News

TRR Volunteer, John Su, Featured in DCist!

“John Su is sweating.

On most weekdays, the special education teacher would be in his classroom with high school students. But even under the shade of his garage, Su feels the swelter of the summer day as he hacks away at a worn kayak scraped up beyond repair.

Although Su owns nine different kayaks at the moment — his record is around 18 — this isn’t his boat. 

A network of paddling devotees from around the country bring him kayaks like this one that are past their prime and would otherwise be trashed. Su then whittles them down into hand paddles, carving more rustic, scrappier sets than those sold at a sports goods store.”

Read the full story

OuttaSight Guide Leadership Program / Kids are OuttaSight Clinic Report

Report Written By: Bill Butler, TRR Susquehanna Valley Chapter Coordinator
 
As many of you are aware, we host a couple of large kayak training events each year that revolve around teaching and guiding folks who are blind or have low vision. The first is the OuttaSight Guide Leadership Program (OGLP), where we show experienced kayak instructors how to teach OuttaSight Guiding skills to other boaters in their local chapters. This is essentially our “Train-the-Trainer” program. Each of the graduates of this program receive a TRR endorsement and are expected to teach others how to guide paddlers who are blind or have low vision in a variety of water – lakes, rivers, estuaries, off-shore, and whitewater. This year we had four new graduates:
  • Dayne Law (Boise ID)
  • Tim Reusser (Boise, ID)
  • Nate Sheffer (Susquehanna Valley, PA)
  • Mike Warren  (Susquehanna Valley, PA)
A couple more students dropped from this event for various reasons, but we got it done nevertheless. What was awesome is that we had several former graduates of the program show up to help support us with the KAOS Adventure Weekend that followed OGLP. Jeannine Meerscheidt, Roy Hargrove (our Chapter Secretary), Chris Brown (our Outreach Coordinator) and Mike Betts came in to flex their instructor muscles, bringing the fun with them.
 
Add to this awesome mix our OuttaSight Ambassadors, Lonnie Bedwell, Steve Baskis, Raquel Welsh, Mike Murphy, and Carlos Pere, who came to act as role models for our OuttaSight kids and their families, and you get the makings of an incredible event.
 
Here’s the breakdown of the event:
  • 65 total participants, 51 of whom were on the water
  • 17 Veterans, 5 of whom are OuttaSight Paddlers
  • 5 OuttaSight Kids, supported by 13 family members who paddled with them
  • 4 organizations on site helping out in a variety of ways

While this picture doesn’t show everyone who came, it does give you some idea of the scope of the event. There were several paddlers behind the camera, each supported by (or supporting) these five brave kids and their families. Several people were moved to tears at dinner as we discussed how the day went, describing their day as “life changing” and “incredible.”

Lonnie does a headstand in a kayak!

Team River Runner’s Affinity Clinic Report

TRIP REPORT 

Written by: Carlisle Landel. TRR Palo Alto Chapter Co-Coordinator. 

2021 TRR BIPOC AFFINITY CLINIC
Dates:  August 11-15
Location:  Lotus, California

The first TRR BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) Affinity Clinic was an unqualified success.  Thirteen paddlers from across the country gathered on the American River in California for a 5-day for a clinic involving both whitewater kayak instruction and diversity training. 

Clinics in the time of COVID can have some special concerns—nobody wants to host a super-spreader event—and this one was no exception.  All participants were required to either be vaccinated or to show a negative test from the days immediately prior to the event.  However, a wrench was thrown into the works the day before the clinic, when two people (one of whom was an instructor) called to inform me that they had just been exposed to COVID.  In fact, one had symptomatic family members.

Hey, it’s a river trip!  Stuff happens, and flexibility is key.

Many participants flew into Sacramento and were picked up by our van; we then all rendezvoused at the Nimbus Flat State Recreation Area on Lake Natoma (a reservoir on the lower American River) for an afternoon of flatwater instruction.  By the end of the afternoon, the students, most of whom had never paddled before, had acquired enough skills that a rousing game of kayak tag broke out amongst all the students and instructors.

