One of the most amazing things about operating a business like ours is being able to surround ourselves with such incredible individuals. To have them coming back year after year is incredibly flattering. If it weren’t for these great people, we’d be just another tour business. They are the reason that we are so successful and we cannot thank them enough.
Here’s a little introduction…
A Pacific Northwest native, Will comes to us with a wealth of leadership and kayaking experience. He has spent three summers working around the world for Adventures Cross Country, taking youth on trips lasting from 17-31 days. Two winters ago, he spent 88 days sea kayaking in Patagonia on a leadership program with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). Last winter, he led 3 to 10 day trips in New Zealand from October to March, then embarked on a kayaking trip from Bella Bella to Port Hardy in April and May, after which he started working for NOLS. Most recently, he took on an expedition around Vancouver Island. He definitely knows how to stay busy!
Will is a graduate of Redlands College and holds a degree in environmental science. He is particularly well suited to this job due to his extensive experience sailing around the San Juan Islands throughout his life, and his easy-going personality is well complemented by his thorough knowledge of the area and solid leadership skills. We are excited that he is part of our fantastic team again this year!
A native of Florida, Conrad grew up camping and paddling the many rivers, lakes and coastlines throughout his home state, making him an avid surfer, swimmer and water polo player. His watery surroundings pushed him to pursue hydrogeology, or groundwater geology, at the University of Florida, from which he holds a degree in Geology. During his time there, he conducted research on the impacts of over-pumping and nitrate pollution in the Florida Aquifer, an underground river that supplies drinking water to all residents of the state, irrigation to all agricultural lands, and flows into hundreds of crystal-clear rivers which are important ecosystems for aquatic plants and animals as well home to some of the most beautiful paddling and aquatic recreation in the world. Prior to his time at AKT, he led kayaking tours in the Everglades, where he was able to share his knowledge of Florida Aquatic Ecosystems.
Apart from working as a substitute teacher and instructing at the Green River Preserve Environmental Education School in North Carolina, Conrad also lived in Guatemala where he learned Spanish (test his language skills on a trip with him!) Now, he looks forward to learning everything that the San Juans has to offer; dancing and jamming on his guitar along the way.
Coming to us from Utah, Oliver was raised on the east benches of the Salt Lake Valley at the mouths of the Cottonwood Canyons. He is a student at the University of Utah pursuing a Parks, Recreation, & Tourism degree, with an emphasis in Adventure & Outdoor Programs. Oliver was a competitive swimmer/ water polo player throughout high school, and continued to play water polo for the UofU. He also coached competitive club and high school swimming for 5 years. Not only is he great in the water, he is also a certified Ski/Snowboard instructor at Solitude Mountain Resort, where he has been working for the past 3 seasons. Before migrating to the Pacific Northwest and jumping in the saltwater, he mostly only had experience with whitewater kayaking on rivers. Oliver is a big fan of backpacking, hiking, climbing, mountain biking, skiing/snowboarding, yoga, and of course sea kayaking!
Jack hails from Long Island, New York. Though a much different type of island than the ones here in the San Juans, growing up near the ocean instilled him with a love for the water at a young age. Jack’s first experience in a sea kayak was in California at age 16, and he’s been hooked ever since. Since then he went on to major in Expeditionary Studies at SUNY Plattsburgh (along with several other AKT guides). Through the program Jack has been able to travel all across the country as well as abroad for different trips including skiing/snowboarding, rock climbing, and, of course, paddling. His favorite was a trekking trip through the Himalayas in Nepal.
Jack also loves learning and talking about animals and nature. Being a guide, Jack now gets to kayak on the ocean while talking about the local animals and natural history; what better job could he ask for? Giving people a good experience on the water and knowing that they walked away having gained some knowledge about and respect for the area and the nature in it is incredibly satisfying to him. That’s exactly the reason he has decided to come back for a second season of guiding for AKT.
Aaron comes to us from the Midwest, where he grew up backpacking and now studies Environmental Science and Sustainable Agriculture at Loyola Chicago. When he’s not hitting the books, he works as an EMT and an outdoor educator for Loyola’s outdoor program. He guides backpacking and kayaking experiences intended to create meaningful group encounters with nature. He also trains younger staff and is passionate about bringing reflection and spirituality into the backcountry. His favorite trips include a paleontology expedition in Montana (where the opening scene of Jurassic Park was filmed), backpacking at Pictured Rocks, paddling Ten Thousand Islands near the FL Everglades, climbing Mount Harvard in CO, and attending last October’s Gales: Storm Gathering Kayak Symposium where he got nifty photos of performing his first pirouette. Some day, he hopes to become an air paramedic, to teach wilderness medicine, and to farm food that promotes health and social equality. But right now, he looks forward to exploring the Salish Sea with you, and he might show off his cooking skills if you ask nicely on a multi-day trip.
