Employment FAQs

A Letter to Potential New Hires 

We are very excited that you are interested in the Santa Barbara Adventure Company. We operate three companies under one roof: The Santa Barbara Adventure Company, the Channel Islands Adventure Company, and Santa Barbara Wine Country Tours. We just celebrated our 20th year of operation and are proud to offer outdoor adventure tours in Southern California to over 35,000+ people year-round. We have a full-time staff of 15 and during the busy summer season we have 45+ guides on staff. We are family owned by Michael Cohen & his wife, Suzanne. They are both still involved in the business. 

We get the question a lot, “What’s it like to work at SBACO?” Well, we’re fast-paced, fun, and growing. We care about the environment and it’s our mission to help expose others to the great outdoors & the importance of conservation. Our staff represents 10+ languages and is from all over the world. Santa Barbara & Ventura counties are our homes as well as the surrounding ocean & mountains. We love to find adventure on days off right in our backyard. 

We care about the environment and it’s our mission to help expose others to the great outdoors & the importance of conservation.

For many of us, our fellow co-workers are an essential part of the job–and one of the best! We support one another and we want to be supported so we can all grow together. Many staff members might say that the company is like a family. This is true but we also want to be honest. We care about you, we care about your success in your career, we care about your growth and we want you to be happy. With all of that being said, we also expect you to understand that this is a job. We won’t raise you & won’t hold your hand. We don’t do everything for you & definitely can’t manage or organize your life for you. We rely on strong communication from you and need you to do your job well & consistently day in & day out whether it is March or it is October. We expect you to be responsible and accountable. 

We take hiring very seriously as you, potentially, will represent our entire company to a group of visitors to the area. You might represent the Channel Islands National Park, a place that is dear to us all, and we want to make sure you understand the responsibility that comes with that privilege. 

In the next section we’ve listed the most common questions we get during the preliminary hiring process. The answers to these questions we feel are really important in considering if we are a good fit for you. Please take time to review the questions & answers so that you have a better picture of what working with us looks like. If you have any additional questions, please reach out to our front office staff letsgo@sbadventureco.com. 

Happy Adventures, 

The Santa Barbara Adventure Company Hiring Team 

Frequently Asked Questions about working at Santa Barbara Adventure Company

What is the hiring process like for the Santa Barbara Adventure Company?

We hire on a rolling basis beginning in January through generally May. Sometimes we will conduct a second round of hiring later in the year. Our interviews are group-style with 3 applicants and 1-2 interviewees. We also require an athletic assessment which consists of running 1 mile and completing the physical duties of the job. For our first round of hires, training generally starts in February. Regardless of the time of year we recommend sending an introductory email with your resume so we have your information on file.

How do I become a Lead Guide?

For mainland trips, you are eligible to become a lead guide after assisting on at least 2 trips & then successfully leading a 3rd trip on your own under the supervision of another lead guide. For the Channel Islands, it is a much longer process and generally takes at least a full month & for some a full season of guiding at the islands.

Should I live in Santa Barbara or Ventura?

Our outdoor education & mainland trips all start from our warehouse at the corner of Anacapa & Haley street in Santa Barbara. All Channel Islands trips (excluding Channel Islands outdoor education) start from the ferry terminal in Ventura, CA. Most new hires can anticipate in their training and preliminary months (February-April) to be in Santa Barbara for most shifts. From May-August, if selected to be a Channel Islands guide, you’ll be spending 3-5 consecutive days on the island most weeks so you’ll be traveling to Ventura, CA to catch the ferry.

How much do you pay? What should I anticipate tips to be?

We pay hourly. Hourly pay ranges from $12-$19 based on prior experience & certifications (WFR, Class B Driver’s License, etc.). As you move from an Assistant Guide to a Lead Guide and take on more responsibility, your pay will increase. Guests are encouraged to give 10-15% gratuity and for large group trips gratuity is split amongst the guides evenly.

Do I have to camp on the island? What do I need for staying at the island?

If you’re interested in becoming a kayak guide at the Channel Islands National Park, you must be able to commit to camping 2-4 consecutive nights on the island per week. We provide freshwater shower facilities, a camp kitchen (Coleman multi-burner camp stove, Coleman oven, all kitchen utensils,etc.), and space to pitch a tent or hammock. There are also a few semi-permanent tents with cots that are available on a first-come/first-serve basis during island runs.

How does scheduling work?

This varies based on the time of year, but generally all new hires support Outdoor Education in March & April with school groups. During these months, you can expect to be on 2-5-day overnight trips in Santa Barbara, on the Gaviota coast, Ojai, Channel Islands, or Big Bear area. When not supporting an outdoor education trip, you can expect to be an assistant guide on mainland & island tours. Guides must keep their availability up to date weekly with the office as we book guides based on the bookings that come in. We recommend checking your schedule every morning & evening to make sure you know what your week looks like. Unless a time-off request has been submitted and approved, guides are expected to be “on call” up to 24 hours before a trip date. We will never schedule you for a tour within 24 hours without contacting you & getting confirmation of your availability. We use a software program called Paycor in which you can log-in to view not only your schedule but everyone’s schedule so you can see who is on your trip.

What does a typical work week look like?

In one given week, you may kayak in the Santa Barbara Harbor, guide at the Channel Islands National Park, and belay students on a High Ropes course. Many of our staff enjoy the opportunity to hone multiple skill sets while working on these variety of trips.

How does time-off during the summer work?

Very little time off is given in the summer months. When hired you should be prepared to give any time off you’d need from March-October.

What happens during the “off-season” from November-March?

As a new hire you can anticipate that Feb-mid October would be constant work. We are continuing to grow and do operate tours year-round! During the off-season things do slow down; with that being said we always retain a few guides during the off-season, where 1-2 guides will be selected & offered 5 days of work in the off-season, and a few others request to stay on and are given 2-4 days of work on average. Most guides though love this HUGE perk of the job and they go travel for a few months— we have guides right now in Asia, New Zealand, Canada, and South America. They love the guaranteed time off! We start inquiring in August as to everyone’s plans and work to provide hours for those interested. In the off-season we stay really busy with wine tours, so some guides opt to get their Class B Driver’s license and operate wine tours—having a Class B driver’s license also increases your pay.

Does the Santa Barbara Adventure Company offer health insurance?

No, we do not offer health insurance for our guides.

What if I have life circumstances that don’t allow me to do overnight trips (a pet, caregiver, etc.) or I can’t do multi-day trips due to a conflicting work schedule at another place of employment?

We believe that our new hires are able to learn & grow the most from experience on multi-day trips. If you have a conflict with the multi-day trip schedule, this is something we would need to know in the hiring process.

Is there room for upward mobility within the company?

Definitely! We love to promote guides within our own staff to management level positions before hiring from outside. For example, our General Manager, Operations Manager, Group Sales Manager, Island Manager, 1 of our Asst. Island Managers, our Field Manager and our Environmental Coordinator were all guides prior to becoming managers within the company!

What certifications are required? What certifications can be helpful to have?

All guides must have basic CPR & First Aid certifications. Once a lead guide, you’ll receive a pay increase for having a Wilderness First Responder certification (WFR) and/or for having a commercial Class B driver’s license. We help support in getting ACA kayak certifications as well as Leave No Trace education certifications for guides.

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