TRR Boise Members Christina Fletcher & Kevin Fowler win 2020 Spirit of Freedom

“In Idaho, we do not have to look far for good works. So many Idahoans work hard to lift burdens and brighten the days of others. This year’s Spirit of Freedom: Idaho Veterans Service Award recipients are a reminder of the great Idahoans who make our state such a wonderful place to live.

The Spirit of Freedom: Idaho Veterans Service Award is presented in two categories: veterans and volunteers who assist veterans. Their examples of selfless service are beyond worthy of recognition and are a tip of the iceberg of the many outstanding Americans who make Idaho home.”

Read the full article

Meet the founders of Diversify Whitewater!

Photo Credit: USMC Veteran and TRR—Fort Collins member—Matthew James Berrafato

“Diversify Whitewater’s aim is to introduce more BIPOC to whitewater kayaking and rafting. The Fort Collins, Colorado-based organization’s founders are two women of color—Lily Durkee and Antoinette Lee Toscano. The duo has organized a series of summer events, including a community paddle and skills day, at no cost to participants to increase access to paddlesports and break down barriers.” 

Read the full article about them in Paddling Magazine!

Read More about Diversify Whitewater’s Mission and Efforts

Meet Antoinette Toscano

Branch of Service: U.S. Army Veteran
How long have you been with TRR?
I’ve been with Team River Runner for 7-years. I started with TRR-Raleigh/Durham. I’m now with TRR-Fort Collins, now that I’ve moved to Colorado.
What if your favorite river to paddle?
My favorite river to paddle is the Arkansas River–Milk Run section in Buena Vista, Colorado, at peak flow. It challenges my skills, it is a scenic river, and I usually kayak it with TRR members from all over our state.
Why do you like participating with TRR?
What I like most about whitewater kayaking with Team River Runner is the camaraderie on and off the river. I moved to Colorado three years ago. I didn’t know anyone until the second week of my Colorado residency. On that day, I went to a TRR-Fort Collins, indoor, kayaking skills-building session, I met my new teammates, and suddenly I had a dozen new friends. What I love about my chapter is that we are like family. We spend time together on and off the river, and we look out for each other. It feels good to be part of a group of people with shared experiences.
What is one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a veteran after transitioning to civilian life?
I left the military one week after a surgery. I had a lot of health challenges to overcome, as a result of my 11-year military service. I used whitewater kayaking with TRR to regain my health, to create a new normal, and to live as big a life as I can envision.
Now, through my work as a freelance writer I’m helping others to do the same. You can check out Antoinette’s freelance work here!
Why do you think connecting with other veterans is beneficial? 
Many veterans miss being a part of a team, and fellowship with people to support you that don’t need a lot of explanations because they have a shared experience. Having a support network when life is stressful has been very helpful to me.
What sparked the idea to start Diversify whitewater? 
Lily Durkee, a new TRR—Fort Collins volunteer had the idea to start Diversify Whitewater—DW. She asked me if I wanted to join her.
Knowing that I have an MBA, experience as a TRR—OJT program graduate, and Assistant Chapter Coordinator, as well as experience at running a business, with deep ties to a number of communities, I jumped at the chance to co-found DW.
What goals do you have for Diversify whitewater? 
Immediately after our first event, I felt that with Lily’s knowledge of whitewater events management, and my access to regional support from organizations like TRR—National, we could take our concept around the country. That is our goal for 2021.

Meet Lily Durkee
What made you join TRR and when did you join?
Funny story actually. My research lab at CSU was hiring an undergraduate research technician, and Shawn Sabo, a TRR-Ft. Collins member, applied. I brought him in for an interview, and he told me all about the Ft. Collins chapter and said I should come and volunteer at a pool rolling session. I did just that, and the rest is history!
What is your favorite river to paddle? 
I love all sections (Top, Upper, and Lower) of the Youghiogheny River in Western MD / PA. 
What is your favorite part about paddling with TRR?
The community was so welcoming in Fort Collins, and being new to the area, I was looking for a paddling community. Meeting the TRR-Ft. Collins chapter members gave me the river buddies I was looking for, and it was also where I met Antoinette for the first time!
What sparked the idea to start Diversify Whitewater? 
During the Black Lives Matter movement, I was thinking of ways that I could make a positive difference in my community. I was inspired by the BLM statement released by Immersion Research and realized that I could make a difference in a community that is very important to me – the whitewater community. I grew up always being the only Asian or POC face on the river. It was something I had accepted as normal – but I suddenly realized that it didn’t have to be normal. I had a vision of a group of BIPOC floating down the river together, huge grins on their faces, and I knew that I could make this a reality. I reached out to Antoinette, and together we worked to found Diversify Whitewater and to bring over 100 BIPOC together on the water during our two events in 2020. 
What goals do you have for diversify whitewater? 
I would like to bring our two event models, the Downriver Community Paddle and Skills Day, around the country in 2021. Our events for the residents of Northern Colorado and Denver Metro were so successful – both in turnout, and in positive feedback – that I hope to share the amazing experience of paddling with other BIPOC around the country. 
How can people get involved with Diversify whitewater? 
There are two main ways to support our efforts at DW:
(1) Volunteering with us. We can always use support at our events, but also when planning our events, with social media/marketing/outreach, and in developing educational materials. 
(2) Making a donation. We are currently in the process of becoming our own 501(c)(3), and we will soon have tax-deductible donations available. Until then, you can donate through Venmo @Lily-Durkee.