Cobi grew up in Wisconsin, where he spent his time kayaking and sailing on Lake Michigan and the lakes around Madison. He later graduated from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, with a major in Marketing and a minor in Recreation Management. In the fall, he’ll be joining us for his third season guiding at AKT, but in the meantime he’s up at Mount Shasta in Northern California working as a mountain guide. And in the winter, you can find him snowboarding in Jackson Hole, Wyoming!
Cobi’s hobbies include anything that take him outside, including rock climbing, snowboard mountaineering, sailing, paddle boarding, slack lining, and of course kayaking. He’s currently working on getting American Mountain Guides Association certifications, and expanding his skills and knowledge as he works to guide different activities year round.
Jake grew up in the Central Texas Hillcountry, and recently graduated from the University of Texas. Jake studied Environmental Science with a focus in Biology/Marine Science (so be sure to ask him lots of questions about the cool creatures you see on your tour!). His formal education often included trudging through hip-high mud, fighting off giant crabs, or throwing machinery off boats, and is complimented by outdoor experiences that include three years at a summer camp teaching forest lessons, swinging kids on ropes off telephone poles, and leading a 40-mile river kayak trip through the Chihuahuan Desert. He’ll be pursuing a graduate degree in marine science in the next few years, but for now he’s happy to be playing on the water.
He has also worked extensively in environmental education, from leading an after-school environmental program in Austin, to teaching marine science lessons on intertidal invertebrates, to working at a mobile petting zoo as a weekend job. Jake originally came up to Washington on a marine science research internship studying effects of ocean acidification on oyster larvae (woohoo LARVAL ECOLOGY!); he liked it here so much that he is now the only guide on record to live through two consecutive winters in Anacortes. His hobbies include hitchhiking, trivia nights, and reading books at the local pub; he recently acquired an electric longboard that is now central to his identity.
Stevie came to the Puget Sound from Champaign, Illinois; this is her second season with AKT. She previously worked as a Ranger for Philmont Scout Ranch, and as a kayak guide both in the outer banks of North Carolina, and in the Apostle Islands on Lake Superior. She’s now happy to call Bellingham home, where she relocated to work for a local sourdough bakery over the winter.
When she isn’t kayaking, you can find her biking, chasing the sunset, baking bread, or fighting the never-ending battle against weeds in her community garden plot. She believes that the Puget Sound is the most beautiful place to paddle, from the scenery to the wildlife to the challenging currents, and she can’t wait to share her passion for this area with you!
Julia is returning to AKT for her 6th season after spending the winter down in Patagonia, guiding kayak trips in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park. This wasn’t her first stint in South America though--Julia previously spent two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in rural Paraguay where she worked with her community to build vegetable gardens.
Now Julia is thrilled to be back in the Pacific Northwest, where she can spend time harassing intertidal creatures and playing outside. Although she is a talented naturalist, a skilled paddler, and a fantastic guide, we have conned her into helping us from time to time here in the office (not her natural habitat, but she knows our program better than anyone). A Seattle native, she’s a natural when it comes to music, making occasional appearances in her dad’s classic rock cover band. Ask Julia just about anything about the area, and she’ll love to share.
Raised in the cypress swamps of south Louisiana, Matt's love for the outdoors stems from summers spent kayaking alligator-filled bayous and camping on sandbars and abandoned tugboats. Although he misses the warmer water of the Gulf Coast, today he is a firm believer in the motto "west coast, best coast," largely thanks to the San Juan Islands.
Matt joins us with a degree in conservation biology from Louisiana State University and past experience in endangered species recovery, wetlands research, cave guiding, environmental education, and ballroom dance instruction. During the rest of the year, Matt is an elementary education graduate student in San Francisco, where he co-teaches 4th grade to the coolest kids on the planet. When he's not preparing his next mad-science lesson, you'll often find him covered in either flour, sweat, or bike grease; perfecting his bread recipe, training for a half-marathon, or leisurely biking around the beautiful Bay Area.
Matt aspires to be as fun a teacher as Ms. Frizzle, both on and off the water, and you won't be let down with him as your guide.
