Like a drum beating faster and louder, I could feel my pulse accelerating. As we closed in on our launch site, the Outback Rafting team pointed out “Steamroller”—a portion of the white water rapids we’d soon find ourselves in.
Nestled away in Squamish, the Elaho River—surrounded by a backdrop of beautiful mountains, lush greenery, and rocky shores—is the source of today’s Adrenaline Adventure.The gushing water rolls through the always shifting rocky riverbed, bustling through the bends of the waterway, creating the ideal scenario for class 3-4 white water rapids.
Guided by Canadian Outback Rafting Company’s owner Graham, photographer Greg, safety kayaker Danny, and catamaran river guide Matt, we were briefed on the laundry list of safety protocols before embarking on our white water adventure.As Marlie and I get situated—wetsuit, life jacket, and helmet all on and fastened—Graham walks us through the different strokes. He instructs us on how to hold the paddle and brace for impact, leading us through several trials of the different safety maneuvers. He also explains what to do if the raft were to flip or one of us were to go overboard. Though his notes are filled with warnings and what if scenarios, his sturdy and confident tone is hallmarked by his experience.
“I started canoeing on flat and moving water with my dad as a kid.” Graham tells me. “I always loved being on the water and wanted to work in nature, so when the opportunity came up to train to be a raft guide, I jumped at it. I was a bit of a quieter kid, but once I started sharing river experiences with people I found it was a great way to express myself while engaging and entertaining guests. I finished my first commercial trip and when I arrived home that night I told everyone that one day I wanted to own my own rafting company. Ten years of saving and building my rafting skills later, I realized that dream.”From the back of the raft, Graham steers the boat and calls out directives—and what seems like random “PADDLE, STOP, PADDLE, PADDLE, STOP” instructions, is actually extremely calculated.
In hindsight, the first portion of the rapids is what I’d consider the “lighter” section, allowing us to get a taste for the movements. I say in hindsight because when you’re faced with a series of waves that are crashing around you, flinging you and the raft into the air, and you have never experienced white water rapids in this way before and thus have nothing to compare it to, well, “light” might not be the term of choice. Wet—yes. Wild—yes. Fun—yes. Exhilarating—definitely.
The adventure stretches through approximately 10 miles of British Columbia’s most inspiring wilderness—with old growth forests, dormant volcanoes, towering glaciers, and stunning cascading waterfalls abound.
Appreciating the wilderness is all part of this journey with Outback Rafting. Listening to Graham tell us stories of his rafting career, the different myths behind the waterfalls, and the names of various peaks along the way is what completes the adventure and makes it all the more gratifying.
“Norway was an outstanding combination of really good whitewater, beautiful scenery, and unique culture,” Graham tells us when asked where—aside from Squamish—was his favourite place to raft. “It was an outstanding place to work as a raft guide. Costa Rica would be a close second, with warm water, a great variety of rivers, the beach lifestyle after work, and outstandingly nice people.”Before the midway break—which is filled with Clif Bars and hot chocolate—we get the chance to dip into the cool, calmer water and attempt to climb back on board. This proves to be much more difficult—and hilarious to watch and experience—than anticipated. No, we did not successfully climb back aboard without help.
As we sip on the welcomingly warm beverage, Greg points out the remnants of three avalanches in the distance. The rushing water, the whistling wind, the birds chirping, the stories and laughter of our group are the only sounds prevalent.Getting ready for round two is exciting as we prepare to come face-to-face with the infamous “Steamroller.” With adrenaline pumping through our veins, it’s go-time.
The rapids push and pull us through, guiding us through massive waves that splash into the boat. We paddle hard, brace for impact, then paddle again. We’re drenched. Our smiles stretch from ear to ear.Sharing stories of fun explorations, the group of guides make every moment memorable—even the end as we bus ride back to the base. It’s clear to see how passionate they are about the outdoors, how much they love what they do, and how much they enjoy doing it together.
“It’s about the people. The people you get to work with are all full of positive energy and that really keeps me excited to go to work every day,” Graham explains. “Then once I get here, I am meeting different people each trip and for those hours or days they don’t have to worry about anything else in their lives. They can just live in the moment, connect with nature, and hopefully, have a bit of an adrenaline rush. The goal is to make each client’s trip the highlight of their week, month, or year—and when you accomplish that, it is one of the most rewarding feelings out there.”Well, Graham, it’s safe to say that you accomplished that and I will never forget this Adrenaline Adventure. It was most definitely a highlight of my year.