Guide Q&A - Greg Cairns

Years guiding for Idaho River Adventures




Why do you guide?


I guide for many reasons. One is for my mental and physical health. Working outside in a beautiful place for even a few months a year helps keep life interesting, challenging, and rewarding. I also believe in the value of natural experience as it relates to environmental stewardship. It’s important for people to see and connect with natural places. It’s more effective to protect a ecosystem if people are around to care for it. I guide because I love the simple adventure of it. I guide because of my coworkers, some of whom I consider my best friends.


When was your last unintentional whitewater swim?


This is an interesting one, because it implies I take intentional whitewater swims. My last unexpected swim was just last August on a deadhead. I took a bad line in Powerhouse Rapid, which sent me into a series of rocks. I finally stuck on one and the boat stopped. It was just hung up, nothing major like a wrap or a flip. There was fast moving water all around so I didn’t want to step out in the river. That can be dangerous. I turned to a cam strap trick. I attached it to one side of the frame above the rock while standing on the other side of the boat. Ideally, I would pull up and away on the strap and the part of the boat stuck on the rock would rise and slide off. I pulled hard. The strap broke with a loud crack. In an instant my eyes widened and I flew backwards, twisting, to land face first in the river. Thankfully I landed on rocks that were only a foot below the surface and I wasn’t swept away. I frantically climbed back onto the boat to check my bruises and ego. I got the boat unstuck a few minutes later and continued downriver.


Favorite dish to cook on the river?


My favorite dish changes a lot. Favorites include cornbread with honey butter on night four and the bacon spinach salad on night one.


Favorite river activity?


Snorkeling. I love free diving in the deep clear pools on the middle fork to look for fish and treasure. It’s not an activity we advertise however because of the inherent hazards with swiftwater diving. Even with swiftwater rescue certificates and scuba certificates it carries some risks. Please don’t expect to join me underwater. Swimming on the surface can be just as wonderful.


What’s your life like off the river?


River guiding is the simple part of my life. I’m a filmmaker and the Executive Director of Free Voice Media off the river. Free Voice Media is a nonprofit documentary film studio in Bozeman, Montana. I produce and direct a mix of outdoor short adventure films and longer advocacy films. The film I’m currently working on is Frequent Caller. It is about community paramedicine, homelessness, and high-utilization.


Why do you guide for Dustin?


Dustin is a great person, friend, and boss. When I think of working for other companies, I always remember the friends I have at IRA. It really is what keeps us coming back each summer. It’s something I won’t find many other places and it’s something I’m not willing to change.


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