The REI Adventures Top Guide Award recognizes our trip leaders who consistently exemplify the highest standards of customer service. While we believe that our entire guide team around the world is second to none, every year we choose to honor a select few who go beyond our already high expectations and consistently create a truly unforgettable travel experience for our members. Annual REI Top Guide award winners are invited to Seattle each year for a recognition ceremony at our Flagship Store and a chance to reconnect with past trip members.
The REI Adventures Top Guides for the 2013 season are:
Brian is an avid cyclist, hiker, canyoneer, kayaker and climber and does not care what he is doing as long as it is active and outdoors! Before attending college he completed a 95-day leadership course with the National Outdoor Leadership School consisting of rock climbing, backpacking, winter camping, canyoneering, spelunking, and backcountry skiing. Since 1998, he has been honing his skills as a professional outdoor guide across the Western United States and Canada. Brian has been instrumental in developing many of REI's new cycling, hiking and backpacking trips offered in the Western US, including our exclusive "REI Signature Camping" trips.
Brian's favorite experience on an REI Adventures trip is "the moment when my guests become my friends. This usually happens around the dinner table, dining rock or campfire sharing stories, conversation, and the magnificence of nature."
Chris, a proud (and rare) Arizona native, grew up adventuring under the tutelage of his mom who made sure he experienced the best of backpacking, hiking, skiing, kayaking, mountain biking and rock climbing. Those passions continued to help mold his future as he spent his time becoming a master of all things southwest, including natural history, flora, fauna and native cultures. One of Chris's favorite destinations is Havasupai Falls which he says is an incredible mix of Grand Canyon geology, gorgeous 100' turquoise waterfalls and a unique Native American cultural experience. He loves to take clients to places they would never have gone alone, enriching their experiences as well as continuing to expand the community that appreciates the outdoors. When asked to share one tip with other guides he responded, "Guiding is a customer service job that happens to take place outdoors, not an outdoor job that happens to involve people." Chris considers one of his greatest accomplishments is maintaining a healthy, active, outdoors lifestyle while having type 1 diabetes for 20 years.
Dimitrios was born and currently lives in Athens but spent the first years of his life in a mountainous village near Delphi, which is considered to be the center of the world by the Ancient Greeks. He studied to be an engineer but guiding was actually his first love. Demitrios always wanted to see the world and started from a young age backpacking for months at a time. He feels getting to know new cultures broaden your perspectives about life. When not guiding he works for a not-for-profit NGO called Organization Earth, studies Greek traditional music (he plays the Tzouras) and enjoys rock climbing, hiking and biking. A tip that Dimitrios would share with other guides would be to be honest, to be yourself, and never stop evolving as a person.
Gates, as his guests call him, has a Bachelor of Arts in English and a minor in Biology but also comes with a Master, 100 tons near-coastal merchant mariners credential (captain's license). While not guiding or working on his boat he enjoys kayaking, hiking, birding, fishing and exploring. His biggest accomplishment so far is doing what he loves and knowing that good comes from it. When asked to name his best experience when guiding an REI Adventure, Gates recited a list that paints a vivid picture of what our clients may share, "Standing on the highest point on the island while watching the tide almost swallow every bit of land around me, and then see it turn around and start to fall away…laying warm and comfy in a dry tent and trying to discern the rain from the surf…walking through a skeleton forest on a moonlit beach…eating fresh oysters while watching dolphins in a sunset ocean…music by the campfire." Gate's tip for other guides would be to enjoy your job as much as your guests are meant to enjoy their trip. Every trip is different—let it flow as it's meant to.
Matija (Matko) Kruhan has spent many years guiding in Croatia and has an in-depth knowledge of the history, culture, and geography of his home country. He started kayaking when he was just eight years old and started working as a river guide for both multi-day rafting and kayaking trips as soon as he was old enough! When not guiding Matko likes to spend time with his family on the farm and hang out with his friends. Matko considers winning the REI Adventures Top Guide award as his biggest professional accomplishment
Mr. Hoang Trong Phat was born in Nha Trang, Vietnam and now lives in Saigon. He has guided REI Adventures trips in Vietnam for 8 years. He is fluent in English, and his cultural knowledge of Vietnam, attention to detail and fun-loving spirit are sure to provide an exceptional cycling tour. Phat has two sons (age 6 and 2) and his hobbies include classical music, playing guitar and traveling. Phat himself advises other guides to be patient, flexible and relax.
Born in Oakland, CA but now living in Ravenna, Italy, Stephanie speaks English and Italian along with a little French and Spanish. She has 10 years of guiding experience as well as First Aid training. An artist since adolescence (jewelry, book art, graphic design, murals), she has run a mosaic business with her husband and has been a "public art" artist for over 25 years. When not guiding Stephanie loves to travel, hike, garden, work in her studio, community involvement, reading and cooking. One of her greatest accomplishments was moving the family to Italy from the US with no job prospects and few language skills. It was a dream and a challenge. She says the best thing about guiding for REI is "hands down" the guests. Walking and talking with guests for a week is pretty intimate. She feels enriched by the range of work and life experiences travelers share with her. If Stephanie had one tip to share with other guides it would be to be totally present for each person when you're with them. Don't skip ahead in your mind to what needs to be done or calls to be made.
How are we doing? Give us feedback on this page.