Ryley hails from the bustling metropolis of Alger, WA (population 403!), so the San Juan Islands are his local playground. He grew up poking sea creatures in tide pools, and is delighted to have found a job where he can now employ that experience professionally. He earned a degree in Cultural Anthropology at Western Washington University, but his true passions include rock climbing, backpacking, and eating candy until his tummy hurts. Ryley is a NOLS Outdoor Educator and Wilderness First Responder, so he’ll keep you safe out on the water; and he’s a Leave No Trace Master Educator, so he’ll help you learn how to keep our beautiful islands clean!
Coming to us after a season of hitting the slopes at Alta, this is Sean's first season guiding in the San Juans. He’s no stranger to kayaking though! Sean cut his teeth paddling on Lake Champlain, and has since paddled off the coast of Maine, Cape Cod, and the Long Island Sound. He's earned his 3 Star Sea Kayak Award from the British Canoe Union, and hopes to take his Level One Coach Certification in the not-too-distant future. He is also a Wilderness First Responder and Leave No Trace Master Educator.
Sean's career in the outdoors began after going through the Scouting program, achieving the rank of Eagle Scout. He worked at a Scout Camp for 6 years, 3 of those as Campcraft Director. This led him to the Expeditionary Studies program at the State University of New York in Plattsburgh where is currently working to complete his degree.
Lisa was born and raised in New Jersey, and this is the first time she has lived outside of the Garden State. But even after a short time here in the Pacific Northwest, she knows she’s a total convert. She graduated from the College of New Jersey with a degree in Mathematics with a concentration in Biology. She’s also a talented actor, and has spent almost ten years doing semi-professional theater; so you know you’ll be entertained when you join her on the water!
Lisa grew up spending her summers kayaking in Maine, and has always been an avid hiker and backpacker. Last summer she tested her love of the trail, completing over 2,000 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail! She discovered her passion for guiding during a semester with NOLS in New Zealand, where she plans to return this winter to bust out another thousand miles on the Te Araroa trail. But for now she’s here to share her love of the outdoors with her guests. A Leave No Trace Master Educator, she’ll tell anyone who will listen about the benefits of packing out their apple cores instead of just tossing them on the ground.
Noah Person is a new guide joining us this summer from his winter job at the ski resort at Snoqualmie Pass, WA, where he has managed a number of equipment rental shops for several years. He is a Whidbey Island resident and a lifelong Western Washington native, where he enjoys snowboarding, rock climbing, dirt-biking, fishing, backpacking; but he has always felt most comfortable on the water. Noah literally grew up on the sea, spending much of his youth with his family on a small sailboat, including a year-long voyage to Central America. As a teen he was part of a sailboat racing team based out of Sequim, WA, then landed a job on a NOAA research ship right out of high school and traveled all throughout the Pacific, where he earned the rare title of Golden Shellback, an honor bestowed upon sailors who have crossed the equator at the International Date Line.
Over the last several years he has found himself at home in a kayak, having racked up hundreds of miles in his boat, the Wild Ginger. He's taken on a number of lengthy paddles, most notably a three-week voyage from Olympia to Deception Pass. On the water, you'll usually hear him talking about one of his favorite subjects, which include local human and natural history, geology, marine flora and fauna, the fascinating power of tides, and especially how amazing kelp forests are!
Emelie Van Vleet
A lifelong native of the Puget sound, Emelie grew up on Bainbridge Island enjoying kayaking, sailing, playing in tide pools and exploring under rocks for critters around the many amazing beaches this area has to offer. She later moved to Bellingham, WA to earn a degree in environmental science with an emphasis on marine ecology from Western Washington University. After working as a naturalist in Alaska and leading sailing expeditions with teens through the San Juans, she turned her attention to the medical field and began working as an EMT in the Bellingham area. As amazing as that experience was, the outdoors were calling again, and the 48 hour shifts were taking a mental toll, so it was back to the water to teach marine science to middle schoolers around the Puget Sound aboard a 61 foot sail boat.
Working as a kayak guide has always been one of Emelie’s dream jobs, and she is super excited to have found a company to join with such an awesome reputation as AKT. After a season of water, sun, and boats is over, it’s back to nursing school in the fall to pursue the medical field once again. Give it time though--surely it won’t be long before she’s back out on the water.
Reanna grew up in Cottonwood Hieghts, Utah, right between Big and Little Cottonwood Canyon, which means she’s most at home in the mountains. She loves snowboarding and skiing, mountain biking, climbing, backpacking, camping...basically anything and and everything that takes her outdoors. She’s excited to add kayaking to that list as she joins us for her first season here in Anacortes.
