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Interview with Kelli O'KeefeKelli

Offbeat Interview Series with Kelli

Kelli ‘Teacha’ O’Keefe

Just a small town girl from South Dakota, Kelli is a college golfer turned river rat! After playing golf for two seasons at Northern Arizona University, Kelli decided to take a semester off of golf and study in London. After a weekend spent sea kayaking and surfing in Wales, she changed her major and became a guide. That spring she went back to school, quit the golf team and traded in her golf clubs for some river gear. The following summer she worked for Wilderness Aware on the Arkansas River in Colorado and ended up spending four summers there. They also had permits to run the Dolores, North Platte, Upper Colorado, Gunnison, and Salt River in Arizona.
Now she considers herself lucky enough to work most of the year on a river, somewhere in the world. She spends her spring and fall seasons, working on the Colorado thru the Grand Canyon for Arizona Raft Adventures, and she spends her summers working on the Middle Fork and Main Salmon Rivers for Canyons! In late summer and early spring, she guides for Last Descents River Expeditions in Western China on the Salween and Daqu Rivers. In 2015, Kelli played an integral role in bringing a dozen-or-so young Chinese kayakers and their parents on one of Canyons Main Salmon trips, and a wonderful, well-produced short film resulted. Check it out here!  She has worked intimately with Last Descents as they have helped to establish a National Park in Western China.
When not on the river, you’ll find Kelli traveling, crocheting, and playing in the snow! She has been running her own business FunHoggin’ Fleecewear out of her truck camper, the Canyon’s warehouse, a friend’s house in McCall and wherever else her travel bug takes her. Just this year (2019) she is embarking on a small batch of manufactured skirts and shorts. If all goes well she will have more time to market her product. FunHoggin’ Fleecewear is about to go BIG! Once you see them for yourself, you will want to have one of your own.

The Interview

If you could be a river superhero, what would you be?   Whitewater Wonder Woman  

What is your favorite dress up theme?   Definitely Disco! 

What is your ‘go to’ crazy hat night creation?   I’m a big fan of the Big Horn Sheep! All you need is a Cam strap and Aluminum Foil!

What brought you to Canyons?   I met Greg on my first trip in Grand Canyon 8 years ago as an assistant for AzRA! Immediately I fell in love with Greg’s contagious attitude. I ran into him that winter and he said, “Hey! Come check out Idaho!!”. The following summer I was able to go on the Canyons training trip, and a few years later…here I am!     

How many years have you worked here?   5 years  

What is your favorite thing about Canyons?   I love the family atmosphere… our guides are amazing, our guests are awesome, and we get to spend our summers on two of the most beautiful rivers out there!  I also really love the fact that as guides, we get to switch boats every day which is all decided upon at coffee talk!

If you could describe Canyons in 3 words?  Family, Love, Duckies

When you hear the word Idaho, what comes to mind?  Hot springs, Whitewater, Potatoes

What are your top three favorite camps?   Indian Creek (MF), Shelf (MF), Groundhog (MN)

Your favorite hike?   Little Pine

Top three favorite rapids?   Tappan Falls (MF), Powerhouse (MF), Split Rock (MN)  

Currently, what is your nemesis rapid?   Sulfur Slide in a sweep boat or a willie

What river do you want to run that you haven’t yet?   Futaleufu in Chile 

What do you consider a ‘real’ job?   Getting paid to do something you love!

If you could only have one kayak in your quiver, what would it be and why?   I’m a rookie in the old kayak….so I’m happy to be in a boat that I can successfully roll!  

What is your favorite thing to cook on the river?  Migas!!  

If you could take a musician or band down the river today, who would it be?   Creedence Clearwater Revival 

What is your most memorable swim in a river?   Seidel’s Suckhole on the Arkansas

What is one of your river rituals or superstitions?   try not to have any rituals or superstitions    

What is the most valued non-river-related item that you bring with you on every trip?   My pillow…. We tend to spend more nights on the river than we do inside. So it’s so nice to have a cozy sleep kit….especially for Team Canyons coffee talk! 

What is your favorite groover spot?   Cradle (MF), it’s so fun to look downstream at that beautiful little ducky muncher  

About Greg McFadden

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