A Day in the Life of a Boating Specialist
Will Berg talks about his 3 summers at camp working as a boating specialist on the lake.
Will ‘IceBerg’ Berg has spent 3 summers at camp, two as the boating specialist. He wrote this blog to give a quick insight into what a typical day would be like for him out on the lake. Along with his co-staff he would plan and prepare kayak and canoe lessons, take paddle board classes and even taught log rolling!
The morning alarm goes off again, its 7:30am.
It’s time to get my 8 year old campers up and ready for breakfast. There’s 12 of them in the bunk alongside 3 other staff members.
Yes just because i’m a boating specialist doesn’t mean I get a free pass when it comes to taking care of campers.
Breakfast is spent with a bagel and a coffee to wake me up, it’s always quiet this early in the morning . We finish breakfast as a group and then head back to give the bunks a quick clean and get ready for the day ahead! There’s usually time to grab a quick shower and then make sure the campers are prepared for the morning activities.
Because I teach activities I have to check my own personal schedule to see when I have lessons, what age groups will be there and when I have free time to join back in with my group.
Over the summer my schedule is almost full most days, but I have an hour off each day for my rest period.
A daily routine would see me heading down to the lake after morning line up. I’ll quickly high five my campers who will be with the cabin specialists at different activities all morning.
The lake always looks good in the morning! The sun starts to heat up and there’s always a cool mist that starts to vanish across the lake as the blue skies appear.
The first thing I do at the lake each morning is organise my equipment, if the off-camp trek teams are away on adventures they’ll often borrow equipment so I need to know the numbers. Sometimes I’ll have to change my lesson plans with little notice to a paddle boarding or a log rolling session.
A typical hour might look like this
- Take a quick register of campers names and remind them of the boating rules
- Hand out life vests
- Give an overview of the lesson plan, demonstrate a technique etc.
- Take the canoe/kayak/boat/paddleboard out onto the lake
- Instruction 1
- Group game
- Free time
Depending on how often a group comes over the summer i’ll let them pick which activities they’d rather do. Paddle boarding is usually the most popular. Sometimes i’ll team up the yoga instructor and do paddle board yoga on the lake.
I’ll usually have two or three periods in the morning to take different groups out onto the lake.
I’ve found that planning is an important part of my day. There’s about 10 different age groups and obviously ability levels differ every period so I need to able to reflect this in my lessons. I find that when we get the really young kids, it is better to take them on the paddle boards or the canoes so you can stay really close to them, but with the older kids there is much more of a free rein on what they are capable of doing.
After we finish our morning lessons I always join back up with my group for lunch and rest hour to see how their morning has been going. This is one of the best parts of the day for me, I have a really good connection with my campers and this is a great time for me to talk to them and hear how things are going. Some days you’ll see their afternoon activities and get a bit jealous that you don’t get to go with them.
Here’s a little secret…Cabin specialists spend all day with the campers so as an activity specialist you’re always considered a cool counsellor. When campers misbehave during the day you’re not the one there to tell them off, so when you join back in with the group you’re their favourite. It’s awesome.
After lunch I have some time to go back and chill at the bunk and recharge my batteries before the afternoon sessions.
In the afternoon I’ll head back to lake. It’s even better in the afternoon because it’s properly heated up. In the afternoon i’ll always have some fun activities lined up and competitions for them to do out on the lake. Campers are always a bit slower to get to afternoon activities but once we get out on the water we don’t waste a minute. No-one complains about being in the lake on a sunny afternoon. I often have to remember that this is my ‘job’!
Twice a week at my camp there is an activity for the final afternoon period called ‘team awesome’, which is for the oldest campers on camp to fine tune their skills. Team awesome is full of competitions against between campers and staff that everyone wants to win. It’s always good fun.
After my final lesson I'll rejoin my group for dinner and evening program. I can relax and enjoy this time with my group and friends for the rest of the night.
At night I can go off camp with friends and generally hang out until about 1am before sleeping like a baby until that alarm rings again.
I love being part of the waterfront team and being any type of activity specialist is only as fun as you make it. It’s such a rewarding experience to see a camper grow in your activity area over the summer. When a camper learns a new skill or gets excited when they finally grasp something they’ve been working hard on, it’s amazing.
This is a short insight into a day in the life of a boating specialist but teaching an activity is only a small part of your summer at camp, the rest lies in the million other things you get to experience and be a part of.