TRR Palo Alto & American River Trip Report 10/11/20

October 11, 2010

Report By: 

Carlisle Landel
TRR Palo Alto Chapter Co-Coordinator
Palo Alto:  Carlisle, Maggie, Stephen, Kent, Laura, Bill, Sandy R, Rudy, Raja, Mike, Artie, Doug, Hans
American River:  Chris, Lester

This was to be our Third Annual San Francisco Fleet Week Paddle, timed to coincide with the airshow over the San Francisco waterfront, which we would watch from Sea Glass Beach across the Bay in Marin County.  Of course, with the pandemic, Fleet Week and the air show were cancelled.  Nonetheless, it is a beautiful paddle along the Sausalito waterfront from Schoonmaker Point to Sea Glass Beach and back.

As usual, we were partnered with Environmental Traveling Companions (ETC), who provided gear and guides.  We gathered at 9:30, and after the mandatory paperwork, orientation, instruction (redundant for our group) and safety talk, we were on the water at 11:00. 

It was a gorgeous day:  a cloudless sky, glassy calm, temperatures on arrival in the mid-60s and climbing to 80 through the afternoon.  We set off in our fleet of double sea kayaks (plus one triple for the Stephen, Laura and Kent), accompanied by 5 guides in singles, and paddled off towards the Golden Gate.  We made our way along the Sausalito waterfront, checking out the famous Taj Mahal Houseboat, observing the harbor seals hauled out on a dock, and waving to the diners on the deck of the iconic ‘60s-era rock-n-roll hangout The Trident, to our lunch stop on the beach.  After lunch, we added extra mileage to the planned paddling itinerary by virtue of the fact that we were well ahead of schedule.   

Highlights of the day:  Artie’s first sea kayak trip, harbor seals and harbor porpoises, cheers from onlookers on the shore (especially the little kid jumping up and down in the window of a restaurant as we paddled under and through the pier on which the place was perched), martial arts lessons on the beach, describing the day for Lester, leaving the beach cleaner than when we arrived (we collected a large bag full of micro- and macro-trash), and getting the TRR family together again.  It was a day of joyous energy and companionship.

We look forward to next year’s outing, when with any luck things will be somewhat normal again and the Fleet Week Airshow will be back on the agenda.

Special kudos to ETC (as always) for their expertise, equipment, and fantastic guides.  Thanks to TRR National for support.


TRR & NOLI Join Forces for SWF classes

“A joint effort by Team River Runner’s (TRR) Southeast Region and the Nolichucky Outdoor Learning Institute (NOLI) has provided several veterans with an extraordinary opportunity.

TRR and NOLI held classes last month to provide whitewater safety and rescue training to veterans from Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. Veterans from across the southeastern U.S. came together to learn Swiftwater Rescue skills as part of a program to help veterans tackle a new skill and enjoy the outdoors.”

Read the full article here

TRR Johnson City Whitewater Rescue courses

“As a veteran himself, helping other veterans is an issue that’s “near and dear” to Scott Fisher, founder of the Nolichucky Outdoor Learning Institute.

So, when the opportunity arose to partner with Team River Runner — a non-profit dedicated to providing on-river recreational therapy for veterans — to provide whitewater safety and rescue training to veterans for free, Fisher was “super excited to be involved.”

“We will always do whatever we can to help these guys out, even if it’s not in any way profitable to us,” Fisher said of veterans, “It’s important that we look out for these folks.”


On Saturday and Sunday, around a dozen vets from four states and about a half-dozen Team River Runner chapters will make the trip to Erwin to take part in the class, which Fisher said has the potential to have an exponential impact as the trainees disseminate the skills they learned back in their home communities.”

Read The Full Article

Team River Runner Palo Alto SF American Trip Report

Trip Report SF American, C to G
August 6-7, 2020

Participants:  Sandy S, Artie, Maggie and Carlisle

Originally, five of us planned to go, but Sandy R texted his regrets—he was having car trouble.  So it was that 4 of us rendezvoused at Marshall Gold Discovery Park on a gorgeous Thursday morning in early August.  After introductions to Artie’s wife and son and dog, we got our gear ready and then Sandy and I brought  our cars to the takeout and Joanna (sp?), Artie’s wife, learned the term “shuttle-bunny” as she brought us back to the put-in. 

The C to G (Coloma to Greenwood Creek) run is the classic beginner’s run, a 5.4 mile stretch with lots of Class I and II rapids (including a couple that are 2 plus), with plenty of flat water and places to practice skills.  We slowly made our way down river, working on skills like boat control, ferries, eddy turns, peel-outs and even a little bit of surfing.  Artie’s four swims notwithstanding, everybody was having a great time.  However, after his fourth swim, Artie was pretty tired, so we decided that Artie would walk out to the road, even though there was less than a mile of river left.  Carlisle and Artie hauled his boat to the highway, and then Carlisle returned to the river where he and Mags and Sandy paddled the 15 minutes to the take-out.

