If abseiling through pumping waterfalls, jumping into pools of ‘brrr’ inducing water, and immersing yourself in otherworldly canyons sounds like the way you want to spend your 9-5, then read on my friend.

Lauren Storaker is a canyoning guide at the Blue Mountains Adventure Company (BMAC) and vice president of the Australian Canyoning Association (ACA). By her own admission, she got into canyoning by accident and didn’t even know the sport existed until she visited her parents, who had retired to the Blueies.

‘I came here to visit for a few weeks, and one of the people I met along the way was a canyoning guide,’ says Lauren.

 ‘I didn’t even know what a canyon was, but we went and did a morning session of abseiling and then did a canyon together. I was immediately struck by how stunning and surreal the landscape is.’


Photo by BMAC


Pssst! If you’re not sure what a canyon is either, the National Geographic Society describes canyons as deep, narrow valleys with steep sides.

Honestly, though, as someone who just started the sport AND is a writer for a living, there are no words that can do these awe-inducing, mother nature miracles justice. So, check out a few pics, or even better get out there yourself. With a qualified guide of course, this is 1,000,000% NOT the sport to wing it.

Anyway, back to Lauren.

Overcoming Fear To Find the Job of Her Dreams

For Lauren, it wasn’t all love at first sight; as much as she loved the canyon environment, she was terrified of abseiling.

Lauren had fought anxiety her entire life, but standing there in that first canyon, she decided enough was enough – a little fear wouldn’t stop her from living the life she wanted to.


And stop her, it did not. Lauren packed up her belongings in Byron Bay, where she’d been living and working in bush regeneration, and enrolled in the Outdoor Leadership Cert III at TAFE in Wentworth Falls.

‘Throughout my whole 20s, I was a really, really anxious person,’ explains Lauren.

‘I finally got to the point where I was sick of letting my anxiety and fear dictate how I live my life. When I enrolled in my Cert III, I simply wanted to challenge myself and explore this new hobby – I hadn’t thought about being an instructor. But then I finished the course, and got offered a job.’

The whole experience was transformational. Lauren said goodbye to the fear that had driven her and hello to a newfound confidence. Her first job was at a private grammar school in the mountains, teaching Wilderness Education (which, as a Brit, I had no idea existed). Man, my younger self is jealous of Aussie kids right now!

The school meant Lauren got to teach the same kids for two, three, or even four years, seeing their confidence and skills grow not just in canyoning but other Outdoor Ed activities too.


Photo by BMAC

After that, Lauren moved into private guiding and worked for various companies in the Blue Mountains before settling at BMAC, where she now leads canyoning trips from introductory to intermediate. That newfound confidence is definitely being put to good use.

Six Years Later the Love (and the Skills) Keep Growing

Of course when you’re taking groups of people into the beautiful, yet hostile and sometimes unpredictable, canyon environment – confidence is key. Alongside that, you also need to be fit, strong, and good with people.

‘When you’ve got wet ropes and things in your pack, and it’s heavy, as well as slippery and uneven underfoot, it can be quite hard. So you need to make sure you’re fit and strong,’ says Lauren, who has a workout routine that makes me want to take a rest day just from hearing it.

Now, six years after the TAFE course that changed her life, Lauren is still in love with canyoning and froths on sharing the unique environment with others.



She’s also got big plans for the future, recently enrolling at university to study an Environmental Science Degree majoring in Outdoor Recreation and Ecotourism (this is through Charles Sturt University, although the major is no longer available), which will enable her to go into more of a structured teaching environment, but still do canyoning as part of it.

‘I love my job because each canyon is different, even if I am doing the same canyons again and again,’ Lauren concludes. ‘There’s this one section of the Grand Canyon where I encourage people to walk through silently and mindfully. I still get the same feeling every time. I’m just like, how can something be this spectacular?  I just don’t understand.’

FAQs About Becoming a Canyoning Guide

What qualifications do I need to be a canyoning guide?

NSW National Parks previously required a Guide Single Pitch Canyoning Statement of Attainment as part of a Cert III in Outdoor Recreation. As soon as Lauren had that ticked off in her Cert III TAFE course, she was offered a job.

Things have changed a bit since then, and Cert III no longer offers canyoning, so you’ll need a Cert IV instead (get the deets on qualifications at training.gov). Wilderness First Aid (minimum Provide First Aid in Remote Locations) is also a qualification requirement for many commercial operators, alongside a clean driver’s license.

But there are other beneficial qualifications too, including Swift Water Rescue (Tassie does a great course), and off-track navigation.

While plenty of introductory canyons like Empress Falls don’t need these extra skills, if you want to lead bigger and more extreme canyons, you’ll need these extra qualifications and on-the-job experience.


What assumptions do people make about working as a canyoning guide?

Of course, being a canyoning guide is fun, but it’s not always easy. The biggest challenge for Lauren is the cold, with the start of the season hitting pretty hard each year.


What does a canyoning guide actually do?

As Lauren says, even the same canyon can be a completely different experience no matter how many times you do it. Different group dynamics, experience level, weather, conditions and other factors mean that no two days are the same.

Trips with BMAC start in the office, where guides paint a vivid picture of the day ahead so guests can start mentally preparing. Then, there’s kit prep, abseiling training at a local cliff (depending on participant experience), and finally, it’s off to the canyon.


In the actual canyon, guides are responsible for leading and facilitating the excursion, ensuring the safety of participants, providing instruction on techniques such as abseiling and scrambling, handling all rope work, navigating, assessing risks, setting up anchor systems, and maintaining equipment. Oh, and making sure everyone is smiling, happy, safe, and having fun. Not much then, huh?

Alongside that, there’s driving, gear washing, paperwork, and – as canyoning isn’t a year-round sport – there’s often the chance to guide other activities like hiking and mountain biking.

How can I get started as a canyoning guide?

Qualifications aside, Lauren recommends taking a proactive approach to job hunting, saying: ‘I think the best way to get a job, especially in the Blue Mountains at the moment, is to just walk into the store of one of the companies and go ‘here I am’. It’s a job where you need really good interpersonal and canyoning skills. So go, be confident, and really show that you want it.’


Photo by BMAC

Can I make a living as a canyoning guide?

You sure can, but it can be a bit of a juggling act. Canyoning is a seasonal activity, only available in a few places in Australia. Most canyoning guides tend to work for various companies to piece together a full-time salary and then supplement this by guiding other activities or taking on other work such as retail or bush regeneration.