On this edition of The OTA Blog, we learn a little bit more about our co-founder, E.D. and Lead Instructor Elyse Rylander!
Name: Elyse Rylander
Title: Executive Director and Lead Instructor
Where did you grow up? Southern Wisconsin
Where do you call home? Excellent question that at this time I do not possess an answer for...
Did you go to college? Yes. I did my undergrad at the University of Wisconsin (Go Bucky!) and graduate work at Prescott College.
How long have you been working as an outdoor professional? I started as a sort of "instructor in training" at a canoe and kayak shop in Madison when I was 16. So, this summer was something like my 11th season working with people outside.
Why do you like leading people on trips? At first because I thought it would make me super cool. But, as I have moved along in my career it has very much become about sharing my love for the outdoors with others, especially others who maybe have not had the same privileges I have. Now, OTA represents the perfect mix of my love for the outdoors and showing younger folks how 1) awesome nature is and 2) awesome they are.
Tell us about a memorable moment outside for you. My first season guiding sea kayaking trips in Alaska I led a 3 day long trip for a family from the Netherlands. I had no idea where I was going (as I had missed the training trip for my college graduation). The first day of the trip was great. But we woke up the second day to discover an ice flow from the Columbia Glacier was QUICKLY approaching our beach, and with no end in sight. I packed up our boats as fast as I could and we launched in the last possible second to avoid the ice. Then we got slammed in the face with 3 foot seas and rain for 3 hours as we crossed from the island to the mainland. Definitely one of the most emotionally and physically taxing days as a guide I've ever had, but it's been a great framework to operate from since!
Why do you like working for OTA? I like working for OTA for more reasons than I can describe. It has been my life's motivation for the last 5 years, and the feelings I get when I can lead a trip with queer young folks are just the most amazing I've ever experienced in my life. OTA has absolutely changed my life, and I hope it can be a positive fierce force for others as well.
Anything else? If anyone happens to know Ellen DeGeneres, my life would be complete if OTA was featured on her show...