Paddling in the 2020 National Virtual Biathlon!

As we look forward to our 2nd Annual National Virtual Biathlon to take place in May of this year, we wanted to look back on our first one! 

2020 saw the first Team River Runner Virtual Biathlon. Across the nation, veterans and volunteers did 2 “events’ of their choosing. Paddling, running, walking, handcycling, weight lifting, and more! Here is Andre paddling the course set up in the Maryland/DC Region. TRR volunteers set up a “do it yourself” and “time yourself” 1 mile paddling and 3 mile run/walk course at Riley’s Lock in Poolesville MD. Many volunteers and veterans paddled and ran this course over the Virtual Biathlon Week!!

Team River Runner Featured in RiverBent


Paddling puts you in a good headspace, as any avid boater can attest. For military veterans in particular, learning to paddle whitewater can be life-altering.

“I’ve had combat veterans say that it’s the first thing they did since combat that replicated combat,” said Joe Mornini, the executive director of Team River Runner, a national organization that teaches paddling skills and provides paddling experiences for military veterans. “It’s dangerous, you can train to get better at it, it’s continuous, and it’s relentless. And you can do it with a buddy.”

Read The Full Article

Diversify Whitewater Featured in RiverBent

Article Excerpt: 

“The lack of diversity in whitewater paddling isn’t a problem,” said Antoinette Lee Toscano, co-founder of Diversify Whitewater.

“No one’s going to die if we don’t go whitewater kayaking.”

That said, a day on the river can be nourishing for soul, mind, and body. And Diversify Whitewater, a nonprofit organization in Northern Colorado founded by Toscano and Lily Durkee, is working to bring the good vibes of river running to more people of different backgrounds and cultures.

With help from other national and local organizations, Diversify Whitewater organizes community paddling events and skills training for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). By creating a welcoming environment for BIPOC and allies, they are expanding a community that has traditionally drawn primarily white participants.

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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

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