Rower Spends Summers as a Raft Guide

Aug. 23, 2011

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Katy Evans works an unique summer job, one that many students would love to have. Evans, a junior on the Kansas rowing team, spends her summers as a rafting guide in Glenwood Springs, Colo.

The Aspen, Colo., native just finished her third summer as a raft guide for the Glenwood Adventure Company. For Evans, being in the water is a year-round occurrence. Last season Evans spent the spring season as a member of the Second Varsity Eight team for the Jayhawks.

Evans got the idea for the job from her older brother, who also was a raft guide. She joined the rowing team because her sister rowed at Clemson University.

As a raft guide, Evans is responsible for leading tourists on rafting trips down the Colorado and Roaring Fork Rivers. She is trained to lead groups through Class III and Class IV rapids with Class V being the most difficult.

“I’m kind of like the coxswain of the raft,” Evans said. “I do all the steering and the calls and tell people when to paddle.”

She said the only negative is that it doesn’t keep her legs in shape.

“It’s hard work,” Evans said. “It doesn’t keep your legs in shape at all because you are just sitting there, but for the upper body it’s a workout because you’re battling a very fast river.”

In some ways, Evans has a leg-up on her competition and the rest of her teammates. She gets to be in the water during the offseason when most girls don’t have the utilities or facilities to keep training.

This summer the U.S. experienced a large amount of rainfall throughout the country so Evans was expected to be on top of her game. Most summers the river usually peaks at 12,000 cfs, which are the units in which the water is measured. This year it peaked at 19,000 cfs and stayed at that level until the end of June.

“As raft guides we’re itching to get out there,” Evans said. “We got out there every day until it peaked, which is when the river closes for commercial trips, but if you have your own boat you can still go out and do it. People will just think you are crazy.”

To become a raft guide takes almost a month’s worth of training. During the first month, trainees learn how to read the river, where rocks are in the water, where the water is pushing and how to put the boat in places that aren’t dangerous.

“The river changes every day so you aren’t learning just the Colorado River, you are learning rivers in general,” she said. “You see how to maneuver around things. Since this wasn’t my first summer doing it, it only takes about a week to get reacquainted with the surroundings.”

The Glenwood Adventure Company doesn’t only offer rafting trips. Tourists have the opportunity to take sightseeing trips on ATVs, Hummers and Segways. Other activities include: biking, rock climbing, paragliding, canoeing, horseback riding and much more.

“I’ve done a lot of Segway tour guiding,” Evans said. “Segways aren’t really that fun in my opinion. Segways are the two-wheeled machines that balance themselves and go around on guides. It has gyros in it that start spinning and that’s how it balances. I’ve also done a few ATV and Hummer tours.”

Evans, a Spanish and global and international studies major, doesn’t picture herself guiding tours for a career though

“I couldn’t do it for the rest of my life,” she explained. “It’s not my lifestyle, but it’s fun right now. I could see myself managing a company like this.”

Now that school is back in session, Evans returns to work, rehabbing her left knee that she just had surgery on. She injured it during the season last year and it requires up to six months to heal. She will be unable to compete during the fall season for KU.

“I’m really excited about this year’s season,” Evans said. “I’m not going to be rowing this fall, which puts a damper on a lot of things because in the fall we refine our skills. It’s going to be tough not rowing.”

The injury, however, hasn’t put a damper on how she feels the 2011-12 season could go for the Jayhawks.

“We have some really good recruits that just came in and we have some really talented returning rowers,” she said. “I’m really excited to see what we have in store because last year we were on the brink. We were right there. We’ve made a ton of changes. I think this season is going to be good.”

Evans credits the rowing boathouse, in large part, to why she chose Kansas, which was built in 2009.

“The boathouse has changed Kansas rowing,” she said. “It’s unbelievable. It’s a home for us. It’s a place where we can go refine our skills and be a team. The boathouse was a big game-changer for me. I came from Aspen, Colo., and no one else from Aspen came to Kansas. I didn’t know anybody and that was a big thing for me. Even if I didn’t enjoy it, I would still get to meet some people, but I loved it and said this is something I really want to do.”

Evans’ teammates will take to the water for their first competition in Oklahoma City, Okla., at the Head of the Oklahoma Oct. 1-2.