and her mom, Hilda Hansen, one of only a few Native Elders (now 93!) living in the community. She 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 is a trained Assistant Guide through North Island College's Adventure Tourism Certificate, and an experienced west coast boater. She recently completed her dual degree in Tourism and Hospitality Management at Vancouver Island University which included a study experience in Ghana, Africa.
Our guests appreciate her comfortable, unassuming, knowledgeable, curious, and helpful nature. She loves being on the water, learning about and sharing her home place. Before West Coast Expeditions and eco-adventure tourism, Bev worked for years in First Nations administration, including as a band manager, bookkeeper, and economic development coordinater. Focused again now on Kyuquot, after years working for the Hesquiaht First Nation in Hot Springs Cove (Clayoquot Sound), she is thrilled to be pursuing her dreams at home with West Coast Expeditions.
Adrienne Daniel keeps our office flowing, managing our guest communications and summer logistics. She's another smiling face who is happy helping you to prepare for a relaxing and unforgettable adventure! Adrienne is passionate about ecotourism, so she’s thrilled to be supporting and refining our sustainable practices. A graduate of the Adventure Tourism Business Operations Diploma program from College of the Rockies, Adrienne has also achieved a certificate in Community Leadership from the Centre for Innovative Entrepreneur Leaders.
Adrienne is a nature lover at heart. As an Environmental Educator, she is most passionate about connecting people, especially children, to their natural world. She's worked as a Lodge Manager for renowned Canadian Mountain Holidays and has otherwise spent a decade leading groups of eager students through the backcountry, scaling mountains by foot and chasing the fluffy white skiable terrain across BC. The ocean then beckoned her home to Vancouver Island where she grew up. With a clear affinity to mountains and ocean, she’s living “The Best of All Worlds”: raising her young family, building community, and facilitating our guest experiences from our office in the Comox Valley.
Sarah Osberg, lead guide, loves adventure, fun and the open coast. She was taught wilderness camping and ocean travel from an early age in open freighter cedar canvas canoes, along BC's coast, getting to know the giant cedars, thick step mosses, gangly cormorants, and oddities of sea stars. Sarah is an instructor and full-time faculty in the Adventure Studies Department at Thompson Rivers University, where she finds as much time as possible to explore mountain or ocean wilderness settings.
Some of the other places that she has led sea kayaking and other outdoor programs are with Strathcona Park Lodge and Outdoor Education Centre, Canadian Outdoor Leadership Training program (COLT), high school outdoor experiential education programs (Explore, TREK, and Nootka Sound Outdoor Program), Outward Bound, and National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). She has an undergraduate degree in Education and a Masters degree in Outdoor, Environmental and Sustainability Education. There is always more to learn and share!
Having taught at the Kyuquot Elementary and Secondary School in 2013/14, she is thrilled to continue her connection with the Kyuquot people and area, guiding in what she considers one of the most beautiful places for kayaking and coastal living - the world just south of the Brooks Peninsula! With West Coast Expeditions guests, Sarah always looks forward to sharing a love of self-propelled travel, competencies with outdoor skills, and admiring the natural world while learning new things every day.
Rowan Jones-Pardy, guide, has grown up on the west coast, and paddled with his family in many places across Canada. Legend has it that he started learning to paddle before walking. Many of his trips have been here on the coast of B.C. exploring from Victoria to the Brooks Peninsula in the Kyuquot area. He has an instilled love and comfort in the outdoors and on the ocean, so is a great resource for folks learning about our coast through kayaking. Rowan is a Level 2 kayak guide through the SKGABC and Level 1 Kayak Instructor with Paddle Canada.
We are thrilled to have him guiding with our guests of all ages. When not on Spring Island, Rowan has logged travels in New Zealand, Central America, ands Western Europe. When he finishes school he hopes to see more of the world, paddling and guiding in new waters.
