Discovery Kayak 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.

Professional Kayak and Naturalist Guides

Richard Swanson, San Juan Island Historian

Richard Swanson (DSK Original)

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, Expert Kayak Guide and Biologist on San Juan Island

Jason Gunter (DSK Original)

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-

Kelly Yelverton, San Juan Island Expedition Kayak Guide


Kelly Yelverton

(7th Season with Discovery Sea Kayaks)

When I was first introduced to the San Juan Islands in 2010 as an intern with Discovery Sea Kayaks, I considered guiding a fun summertime job option. By my second season, I was completely obsessed with kayaking as a sport and also as the perfect mode of backcountry travel. My desire to work in the outdoors along with my constant drive to improve as a paddler has turned sea kayak guiding into less of a summertime job and more of a career path. As a history graduate from Lewis & Clark College, I particularly enjoy sharing the island’s rich human history with guests. In 2013 I spent three months kayaking from San Juan Island to Skagway, Alaska with a friend. The experience reinforced my love of kayaking and the outdoors, something I hope to pass on to everyone I take out on the water.

Rick Bondurant, Expert San Juan Island Kayak Guide


Rick Bondurant

(2nd Season with Discovery Sea Kayaks)

Growing up around cities like Dallas and Austin, Texas, I always had a thirst for the outdoors. Fortunately, I had a father that shared that thirst and made it a point to raise me in nature as much as possible. However, my true introduction into kayaking wasn’t until my adult life. While stationed in the Navy on Whidbey Island just down the Sound from San Juan, one of my division officers was in need of a team fill-in for the Ski-to-Sea race in Bellingham. Specifically for the sea kayak portion. He signed me up for a brief class through the base services and that was it. I was hooked. Years later after two deployments and an honorable discharge from service, I parted with the Navy to again pursue my passion for the outdoors. I attended outdoor educator training at the National Outdoor Leadership School and it was through them that I was connected with DSK. It wasn’t long after arriving that I knew I was a part of a special and elite team. Fulfilling my dream job and being a part of such an organization, I had no choice but to return to continue my career as a guide.