Leader Spotlight: Joel Guay

Leader Spotlight is a monthly blog to showcase our incredible volunteer leadership at The Mountaineers. Meet this month's featured leader: Joel Guay, a Sea Kayak leader.
Michelle Song Michelle Song
Associate Volunteer Development Manager
December 29, 2021

For our Leader Spotlight this month we talked to Joel Guay, a volunteer leader with the Seattle Branch. He is a Sea Kayak leader whose volunteer leadership evolved from solely showing up for activities to helping out.

Name: Joel Guay 
Branch: Seattle 
How long have you been a leader? 2 years or so
What activities do you lead? Sea Kayaking 

Leadership Questions

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO volunteer WITH THE MOUNTAINEERS?

 I loved the activities, and quickly realized that it all exists because 'somebody' was willing to volunteer to create the opportunities. I figured I was somebody, and so I jumped in.

WHAT IS THE BEST, FAVORITE, OR MOST MEMORABLE experience YOU'VE HAD WITH THE CLUB?

 I can't just pick one. Events that stand out were a bioluminescence night paddle, a wind and waves clinic out of Bowman Bay, and transit of the Ballard locks.

How has your leadership style evolved as you've gained experience?

Although appropriate safety planning is essential, I increasingly prefer that the content evolve based on the group that shows up and the conditions that actually happen on the day. So rather than focusing too much on 'leading' what I thought the event would be, I try to look for opportunities to encourage things to organically happen in the moment. Something along the lines of "there go the people. I must follow them, for I am their leader."  Thanks for that phrase, Tom. 

What is one thing you do on trips to create positive experience for people of all skills and backgrounds?

Spend the most time with those who appear most uncertain, to try to bring whatever stress level they are feeling down and their sense of acceptance up. Sometimes that means just hanging out and talking; sometimes its finding some of the more confident group members and asking for their assistance in bringing the less confident along from a comfort perspective more than skill development, although sometimes there is room for that.

IT'S OFTEN SAID: "GOOD JUDGEMENT COMES FROM EXPERIENCE; EXPERIENCE COMES FROM BAD JUDGEMENT." ANY LEARNING EXPERIENCES YOU CAN SHARE TO HELP OUR COMMUNITY BUILD THEIR GOOD JUDGEMENT?

 I've had too many near misses over the years in scrambling, snowboarding, ski patrolling, sailing, mountain biking, and hiking to pick just one incident. But the one theme linking all of those is that I didn't pay attention to that little voice in my head that asked 'is this really a good idea?' I've never heard that voice and then had the thing turn out to be a good idea, so now I pay attention to it. And usually whatever would have been the lesson learned becomes apparent before actually experiencing the lesson. So I'd say spend lots of time out, start slow and learn the fundamentals, and always pay attention to that little voice.

What advice do you have for aspiring leaders in The Mountaineers community?

If you ever wanted a different approach to engaging with the outdoors, a different kind of trip, a 'better' experience - here is your chance to create it.

What do you wish other members knew about volunteering with The Mountaineers?

It's never boring.

Is there aNYTHING ELSE WE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT YOU?

For some reason I think getting upside down in a kayak is amusing. Especially when I can roll back up. Still working on that second part. 

Lightning Round

What's your go-to place for a post-trip meal? 
Panda Express

How about your best trail snack? 
Peanut butter and banana sandwich

What's your favorite close-to-home adventure?
Paddling the urban lakeshore in Seattle

What "luxury item" do you bring on most trips?  
Starbucks VIA instant coffee

What's next on your bucket list? 
Walking the Camino de Santiago. Unless my knees don't rehab enough, and then canal boating from Avignon to the Netherlands.

is there Someone that you'd like to see in the spotlight?

We are always seeking nominations for an impactful leader of our community to spotlight! Send an email to Michelle Song to make a recommendation for one of our upcoming Leader Spotlights!