Russell Henry, guide, was born into paddling. His energy on and off the water draws you into loving what you're doing and where you are. With many long-distance paddling expeditions and multi-day speed accomplishments under his belt, he slows down very well to the leisure of introducing and exploring the intricacies of the Mission Group area on Spring Island's doorstep. Russell is a graduate of the Thompson Rivers University Adventure Guiding Certificate, and is a Level 2 Guide with the Sea Kayak Guides Alliance of BC.
Outside of West Coast Expeditions, Russell specializes in youth and family adventures through Camp Thunderbird (YMCA) and Strathcona Park Lodge, and is otherwise focused on engaging young people in active lifestyles.
Bobby Sherlock, camp chef, is deeply connected with the ocean. He specializes in preparing wild harvest foods, and is otherwise in constant motion surfing, kayaking, sailing, boating, fishing, or pursuing wildlife and landscape photography. Quick and content in the kitchen, he's focused on ensuring everyone is loving what they're eating!
Bobby has over 15 years experience in the restaurant industry, and is a graduate of the College of the Rockies Adventure Tourism Business Operations Diploma.
Lana Jules, cultural ambassador, prepares and hosts our traditional Aboriginal salmon feasts and evenings of cultural sharing. Lana, born and raised in Kyuquot, loves meeting our guests from across Canada and around the world. She's often accompanied by up to 4 generations of family and friends from Kyuquot, all who love the distinct and unique Canadian experience of cultural sharing while feasting on fresh salmon and halibut around a fire, on an island adjacent to where the fish was caught! Lana loves her home, and is a big part of welcoming all of our guests to this magnificent territory.
Christine 'Chris' Jules, a Ka:'yu:'k't'h (Kyuquot First Nation) matriarch, keeps life in great perspective! She is constantly giving to those around her - including West Coast Expeditions guests. Chris, her late husband Victor, and her immediate and extended family have long blessed our lives and guests' experiences on Spring Island with delicious salmon feasts on our 5 and 7-day base camp packages. She is full of laughter, personal stories, and sincere reflection. Chris is part of our family and team - a piece of the West Coast Expeditions fabric since 1992! Her daughters Lana and Kathy have been rising to the occasion as the 'next generation' continuing the salmon feasts with our guests on Spring Island. Chris continues to join when able - it's always a great gathering!
Ryan Sabbas, apprentice guide, is from Kyuquot and enthralled with learning more about and sharing his home territory with guests. His infectiously happy and helpful energy makes for great company on land and water. Ryan is a graduate of the Aboriginal Ecotourism Training Program through a partnership between North Island College, Vancouver Island University, and the Heiltsuk Tribal Council. He is part of a young generation of Aboriginal guides who are embracing their cultural heritage while refining professional guiding skills as wilderness leaders. He also thinks he's funny, and usually is!
Erin Appelbe, camp assistant, hails from Australia and otherwise lives in Toronto. She first came to Spring Island and Kyuquot on a kayaking experience (and geography course!) organized through her school, and fell in love with the place...and Canada. Erin cheerfully takes care of all the little behind-the-scenes details in camp, including the more obvious and never ending pile of dishes. She's on the water whenever able, and is passionately immersed in learning more about the Kyuquot-Checleset people and area.
Michael Pardy, lead guide extraordinaire, is a modern pioneer in paddlesport and leadership development. Though somewhat abusive to his own kayaks (he can’t stop himself from exploring close to the rocks), he will help you to paddle with comfort while fully experiencing the coast and finding new boundaries and delights. His path has included guiding with Blackfeather Adventures in the Arctic, developing Ocean River Sports' Adventure Centre, co-founding and running Sea Kayak Instruction and Leadership Systems (SKILS), and as Executive Director of the Trade Association of Paddle Sports (TAPS). Moss doesn't grow on Michael (just a beard). He is a faculty member at Royal Roads University, and Level 3 Guide and Examiner with the Sea Kayak Guides Alliance of BC.