From there we moved on to Lotus California and the Mother Lode River Center, our home base for the rest of the clinic.  Situated on a half-mile of river front along the banks of the South Fork of the American River, it provided us with “glamping”-like accommodations:  cots in tent cabins, showers and restrooms, and a kitchen for meal prep.

Day two introduced students to moving water, first with several hours on the gentle flows at Lotus Park.  From there we packed up and headed to the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park for a Class I/II run back to Lotus Park.  The afternoon featured huge grins and one lost paddle—later recovered—before our return to camp and a big meal.

Day three stepped things up again, with a run from Marshall Gold back to Mother Lode and onwards to Greenwood Creek (https://www.americanwhitewater.org/content/River/view/river-detail/5117/main).  This is the classic Class II beginner run for northern California, featuring numerous class I, II and one II+ rapids.  Not surprisingly for a group of mostly novices, it was a day of spills and thrills, with people conquering not only rapids but also the fears about swimming whitewater (hint:  it’s not so bad!).

Day four was an introduction to solid Class III whitewater on the Gorge section immediately downstream.  https://www.americanwhitewater.org/content/River/view/river-detail/4068/main  For this section, we put most of the students into paddle rafts, with one in an IK and and two others in an IK2.  We used two paddle rafts, one captained by participant Chris Farris (American River Chapter Co-Coordinator); for the second we enlisted the other American River Chapter Co-Coordinator, Rick Blair as captain and participant for the day.  We also cajoled local kayaker and former Palo Alto Chapter Co-Coordinator John Rogie into joining us and providing additional river beta and safety support besides that provided by instructors Celianne Gonzalez, Risa Shimoda and myself.  We all had great runs through the rapids with only a few minor swims. 

The final day was a reprise C-to-G run using kayaks, IKs and one 4-person Shredder raft.  Local kayaker and TRR Women’s Clinic leader Brandy Brune joined us for the run.  It was a relaxed run this time, and, indicative of the improvement by the students, we had almost no swims.

All-in-all, it was a great clinic.  Besides the fine boating and instruction, we had great discussions around the topics of diversity on the river and experiences and issues faced by people of color as we’ve navigated the kinds of rural areas we often visit.  We have new recruits to TRR and new chapters brewing.  And we had a fantastic time.

Special thanks to the Organizing Committee:  Dayne Law (recruitment), Deb Criner (local transport and motels), and Chris Farris (equipment acquisition and transport).  Cynthia Robey, as always, did a yeoman’s job with airfare.  Risa Shimoda and Gerry James organized all the diversity training.  Fellow instructors Risa, Celiann Gonzalez and Colin Drew were invaluable.

Diverstiy Clinic  First row, l to r:  Jon Garibay, Colin Drew, Artie McNeal, Mike Bourgoin, Ezra Kinzer.  Second row:  CJ Evans, Cel Gonzales, Maira Patino, Chris Farris, Carlisle Landel, Risa Shimoda, Randy Cassidy, and Gerry James.
 

Veteran butts in boatss!
 

Veterans in boat kicking butt!

Breakfast!

Safety talk.

Many many more photos here:

KAOS Adventure Weekend Featured on Fox43

The Annual Kids are OuttaSight (KAOS) Weekend recently took place with our Susquehanna Valley Chapter and their program was featured on the local news station! 

KAOS is KAOS_New_Logois an offshoot of the TRR OuttaSight program that has produced incredible friendships, has taught blind and visually impaired Veterans to paddle everything from calm, relaxing waters to Class V whitewater, and has blown away perceived barriers that come with blindness and visual impairment.

Watch the news clip

2021 Montana OuttaSight Clinic

Earlier this month, we held our annual Montana OuttaSight clinic. This is one of the several clinics in our OuttaSight series that focuses on paddling skills and experiences for visually impaired and blind veterans. These clinics are also an opportunity for sighted veterans to gain leadership skills through attending these clinics and guiding the visually impaired and blind veterans. Usually a week long of paddling, these clinics build relationships and confidence in paddling and leading in the paddler and guide. We wanted to share some media from this clinic as well as some testimonials from some of the participants!