A talented and well-rounded athlete, Reanna grew up playing pretty much every sport there is. But she also shines off the field: she graduated from the University of Utah in Health Promotion and Education, with an emphasis in Emergency Medical Services. She plans to return to school in the next few years to become a nurse or physician’s assistant, but for now she’s taking some time to play. She loves to explore new places and see new things, and is all about fun. Her motto is: "Good vibes only!"
Lucas split his childhood between the sunny California beach town of Santa Cruz and the northwest port of Anacortes. Proximity to the ocean was a constant throughout his childhood and this has always been reflected by his passion for water-based sports. A competitive swimmer and lifeguard, he taught merit badges in kayaking, canoeing and rowing since the age of 16. During his sophomore year at the University of Washington, he decided to enroll in a semester in Patagonia with the National Outdoor Leadership School. This included a 30 day kayaking expedition that reinvigorated his adoration of paddle sports and led him to apply at AKT when he returned home to Anacortes.
Lucas will return to study English at the University of Washington in the fall and hopes to one day find a career as a writer or journalist. Lucas' passion for the outdoors, however, will likely lead him to continue working at places like AKT in the meantime!
Natascha comes to us from Southern Patagonia, where she spent the past two seasons working for the Torres del Paine Legacy Fund in Torres del Paine National Park. When she wasn’t working to support environmentally driven projects in the park and its surrounding communities, Natascha was busy falling in love with everything outdoors (hard not to when surrounded by those mountains)-learning how to climb and broadening her backpacking experiences in "el fin del mundo." She migrated up to Washington after meeting three AKT guides in Puerto Natales, Chile, who all told her about the magic of the San Juan Islands.
Originally from upstate New York, she attended middle school in India and high school in Thailand, then returned to her native state to study journalism and anthropology at New York University. When she’s not helping out in the office, she’s serving at the chairperson for Hope is Life Foundation, which focuses on eradicating illiteracy around the globe, or exploring this new wonderful place she can now call home!
(their hard work helps to make our
guides look good)
Ryan was born in Virginia Beach and lived in Florida for a couple of years before migrating west to Anacortes. Coming from a military family, he’s a big fan of traveling and staying active, with a particular passion for the outdoors. Ever since taking a kayaking course to learn basic safety skills, he has pursued opportunities that allow him to be out on the water, which brought him to AKT! Not only is he a fan of paddling, he also is a runner and a frequent participant of the Ragnar relay race. His team placed first, second and third place in the three years they competed. In addition, he has been a state competitor in both cross country and swimming and is the team captain of the JV soccer team. He spends the school year up in Bellingham, where he studies Computer Science at Western Washington University. He is excited to be joining AKT for his second summer and is always helping out in any way he can!
Derek is an Anacortes native and is joining us for his first summer at AKT. A student at Anacortes High School, Derek is also a participant in Running Start, an accelerated dual-enrolment program through which he takes courses at Skagit Valley Community College to rack up those college credits early. And his achievements don’t stop there: he also plays varsity soccer and tennis, and is the captain of the AHS swim team! He loves to spend time in the water, and spends his time off frequenting the local lakes in the Anacortes Community Forest Lands and taking advantage of everything that summer in the beautiful Skagit Valley has to offer.
Riley started working with us two seasons ago as our logistics coordinator and quickly proved himself to be an invaluable part of the crew. His attention to detail and ability to see the "big picture" helps us to avoid unnecessary mistakes when we are packing for trips.
Riley was born and raised here in the Pacific Northwest, and currently attends Western Washington University where he is studying Biochemistry. When he’s not at work he is usually up at Whistler Mountain in British Columbia where he likes to compete in downhill mountain bike races. If you see him, he’ll usually be the guy with bandages on his arms and legs!
Nick joined the AKT crew in 2014 to provide more logistical support for the guides and to assist with trip preparation. It has been great to have his help, and our guides all appreciate his friendly nature and strong work ethic. Nick grew up right here in Anacortes, and competed nationally with the award-winning Anacortes High School Robotics team! Now he’s taking his talents to California, where he studies Software Engineering at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
Will was born and raised right here in Anacortes! A recent graduate from Anacortes High School, Will plays soccer and swims during the school year, and spends as much of the winter skiing as he possibly can. He loves to travel abroad, and has been to eleven countries so far. Always eager to connect with people and to pursue his next adventure, Will is hyped to be joining the AKT team for his first season. This fall, he’ll be leaving town to start his freshman year at Seattle Pacific University.