Sick of the view from your cubicle? Then check out our guide to Canada's top outdoor jobs

By Ryan Stuart & Jackie Davis

Adventurer


Colin Angus, 35, Courtenay, B.C.
Last May, Angus completed a 43,000-kilometre, 720-day human-powered circumnavigation of the globe. This year, he's "relaxing" with a six-month, 6,500-kilometre honeymoon with his new wife Julie Wafaei. (They got married in August.) The pair plan to travel from the Angus clan homeland of Scotland to Wafaei's ancestral home, Syria. Of course, as with any of Angus's notorious expeditions, there's a hook-they're travelling using custom-made rowboats that can be towed behind bikes.

What he loves about his job
"I'm not letting go of the crazy ideas I had as a child," he says. "I'm most fulfilled when I'm exploring." And-as he shows off his almost complete, hand-built, custom-designed rowboats-it's obvious he also loves coming up with original adventure ideas and then actually pulling them off.

What he doesn't love about his job
Guerrillas, mobsters, violent whitewater, collisions with freighters, hurricanes-and other things that have nearly killed him. Also grumpy border guards.

Best moment
Nothing compared to touching the totem pole in Kitsilano, B.C., to complete the first human-powered circumnavigation. "It was a moment I'd been thinking about for years," he says. "It was a truly fulfilling accomplishment." A close second: when his latest book, Beyond the Horizon, was on the national bestseller list.

Right stuff required
"You can't go into adventuring saying you're going to do it as a job," Angus says. "It's like hockey. You go in loving it as a sport and then see where it takes you." For it to become a full-time job requires a diverse skill set, including writing, photography, filmmaking, public speaking, business management skills and the ability to self-promote. And while anyone could theoretically attempt any of Angus's adventures, it takes a certain mindset to survive riding a mountain bike across Siberia in the middle of winter or rowing the Atlantic through a hurricane. But don't despair: "You can toughen yourself up," Angus says. "You just have to practise being miserable and you'll eventually build up a stamina for discomfort."

Show me the money
Don't expect any money up front. Even after several successful adventures, films and books, Angus has to wait until he gets home to get paid. Through book deals, films, sponsors, presentations and corporate speaking he makes from $40,000 to $50,000 a year.

Outdoor filmmaker


Aaron Jackson, 35, Halifax, Nova Scotia
Jackson just moved back to his childhood home of Nova Scotia from Tofino, B.C., to finish his latest "baby," a film on East Coast surfing set to local music, including a new Matt Mays tune. The yet-to-be-named flick will join Jackson's others-5mm Canada and Beyond Gravity. He supports these projects, and his surfing habit, with filming gigs for TV networks and producing corporate videos.

What he loves about his job
Growing up, Jackson was told: Never live a shadow job, do exactly what you want to do. "What I want to do is make surf movies," he says. "Making films is 100-per-cent me. I love the creative experience. I love surfing and being outside."

What he doesn't love about his job
The quest for the inspiring footage means Jackson is usually behind the lens when conditions are best. While filming the Pororoca, a tidal bore wave in Brazil, Jackson watched other surfers riding the longest wave of their lives. "The wave happened only once a day, and there was no time for me to surf it," he says. "That was killing me." As a surf photographer, he also takes flack for revealing secret breaks.

The best moment
"I'm still working on it," he says. The closest he's come is 5mm Canada, his first and most influential film, highlighting Canadian surfing. "I can't tell you how many people have told me that 5mm got them into surfing. Inspiring someone like that is a huge highlight for me."

Right stuff required
Staying organized is vital, he says. He needs to maintain his contacts, line up models and research and plan shoots so he's ready when the conditions are right. But he also has to be ready to react and "chase rainbows" to capture those special moments that he can't plan for. That's when being in good physical shape is a lung saver. "A lot of the time I'm running up a mountain carrying a 50-pound pack," he says.

Show me the money
Jackson figures he could clear $200,000 if he sold his soul and worked for the man. But staying true to his goal of doing what he loves, he's made anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000 a year.

Pro photographer


Ryan Creary, 34, Canmore, Alberta
Creary was working as a sea-kayak and mountain-bike guide and freestyle snowboard coach until seven years ago, when he decided to follow his passion and become a freelance adventure sports photographer. He has never regretted the decision, and his photographs regularly appear in just about every outdoor sports magazine in North America.

What he loves about his job
Getting paid to go on adventures-climbing, paddling, snowboarding, mountain biking, etc. Behind the lens, he likes the infinite creativity and learning potential, and the freedom of being his own boss.

