Starting and nurturing a retail business is one long expedition, says NOLS graduate Guy Santiago. Naturally, on such an adventure, one has to have excellent expedition behavior, an element of leadership taught on Guy's 1998 Baja sea kayaking outdoor educator course.
"On my NOLS course, we were out for 21 days and expedition behavior was very important, but having this business is even a longer expedition than that. I've had some employees who have been with me for a long time. We have to be able to learn and solve problems. I had to be able to use some of those lessons I learned (at NOLS)," says Guy.
Guy is the owner of Oregon River Sports in Eugene, Ore., one of the state's largest and most successful boating stores. He sells boats and provides rental, repair, outfitting and instruction for rafting, sea kayaking, canoeing and whitewater boating. The store has a full school that offers instruction in kayaking, cooking and Leave No Trace camping, skills that were much enhanced by Guy's NOLS training.
Originally from Hawaii, and raised in Idaho, Guy is a long-time boater. He first explored the outdoors as a backpacker, but he soon understood the full allure of boating when he learned one could easily pack luxuries like filet mignon into the backcountry.
Lacking any formal training, Guy was persistent in his desire to learn boating. "When I first started, other people didn't want to teach me. It was really a good ol' boy thing. I showed up in a life jacket and sandals and they didn't receive me well. They tried to wear me out. There was a real macho image that I try to stay clear of now," he says.
NOLS, however, was an amazing experience, says Guy. "I can sit and talk for hours about the course, even now. I recommend it heavily to anyone who wants to get a great learning outdoor experience. When I took that course, I had 20 plus years of kayaking experience and there were a lot of things that the instructors made me remember that I'd forgotten about. The course brought out a lot and taught me a lot.
"It will bring out the best in you," says Guy.