Check out these paddling videos on youtube: 

Lester’s T Rescue

Yankee Jim Boat Eater Rapid on the Yellowstone

Yankee Jim Big Rock Rapid

Ken Horn – VI Paddler

My experience with TRR’s Montana OuttaSight clinic exceeded my wildest expectations. Everything about this trip and TRR has been absolutely exceptional! Cynthia worked around my challenges with travel, the housing accommodations were unbelievable, and most of all the guides/instructors were exceptional professionals who were not only safety conscience, but focused on making sure we got the most out of our experience. The camaraderie was felt not only among the blind veterans that attended, but the entire team of folks that helped put this together.  Unlike so many other programs, TRR wants kayaking to be a lifelong endeavor and the community of veterans and supporters alike are a testament to their success.  It is not just a one and done trip, they have helped this visually impaired veteran find my next challenge, gave me the equipment, training and support team to meet this objective and many others down the road.  Special thanks to Bill, Kerry, Dave, Cynthia, Cel, Sho, Jessie, Scott, Debbie, Mike, The Outpost Restaurant and the communities of Pray and Chico, Montana for their love and support, it was absolutely overwhelming.  Lastly, thank you Joe and Lonnie for getting me involved and keeping me close throughout surgeries, covid and every other obstacle in-between. 

Vince Fee- VI Paddler

My name is Vince fee. I am a blinded veteran who was blessed with the fortunate opportunity to come to Montana thanks to the Blind Veterans Association and Team River Runner for communicating with me and getting me on this trip. Team River Runner is an amazing organization that brought myself and five other blind veterans on a week-long kayaking adventure on the Yellowstone River in Montana. As a blind veteran I try and challenge myself to push for more independence, this was a perfect opportunity for me to get out of my bubble and experience something new. I was a little nervous before coming but everybody embraced me. I came here with certain goals and ended up exceeding them by far. This week has really shown me all I can do despite my disability. A big thank you to Lonnie Bedwell and Kenneth Horn for encouraging me to do this trip and blessing me with the opportunity to be a part of this week. The Team River Runner staff and crew has been amazing and all the local people in Montana were extremely welcoming. And thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Very respectfully,
Vince fee

TRR Perry Featured during Memorial Day Paddle

Except from article:

One Perry group is working to get abled and disabled veterans out on the water.

Team River Runner is a national organization that encourages veterans to get outdoors. On Memorial Day, the newly formed Perry chapter did just that.  

For veterans like Trish Ross, this holiday is difficult.

“For many years I was a casualty officer as well as a commander who told too many families that their loved one had died.”

Read Full Article + Watch Video

TRR Thanks Sierra Outdoor Center & The River Store for their support!

The Team River Runner American River Chapter in the greater Sacramento CA area is very grateful to Guy Cables, the Owner of Sierra Outdoor Center in Auburn, CA. Guy has been supporting TRR AR since it began about 3 years ago with used kayaks and gear. Guy has been a resource for many paddlers in this way over at least the past 30 years. There aren’t many places you can go any longer to find a large selection of used whitewater kayaks.

The River Store in Coloma CA is a constant supporter of TRR AR, doing fundraisers for us, and allowing access to their pool. So, also we wish to thank Dan Crandall, Owner of the River Store.

TRR Kayak Football at OKC Riversport

Team River Runner was welcomed back to Bartlesville for another amazing Golf Tournament that helps raise funds for our programs. This year, we had a few OuttaSight veterans participate in the tournament as well as whitewater rafting, kayak lessons and kayak football with the local community. 

OKC Riversport welcomed TRR and other veterans and paddlers in the area to play kayak football, check out some great photos below: 

2021 Kayak Football with OKC Riversport