Stella – River GuidePosted March 20, 2023 by Reily Schultz
Hometown: Coloma, CA
Guiding since: 2019 (officially)
Any guide can learn to navigate a new river. The technicality and skills it takes to read rapids and make it safely to take-out largely translate from river to river. But it takes a lifetime to know a river, and Stella knows the South Fork of the American.
A happy place
Stella has been immersed in California rivers and rafting culture since she was a child. Both of her parents were former guides who eagerly shared the magic of the river with their young daughter. Stella found a happy place floating in kayaks with her folks when she was no bigger than a river otter, and that happy place has not changed to this day. You’ll still see Stella in her kayak, but now it will be at the base of the waterfall she just ran in Costa Rica rather than splashing around in flat water.
The choice to attend guide school wasn’t necessarily her own, but we are so glad that Stella decided to follow in her parents’ footsteps. She was reluctant at first to accept when her dad registered her for the course. The idea of doing what her parents did lacked any sense of rebellion that we crave in high school. Her tune changed after one week and she was ready to work!
“I’ve never seen anything like that!”
Stella satisfied that need for rebellion as she showed the other guides what she is capable of. She rebelled against convention and defied stereotypes – her small frame never stopping her from taking on big challenges and keeping up with larger or more experienced guides. Stella rowing a gear boat down the Middle Fork American is a sight to see. She maneuvers the massive boat through tight turns and tall waves with ease. Praises for her gear boating skills have been sung by other rafting outfitters’ guides as well as guests.
One guest was left visibly shocked at how someone as small as Stella could handle such a large craft; “You’re crazy. I’ve seen some things in my day and I’ve never seen anything like that. You’re crazy!”
Better than Disneyland
Guest interactions are always a highlight of rafting trips for Stella. A few years ago she took a family rafting on the South Fork thinking it would be a day like any other on the water. With her big smile and easy going nature she got the family talking about their lives and why they decided to come rafting. She learned about the family’s hardships and spent the afternoon helping make the trip a day to remember, to remind the children that fun still exists, and it’s everywhere! At the end of the day Stella received the best gift she could have asked for. A little girl on the trip thanked her and told her that the trip was “better than going to Disneyland.”
When she’s not making people’s day on the river, you might find Stella at the helm of a pottery wheel throwing a massive serving bowl or immersed in her studies as she works towards her nursing degree. She says the heart is her favorite part of the body.
If she is even half as good at mending hearts in real life as she is at healing spirits on the river, we know we’ll be in good hands.
Words to Live By: “What lies behind you and lies in front of you pales in comparison to what lies inside you”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson