Team River Runner’s Affinity Clinic Report


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

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 (  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.  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!


Safety talk.

Many many more photos here:

Vanessa Jones

Committe Co-Chair

Vanessa A. Jones is a dynamic force dedicated to fostering
inclusivity, encouraging discussion, and promoting a culture of
belonging in the outdoor sports community. Hailing from
Washington, DC, she brings a wealth of diverse experiences and
perspectives to her endeavors.
As a US Army veteran and ordained Chaplain with a focus on
seniors and caretakers, Vanessa is deeply committed to serving
others. Her work as a patient-caretaker advocate reflects her
passion for supporting vulnerable populations and ensuring their
voices are heard.
Currently, Vanessa is employed by a resettlement agency, where
she confronts challenges head-on with resilience and
compassion. As a single, Black woman veteran, she embraces
the unique hurdles she faces, viewing them as opportunities for
growth and empowerment.
In her downtime, she wears many hats, including that of a
missionary, spreading hope and positivity wherever she goes.
Weekends are spent paddling, immersing herself in West African
dance and finding solace and joy in nature’s embrace.
Vanessa is committed to equitable principles, ensuring that
everyone’s opinions are valued and heard. Through her
unwavering dedication and inclusive leadership, Vanessa is
paving the way for a more equitable and diverse outdoor sports