Friday morning we reconvened at Marshall, everyone having benefitted from good meals and a good night’s sleep, and we set off again.  This lap we spent less time specifically working on skills, and we just paddled down the river putting the previous day’s lessons to work.  Artie styled it.  (OK, there was one swim when an unexpected rock lurking just beneath the surface knocked him over, but no worries.)  The final rapid, Swimmer’s, is a roller coaster ride of standing waves, a joyous hootin’ and hollerin’ bit of fun for everyone and a great finale for a great day.  River-wide grins were exhibited by all.

After packing up, we took a field trip to the River Store in Lotus, where Artie ordered some booties and the rest of us drooled over river gear we all lust for.

It was a fantastic trip.  Congrats to Artie and Sandy for their PFDs (Personal First Descents) of C-to-G!!  Special thanks to Joanna for shuttle service.

Tampa Bay Chapter Paddle Event at Weedon Island

On Saturday, June 20, 2020  Team River Runner- Tampa Bay Chapter held our first kayaking event since the recent Phase I opening after the coronavirus pandemic. We paddled through the watery green portal of the magical mangrove tunnels of the Weedon Island Preserve’s kayaking trails. The following folks paddled 2.5 miles of the very popular 4 mile South Trail loop:

  • Kim Siewert
  • Tom Clearwater
  • Howard Toller
  • Lori Kelly
  • Bill Frake
  • Rand Abedrabbo
  • Mark Fratoni

We are looking forward to our next paddling event in the July/August timeframe- based on the impact of the recent coronavirus surge we are experiencing in Florida. We’ll keep you posted on the location/timing and logistics for our next event. Thanks so much for Kim Siewert’s leadership and execution of this very enjoyable TRR- Tampa Bay Chapter event!!

Bill Frake

Rand Abedrabbo

Team River Runner receives large Kayak Donation from Tony Lunt, Co-Founder of Jackson Kayak!

Tony Lunt, Co- Founder of Jackson Kayak recently donated a large amount of kayaks to be distributed to our southeast region. Even in the time of COVID when we are paddling a little less often and in smaller groups, this is a huge win. We are so grateful for Tony’s generosity. We asked Tony a few questions about the kayaks and the donation that you can read below. 

What is your involvement in the industry/sport of kayaking? 

I have been paddling since 1970 and have stayed involved in the sport ever since.

I founded Jackson Kayak with David Knight and Eric Jackson in 2003. The company became #1 in whitewater after three years and has maintained it’s standing in the white water world  by continuously making the best quality kayaks in the industry.

What is the history/story of the donated kayaks?

Since the inception of Jackson Kayak, I have been collecting most of our boat’s models. All generations and most models are part of this gift. The donated kayaks are a good history of the kayaks designed and built by JK.  Most of those kayaks went down the Colorado River through Grand Canyon, some twice. The fun and excitement those kayaks brought is unmeasurable. The Villain surfed the first mountain wave in Lava Falls in 22,000cfs of mostly mud. I personally did a complete backward flip on wave #10 in Hermit in the Super Hero. Didn’t plan to. That big wave did all the work. The two first generations of Zen’s and FUN’s were paddled from Salt River Canyon in Arizona to the Middle Fork of the Salmon in Idaho. The All Water is a good flat water/expedition kayak. Only used it once.  All boats are sound (the Antix is missing its plug) and ready to paddle safely. All those kayaks ended up either hanging in my barn or stacked in a back room gathering dust. I decided that they needed to be given away (I could have sold them) to the right people, they would continue to bring joy and happiness to be back on the water with a thrilled paddler. Now, you continue their history.

Why did you choose TRR for the donation?

I asked around. I wanted a good home for all of them where they would be appreciated, used often and not end up again in storage. More than one person recommended your organization for the gift. When I checked you out, I saw right away that TRR would not only give my boats a good home, but also used them respectfully and properly. When I saw the pictures on your website of our kayaks, it was obvious that you enjoyed them and teaching how to use them safely.

What is your favorite river/body of water to paddle on?!

I enjoy my local river, the Upper Salt River Canyon when it runs in the Spring. I don’t know how to qualify how I feel about The Canyon. The scale and complexity of the geology and geography, the size, noise and intensity of its big water, the quiet of its side canyon, the massive rock permanently over your head, the magic that exists below the rim…

I also enjoy the small class II+ rivers of western Europe. There is this river in Belgium that has no road and man made structure for 15 miles. It may  not be a big deal in the US,  but in high density and small countries, it is a rarity. This river snakes through deep dark conifer woods that exhales a sense of wild mystery.

Jewells like the Selway in Idaho. Class III – IV technical creek high up in the old growth cedars. The clearest river water I ever saw. Of course, the Middle Fork of the Salmon., the drainage just south of the Selway. Pine country with amazing geology, fun rapids and good times.

I could go on. The point is: Get on a wild river and enjoy it!

Take good care of those boats and they will give you years of great times!

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