Offbeat Interview Series with JP
I grew up in the Southeastern US and began kayaking around the age of 10. The Ocoee, Chattooga, and Nantahala were my home rivers and are places I still love to visit. After graduating from CU-Boulder in 2003 I worked for five years as a professional kayak instructor and raft guide for the Rocky Mountain Outdoor Center on the Arkansas River in Colorado. In 2008, I was drawn back to the south by the accessibility of whitewater kayaking and to train as a member of the US Kayaking Team.
I made Asheville, NC my home for over a decade, during which time I worked as an outdoor educator for the Nantahala Outdoor Center, Camp Merrie-Woode, the Asheville School Mountaineering Program, and Warren Wilson College. In 2018, I relocated to the Pacific Northwest where I now spend winter and spring ski patrolling on Mt. Hood and summers guiding on the Salmon River in Idaho.
If you could be a river superhero, what would you be? I’ve often looked at small streams and tiny creeks and thought, “That would be an awesome stretch of whitewater if I was like a foot tall!” So, my river superpower would be the ability to “Smurf myself” so that I could paddle tiny creeks. Maybe not the most altruistic superpower.
What is your favorite dress up theme? Admittedly, I am not the most creative in the costume department. I tend to wait for the costume bag to get dumped out and then let other guides or guests pick out a few things for me to wear for the evening. It’s kind of fun actually. I am always amused at what people think would be a good costume for me.
What is your ‘go-to’ crazy hat night creation? I am still working on this one as well.
What brought you to Canyons? When I was 21 years old, I was a guest on a Canyons trip in 2001. The Middle fork obviously has a tendency to make an impression on the folks who paddle it. From that point forward I always had the Salmon in my mind as a place I wanted to work someday. Greg was actually a guide on that trip, as was then owner Les Bechdel. I spent almost a decade managing an adventure program in western North Carolina that has a longstanding relationship with Canyons and had kept up with Greg here and there as he took over the company. So, when I found myself living in the Pacific Northwest, I knew I had to reach out to Greg to see if he was willing to take me on.
How many years have you worked here? 2020 will be my second season with Canyons.
What is your favorite thing about Canyons? I love the enthusiasm and excitement that the guests bring to their experience of being on the Salmon. Being around that kind of energy really makes the experience of guiding out there a special one.
If you could describe Canyons in 3 words? Old School Fun
When you hear the word Idaho, what comes to mind? I think of remote wilderness, amazing whitewater, and enormous potential for adventures of all kinds. I love the rawness of Idaho. It really sets it apart, even from other states in the mountain west. I like it when the outdoor adventure in a particular landscape requires a bit of problem-solving, grit, and a healthy dose of the unknown.
What are your top three favorite camps? Marble Left (MF), Lower Grouse (MF), and Groundhog (MN) are among my current favorites. But there are still many I have not yet gotten to know. So we’ll see if that changes I continue to get to know the river.
Your favorite hike? Johnson Point for sure. I love that it’s a bit strenuous. Wakes up the legs. And the views are stunning.
Top three favorite rapids? This is a tough one because it’s so level dependent. But Haystack (MF), Lower Cliffside (MF), and Elkhorn (MN) are up there.
Currently, what is your nemesis rapid? I got really stuck in Tappan IV on my last trip of 2019. So, I need to get some redemption there.
What river do you want to run that you haven’t yet? There are just too many to name. The Zambezi is at the top of the list.
What do you consider a ‘real’ job? Any job that challenges and inspires you.
If you could only have one kayak in your quiver, what would it be and why? I’d say the Liquid Logic Party Braaap is about as close to a one-boat quiver as it gets these days. It handles well in fast, big water, and equally well in tight, technical lines. It front surfs like a dream and has a super playful stern that is great fun on eddy lines.
What is your favorite thing to cook on the river? Are margaritas an acceptable answer?
If you could take a musician or band down the river today, who would it be? I’ve been a fan of the band Widespread Panic for a very long time. After having been a guest of theirs many times, I’d love to return the favor.
What is your most memorable swim in a river? My most recent swim was on the Middle Fork. I was guiding our smallest raft known as the Colt through Weber Rapid at 6.5ft. on our first trip of 2019. We all ended in the water after a fairly dramatic dump truck, made all the more exciting because Greg was also on the boat. Yep, I swam our owner/outfitter on the first trip of the year!
What is one of your river rituals or superstitions? I try to remain as objective as possible on the river and not fall into the traps of mojo or superstition. That said when I am in whitewater that is hard for me I tend to quietly sing familiar song lyrics. I find it helps me remain relaxed and controls my breathing.
What is your most valued non-river-related item that you bring with you on every trip? A good pillow. I’ve put my time in making pillows our of fleece and stuff sacks. These days I take the real thing whenever possible.
What is your favorite groover spot? The jury is still out on this one. Any groover spot that has a view of the river and is free of poison ivy is fine with me.
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