When a UCLA pupil named George Wendt rafted the Grand Canyon on a makeshift raft for the primary time way back in 1962, a singular passion for rivers become born. In 1969, that passion led Wendt and his wife Pam to observed OARS, and their sons Tyler and Clavey actually grew up with their mother and father’ fledgling rafting employer. Now 50 years later, the scrappy, own family-owned and operated rafting outfit that they built is one of the maximum respected journey tour clothes shops in the international. Wendt become a gentle massive inside the subject and honored because the first completely oar-powered rafting clothes shop authorized to run journeys in Grand Canyon. But he was additionally a visionary entrepreneur and one among the adventure tour enterprise’s trailblazers, a really inspiring speaker, and individual. When he handed some years in the past, his sons took the helm of OARS. I recently had a threat to talk with his son Tyler.’
Everett Potter: I was a massive fan of your father, who founded OARS 1/2 a century in the past. I met and interviewed him several times, and he turned into a splendid, frequently profound and frequently very humorous man. What mark has George left on OARS?
Tyler Wendt: It’s been almost three years since Dad handed. We’ve been rather fortunate in that point to have retained nearly all of our key complete-time group of workers and lots of lengthy-time publications, all of whom are dedicated to furthering his legacy of river conservation and sharing a love for wild rivers and locations. These are those who knew him well, and probably in quite a few instances, the idea of him as a father discern. I suppose all of us experience a sense of pride in understanding he became a real pioneer inside the subject of adventure journey, and that his spirit lives on inside us. He had an infectious enthusiasm for the work we did at OARS and turned into inspiring in a unique, fairly “off-beat,” kind of way. He can also have been a bit socially awkward, which certainly made him very endearing to people who knew him or started working with him. And he changed into a genuinely kind and being concerned person, which certainly informs the manner we take care of our guests.
Potter: Now that OARS is half a century old, are you catering to skilled river rafters, or do you continue to get your share of first-timers?
Wendt: lots of first-timers. In a mean 12 months, I’d say at least 60% of our tourists are first-time rafters.
Potter: OARS commenced as a rafting organization, however now you provide a lot of extra, consisting of trekking, kayaking, fishing, or even beer journeys? Can you tell us a bit about these trips?
Wendt: We’ve stepped into a nice niche with our Grand Canyon hiking applications, which are resort-based totally and permit us to leverage our know-how into meeting the needs of adventurers who want to experience Grand Canyon with a manual, however, don’t want to run a river or camp out. The identical goes for some of our maxima a global success applications in Peru and Patagonia that feature motel-to-resort trekking, with beds and showers to be had at the end of a day of lively exploration.
For flat-water paddling, our specific services in Grand Teton National Park and in Baja, Mexico represent a different form of the expeditionary tenting trip, handiest without the whitewater excitement. There’s a simple thrill in quietly paddling up to a natural world viewing opportunity, or placing out using the campfire at the same time as sunset fades to darkness. So virtually, there are some common issues inside the sorts of journeys we need to provide. We have a few areas of expertise departures each year that spotlight fishing possibilities, just like the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in September. Or wine & beer-tasting journeys that characteristic a sponsoring vineyard or brewery. But in the end, it’s the spontaneous interaction with such a international-elegance leisure resources that make the journey.
Potter: With a lot of these other journeys, is rafting still on the core of what you do?
Wendt: Yes, for sure, river going for walks remains the very core of what we do. Our passion is based on this inspiring notion that river trips have a real expeditionary truth to them – they’re about shared revel in and shared exploration. Certainly on a two-week ride thru Grand Canyon, however even for our one-day trips in California, we’re embarking on a real excursion, with real risk all around us. And but with cautious making plans and skilled management, we will sense confident in our and our guests’ abilities to courageous the factors and include genuine adventure.
Potter: Can you communicate approximately the enchantment of custom trips, in which an extended circle of relatives or a collection of buddies get collectively to raft? How huge a set do you want to make it price effective, and is there a ballpark rate in line with man or woman be for this type of experience?
Wendt: We have visible a whole lot of very successful multi-generational journeys, wherein I consider a pretty profound set of connections happening in the layers of traditional family dynamics. No doubt a massive a part of the magic is primarily based on the shortage of connectivity with the outside global. As some distance as placing a custom journey collectively, during the height summer time, we are restrained inside the quantity of journeys we are able to placed on the water due to permit regulations and universal potential. So, to get the maximum appealing pricing, a collection organizer looking for the high-quality prices might work the shoulder seasons in May and early-June and late-August into September. Groups of 12 – 16 or extra are perfect for spreading out the constant charges for transportation, food and a team of guides. Let’s say $250 in keeping with person according to day for an all-inclusive holiday would be in the ballpark for a lot of our destinations.