What he doesn't love about his job
As a freelancer, it's hard to turn down work, and Creary sometimes overextends himself. "But as long as I don't spend too much time in front of the computer, it's all good."

Best moment
Not long after Creary became a full-time photographer, he made his first submission to Powder magazine and landed the October 2002 cover. "I remember being really stoked," he says. But he also loves it when people tell him his photos have inspired them.

Right stuff required
Creary is part artist, athlete, salesperson, marketer, accountant, talent/location scout and computer whiz. But he says the key skills are determination and motivation. "No one tells you what to do, or when or how to do it. It's all up to the photographer."

Show me the money
"Don't expect to get rich quick," Creary says. Incomes for pro photographers range from barely-scraping-by to over $100,000 a year. Early on, Creary had to supplement his earnings with three part-time jobs.


Guidebook authors


Craig and Kathy Copeland, 51 and 48 Canmore, Alberta
From their Canmore home/office/gear room, the guidebook-writing duo of Craig and Kathy Copeland finished five guidebooks this year, their biggest year yet, which brings their total to 14. Like most of their other guides, the new books-including guides to day hikes around Whistler, Jasper and Banff and road rides near Calgary-are full of opinions and rankings to help weekend warriors find the best places to play. And the couple has plenty more guidebook ideas to come.

What they love about their job
When the avid hikers decided to make guidebook writing their career everyone warned them: You're turning what you love into work and you're going to hate it. "The opposite happened," says Craig. "Even if we weren't writing a guidebook we would have hiked all the trails anyway, now we just take extensive notes and pictures when we go." And whether they're at their computers or out hiking, their life is about the mountains and creating books about the mountains. "It's empowering and it's fun," Craig says.

What they don't love about their job
The Copelands self-publish most of their books, which means spending lots of time in front of the monitor. Craig guesses for every day on the trail the couple spends two in the office. "I would love to change that ratio," he says.

Best moment
Finishing every book was a highlight. "Honestly, it's like having a baby. It takes about the same length of time, and it's equally difficult, and equally momentous," Craig says.

Right stuff required
"You've got to love it," Craig says. It can be buggy, windy, cold, wet or any combination and you have to go out in it day after day. Of course writing and photography skills are a prerequisite. And if you want to make it a living, self-publish. "It's only ever going to be a sideline otherwise," Craig says. That means forking out up to $40,000 to print 5,000 books, plus all that unpaid research and writing time, before you make a dime. And if you're going that route, add a few other things to your skill set: digital layout, bookkeeping, dealing with retailers, self-promotion, marketing and playing the heavy on delinquent accounts.

Show me the money
When they started writing guidebooks in 1993, Craig supported the couple with his job as a creative writer at an advertising agency. "It was the only way we could make it work," he says. Today, both work full time on guidebooks. Together they make about $50,000 a year.

Extreme athlete


Darren Berrecloth, 25, Parksville, B.C.
Since switching to freeride mountain biking from freestyle BMX in 2002, "Bearclaw" has dominated biking competitions and magazine covers. His BMX background injected spins, twists and stunts that no one in the freeride world had tried before. The 25-year-old's contribution to freeride progression won him many honours, including 2004 Rider of the Year from Bike magazine.

What he loves about his job
"I travel around the world, meet cool people and get to ride my bike," Berrecloth says without a pause.

What he doesn't love about his job
When it comes right down to it, Bearclaw is a homebody. "I'm away from home too much," he says. Seven to eight months of his year is spent on the road filming, competing and meeting sponsors. That's part of the reason he's so stoked about the Bearclaw Invitational freeride competition he holds annually at Mount Washington Alpine Resort, near his home on Vancouver Island. "It's a way to get everyone back to my hometown," he says.

Best moment
Winning the Nissan Qashqai Urban Challenge, a multi-discipline, freeride contest held in five European cities earlier this year.

Right stuff required
Bearclaw figures anyone could become a pro mountain biker if they loved it as much as he does. Mentally they need to be more determined and motivated than the next guy. But the key, he says, is people skills. "If you can't talk to people you're not going to get anything done." He spends a lot of his time talking to sponsors, lining up trips and coordinating with photographers. "Being able to compete is not enough. You have to find a way of getting your skills and talents to the public," he says.

Show me the money
He won't divulge what he pulls in from sponsors, prize purses and photo shoots, saying simply, "It's a lot more than you." And judging by the sweet fishing boat he just bought with the spoils from his latest victory-50,000 euros for Qashqai-it's a lot more than his previous career as a heavy-duty mechanic on the oil rigs.
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