Meredith Lewis, lead guide, loves to explore the world at a human pace - at some point she realised that you can get anywhere in the world if you just have enough time, and since then she has never looked back. Meredith grew up navigating the BC coast by sailboat and feels lucky to call the deep fjords and open beaches of this intricate coast her backyard. Since then she has lived in Nova Scotia, Chile, Indonesia and Australia but there is never a question that the waters of BC are her home.
Meredith has been working in the outdoor industry on this coast for 10 years as an outdoor educator and guide. She brings buckets of energy and humour with her on every adventure and you'll rarely find her sitting still. Meredith began her career in the outdoors as a student in St. Michaels University School's Outdoor Leadership program. Meredith works some of every season as a leadership facilitator and wilderness educator for youth programs (the SMUS program among them) and gets a real charge from the ability to nurture a sense of self-awareness and empowerment in those around her. She has worked as a kayak guide since 2006 all around Vancouver Island. She is a Level 3 certified guide with the Sea Kayak Alliance of BC. With a degree in anthropology, Meredith loves to learn about the human history of the land and she is always keen to share what she knows. She's now working in wildlife documentary productions, and paddles, skis, and sails whenever able.
Serina Allison, lead guide, is passionate about educating people of all ages and sharing the outdoors - interacting with story-telling, experiential activities, and laughter! Serina joined the West Coast Expeditions team as a veteran Level 3 Guide with the Sea Kayak Guides Alliance of BC. She has worked all around Vancouver Island (Gulf Islands, Clayoquot Sound, Johnstone Strait, Broken Group Islands, and Nuchatlitz Islands) and Baja Mexico. She knows west coast waters well and is a favourite with guests! She's also a favourite with her young daughter who has already spent lots of time on Spring Island.
With degrees in Physical Education and History (Vancouver Island University) and Education (Lakehead University), she otherwise works as a teacher, specializing in Outdoor Experiential and Environmental Education. When working with school groups, she loves their excitement of discovering the wonders of creatures in their back yard. Guiding with West Coast Expeditions, outdoor education and teaching are further informed by her work in aquatics, recreation and fitness since 1997. This all sounds serious. Most of all, she is great company: full of laughter and ready for a good time.
James McKerricher, relief chef and guide-in-a-pinch (but prefers the kitchen now), is a graduate of the Adventure Guide Diploma at Thompson Rivers University and has been leading sea kayak expeditions on the west coast of Vancouver Island since 2003. He's not just any old run-of-the-mill guide: James offers a passion for gourmet backcountry cooking and has his signature our menu. We eat well - very well.
Trained in Classical French Cuisine at Le Cordon Bleu (Cuisine Diploma) in Ottawa, James has spent several winters travelling the globe for new food inspirations.
James is an avid and talented writer, having shared his wry humour, keen observations, and sharp reflections in the Nomadic Omnivore, his engaging cooking and travel blog. Besides winning you over with food and being good company, he has been a certified and experienced Level 3 Guide with the Sea Kayak Guides Alliance of BC and dreams about menu ideas when not learning Japanese, researching fungi, butchering meat, gardening, or otherwise playing in his kayak.
Mike "Lennie" Allison, lead guide, is always smiling! Though he may look like he's up to no good, the opposite is always the case! Lennie is one of the most experienced Level 3 SKGABC Guides on the west coast, and excels at paying attention to and taking care of the details that help to make your paddling experience uniquely top notch. Whether performing tunes on the bull kelp, orchestrating delicious meals, or deep in conversation on world affairs, he seamlessly weaves everything together.
He otherwise works year-round as a long-term care aid in the Comox Valley: from our own first-hand experience we can well imagine that slowing down and simplifying your life is pretty darn pleasurable with Lennie nearby. Serina spotted that opportunity many years ago, so married him in 2012! We get him when we can, but have to share him with Serina and their sweet daughter.
|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|