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A Santa Barbara Legend: Guide Amy Di Chiro

There have been a lot of great guides at the Adventure Company over the years, but there are a few legends – guides that can pull off a great trip despite all odds. Guests will call, email or write reviews about these amazing creatures – giving testimony to their incredible skills. Quotes like, “Amy might be the best tour guide I’ve had.” and “Amy Di Chiro is Awesome!” How does one obtain greatness? Let’s ask the legend herself. 

How did you get into guiding? What was your first trip? 

I got into guiding for SBACo by answering an ad on Craig’s list for a mountain biking/wine tasting tour guide. When I walked into the interview at the warehouse, Mike (the owner) pulled up a cooler and asked me to take a seat. I told him I would be one of the best employees he ever hired. He put me up to the challenge. 

The first trip I helped lead was a three day surf camp at Santa Claus Lane for what seemed like hundreds of high school students.  I had previously worked for Toes On The Nose in Laguna Beach teaching moms how to surf. I had also worked for the city of Santa Cruz Parks and Rec Department for 5 years. I would drive a 15 passenger natural gas van full of teenagers all over the county, engaging all types of kids in new activities and experiences. So, the surf camp was a great introduction to SBACo for me and the company because I was able to apply my past experiences. Then Mike asked me if I knew how to kayak… 

Amy Kayaking at Channel Islands National Park

Kayaking at Painted Cave.

You are a legend for running a hell of a kayak trip without paddles. How did you pull that one off? 

During my second season as a kayak guide, I took a few personal trips out to the west end of Santa Cruz Island to explore Painted Cave. This is one of the largest sea caves in the world.  I had made some friends on the charter boat that goes out to this part of the island a couple times a week, and they kept hooking me up with free trips. At this time, the Painted Cave trip was new to SBACo, so I had more hours exploring this area under my belt than anyone else in the company. 

A corporate group contacted SBACo for a preview tour. They would be considering using SBACo for a future rewards trip out to Painted Cave. Mike put me in charge. We loaded up onto a small charter boat. There were all kinds of lunches, special drinks, chairs, sun hats, lots of fluff for these VIP’s.  The event planner that set up the trip told our clients they would not be getting wet (a common misbelief), so one guest arrived in jeans, a cardinal “no-no” on the water. 

I was so nervous about running a great trip, I didn’t notice I left our paddles in the van until halfway across the channel! When I discovered my mistake I freaked out. The clients said, “Don’t worry Amy, we don’t need paddles”. HA! I paid the boat captain $50 for extra gas and asked him if he could change course. I knew if we went back to shore the trip would be a bust. Instead we motored over to the east side of the island where SBACo had a permit to store gear on shore. Fortunately, we were at the perfect spot to change course without adding too many extra miles to the trip. 

We arrived to Scorpion Anchorage and I sprinted up the ladder, down the dock and into our storage box. I introduced myself to some of the other guides, grabbed three paddles and a wet suit for our jean clad man, and headed back to the boat. The captain was super stoked on my success. He couldn’t believe I was actually going to pull the trip off! We followed the 26 miles of Santa Cruz coast line all the way west to Painted Cave. None of us had ever seen that much of the island. In addition, we came across three huge pods of dolphins, and two huge pods of sea lions. It was a magical day. No wind, no swell, warm water. 

The beauty of the caves speaks for themselves. These are really holy places. No human influence can be detected, besides exploration. We sang in one of the caves. The sound echoed off the walls like a cathedral. It was a life changing event for our clients. They swore secrecy; no one would ever mention the forgotten paddles. SBACo scored the contract for the trip. Yet somehow Mike found out about the paddles. 

Singing and playing guitar while leading a outdoor education program

Amy leading a campfire program with her guitar.

 Any advice you can give to someone just getting into guiding? 

The best part about being a guide is not what you show others, but what nature and humans show you. Every day, if you are open and humble, you will learn something new. Guiding has completely redefined who I am; it has given me a new identity that I am proud of. However, I don’t take any credit for that, I give thanks to all the amazing people and places that guiding has exposed me to. Also, don’t smoke in Rosie (the company van), ever. 

 You stay busy in the slow season. Where are you up to right now

I am currently working as a waitress at Soho, a local music club, and Steve’s patio cafe, an awesome breakfast place on De La Vina Street. On Friday afternoons I take my Grandma to the hairdresser and we go out to lunch to a new restaurant every week. I take a sewing class on Monday and Tuesday where I am making reusable bags out of old t-shirts to help eliminate single use plastic bags from the world. I just got back from a road trip up to Big Sur where we hit up some awesome hot springs. Been surfing as much as I can. Trying to rehearse to play some music shows around town with Allan, the sound guy from Soho. I think our first gig will be at The Coffee Bean on upper state. Classic. 

The guides that work for SBACo are some of the coolest people I have ever met in my life. I feel honored to be a part of such a unique organization. They have taught me so much. Entering my forth season, I still feel like there is so much more to learn. That is the most exciting part of the job for me. 

Amy and Guides at Channel Islands

Amy and fellow guides participating in a clean-up.

Thanks for sharing with Amy. We are honored to have you on our crew! 

If you have a memory of Amy from a trip or elsewhere, please share it in our comment section below.  I am sure Amy would love to hear from you! 

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