Discovery Guides

Your safety is our #1 priority. In addition to First Aid and CPR, all prospective guides have to complete a rigorous kayak training program and have an established knowledge of the local natural history.  Our guides are kayakers and outdoors people first, with years of experience on the water and the outdoors. In addition to extensive  in house kayak training program, guides are sent to numerous outside sea kayak and kayaking rescue skills courses.  This experience gives our guides  the highest standards of sea kayaking skills and leadership in the San Juan Islands.

Kayak Guides / Naturalist

Richard Swanson

Richard Swanson Usually the voice on the phone when you call and the face that greets you when you arrive at our shop. Richard Swanson has over forty years experience exploring the San Juan’s by boat and kayak. When not traveling the world he resides at his home in Friday Harbor. He has traveled extensively by kayak throughout the San Juan Islands as well as the entire Pacific Northwest. Richard has combined his love of travel and kayaking, having paddled in Florida, Oregon,California, Hawaii, Australia and Indonesia but finds the San Juan’s the most beautiful area to kayak.

Richard is a Certified PADI SCUBA Instructor and spends his off season as a Dive Master and dive guide in the tropics. He holds the PADI Medic First Aid and CPR designation, American Red Cross First Aid and CPR as well as Wilderness First Aid. He is Three Star assessed and Four Star trained British Canoe Union Paddler with BCU Lifeguard award and is a certified Naturalist with the San Juan Island Whale Museum.

His experience on and in the water and past experience as teacher and swim coach will make your paddle with us safe, informative, enjoyable and educational.

Jason Gunter (Lead Guide and Instructor)

A true American adventurer, superb paddler, gourmet wilderness cook, research naturalist, wildlife photographer with many of his photos used in books and manuscripts, extensive outdoor experience including caving, mountaineering, whitewater and sea kayaking.

Jason completed his BS in Biology from the University of Arkansas. He now lives full time on San Juan Island where he has been leading overnight kayak tours throughout the San Juan and Canadian Gulf Islands for many years.

“Leading multi-day trips is one of my favorite things about guiding, along with a chance to meet people and chat about the environment, wildlife, or great adventures”

First Aid and CPR certified, and BCU Three Star and Four Star trained. Jason also holds the BCU Canoe Safety Award. He enjoys demonstrating his paddling skills to his guests and can be persuaded to do his Eskimo roll for you.

Jason’s motto

“A venturesome minority will always be eager to get off on their own, and no obstacle should be placed in their path; let them take risk, for God sake, let them get lost, sun burnt, stranded, drowned, eaten by bears, buried alive under avalanches-that is the right and privilege of any free American.” –Edward Abbey-

Nate Lewis

(3rd Season with Discovery Sea Kayaks)

I love being a kayak guide with DSK.  I was born in Burlington VT and have been moving west ever since.  This is my second season on the island and with DSK.  I spend my winters in the mountains of Colorado where I work at Copper Mountain and try to get in as many days shredd’en  the slopes on my snowboard as possible.  I also work as a dog sled guide for a local dog yard close to my home in Leadville CO.  I am a graduate from Colorado Mountain College with an Associates degree in Outdoor Recreation Leadership, which is where my love of kayaking was born. I participated in a 10 day course through CMC in the San Juan’s where we island hopped, docking on 5 of our beautiful islands.  From there I went right to work as DSK’s intern which turned in to a guiding position on August 1st.  I love meeting new people and one of the most rewarding parts of my job is being able to give our guests an experience and memory that will last a life time.  Come tour with us and see for your self how rewarding kayaking can be for the mind, body and soul.

Kelly Yelverton

(3rd Season with Discovery Sea Kayaks)

 I was introduced to whitewater kayaking at the beginning of high school, once I started college I really got into sea kayaking. I’m originally from landlocked Colorado, but am currently studying history at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. Through our College Outdoors program I took an Advanced Sea Kayaking Skills Clinic and went on several other paddling trips, which led to my summer internship with DSK for the summer of 2010. After my first summer on the Island I was hooked and came back the following summer as a guide. The combination of meeting an incredible array of people and spending as much time as possible outside and on the water has made kayak guiding a great fit for me! Besides daily trips, I also really enjoy improving my technical paddling skills whenever I can with the people I work with.

Chad Whiting

(2nd Season with Discovery Sea Kayaks)

A flatlander from K.C. Missouri, I grew up with the amazement and wonder of mountains and the ocean always in the back of my mind.  It didn’t take long for childhood fantasies to lead me off the beaten path.  While on a camping trip in Colorado, I called my boss, told him I quit and was living in Mexico a week later.  From there my travels expanded from glacier guiding in Alaska, guiding the waters of Cook Inlet and Prince William sound, finding hidden reefs in the mangrove forests of the Virgin Islands, diving with hammer heads in remote islands of Central America, to running sled dogs in the mountains of Colorado and finally the San Juan Islands.  Returning for my second year of paddling I try to bring the moxie and gusto of a seasoned adventurer to my trips. I opened a fortune cookie one time and it read “discontent is the first step in the progress of a man or a nation.”