2019 Season Recap: Hits and misses.
With 2019 winding down, Matt reflects on how the season went.
Hit: A more lenient cancellation policy
Due to permits and scheduling, rafting companies typically install a stringent cancellation policy, effectively locking you down with no chance of getting a refund within 30 days of your booked trip. We took a risk and changed that this year to a much more lenient policy and in the unusual instance of a guest cancelling, everyone was happier.
Miss: Root beer floats
My brother, Will, owns a rafting company in Southern Oregon. He gives everyone a free root beer float after a day of paddling hard Class IV whitewater on the Upper Klamath River. It’s a pretty funny experience, because you’re in the middle of nowhere and next thing you know your guide is handing you a fresh scooped, delicious root beer float and is asking you about your favorite rapid. Anyway, I tried to replicate that down here and I just didn’t do nearly as good of a job, so we shelved the idea after a short test run.
Hit: Lower Kern Class IV Half Day
Our Half Day Upper Kern is a favorite, but when the season ends on that section and we’re only operating on the Lower Kern, the milder Class II/III Half Day (which is an amazing trip for the younger crowds) just doesn’t cut it for those looking for Class IV. So we did a trial run at the end of 2018 on this new outing and then opened it up completely to book this year. And the response was overwhelmingly positive.
Hit: Eliminating wetsuit, splash jacket and GoPro helmet rental fees
We did a thorough review of our rental items and removed them if they were required or were inexpensive for us to provide, such as GoPro helmets. It just didn’t make sense to nickle and dime our guests. Admittedly, wetsuit booties are still available for rent, but those aren’t required and we even started a freebie box of shoes if you show up to a rafting trip with no footwear option.
Miss: Kernville Rapid Run start time
We double schedule our guides when we have a morning Kernville Rapid Run and an afternoon Half Day Upper Kern trip. I had the timing too close though, so on more than one occasion guides would finish the first trip and then have to run back to our Rafting Center to start the next one. In 2020 we’ll build in a bigger cushion between the outings.
Hit: Keeping our photo costs low
We discussed slightly increasing our photo rates to offset rising costs and we ended up not doing that. I’m happy with that decision and our photo packages are some of the lowest in Southern California.
Miss: Our loaner life jacket use numbers
We had so much momentum with this in 2018, I thought our 2019 life jacket numbers would continue to climb and the program would thrive. I was wrong and didn’t put enough effort into it and our borrowed life jacket numbers remained flat. For 2020, we’ve improved the program substantially including a dedicated website, online scheduling for pick up, and free river maps of safe areas to play.
Hit: Guide staff
I always cringe when people find out I’m involved in rivers and they quote a line from Deliverance. In 2017 we changed how we hire and each year after that we’ve upped the ante to join our staff. Maybe it’s from hearing Deliverance lines too often, but I’m always striving to have our guides be the most intelligent, educated, well spoken, safety oriented, charismatic, role model, and experienced river guides you have ever met. I’m asking a lot there, but I’m proud to say that KRO has more college educated guides than ever before, and each guide has aimed for higher and higher certifications.
Hit: Handling the earthquake
The Ridgecrest Earthquake was a new one for our staff and myself, as ‘earthquake protocol’ isn’t something that guide schools cover. Within minutes of it subsiding the phones started ringing and we realized we had to get information out fast that our infrastructure was fine and everything was on schedule. When the second earthquake hit, call volume vastly increased so it was an office sleep over as we answered our last phone call at 1:45AM reassuring folks that trips were running normally. When the weekend finished, just one guest hadn’t made their scheduled trip.