George Wendt: A Profile on the Man Behind OARS 

George Wendt’s rafting career started in 1962 when he took a trip on the Colorado River with a makeshift raft and canoe paddles. From there, he began exploring and taking new trips on rafts, canoes, and kayaks. As one of the first 1,100 people to raft through the Grand Canyon, Wendt decided it was time to leave his job as a teacher and start to share his love for the river with others.

In the early 1970’s, O.A.R.S. (Outdoor Adventure River Specialists) became the first family owned, oar-powered rafting company to run trips on the Grand Canyon. Eventually, George received a letter from Richard Bangs asking to partner up to run trips in Ethiopia. This led to other partnerships in Chile and Southern Africa, and now O.A.R.S. runs trips in more than ten countries! George’s love for the river really showed as he expanded business to different parts of the world. His goal was to show everyone how great of an experience rafting trips really are.

AmericanWhitewater_CO_Success_webOne extreme impact he has had on the world is his partnership with Nate Bricker. These two began a rafting trip on the Upper Navua. After creating a documentary film, they were able to provide indigenous communities with over one million dollars. He then focused on conservation and ran campaigns with partners that have contributed over five million dollars to the preservation of the environment for different rivers across the globe.

Today, O.A.R.S. runs trips for 20,000 people in the United States alone. George Wendt was known for his immense efforts to make those “crazy” ideas actually possible. He was awarded the Adventure Travel Trade Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006 and Friend’s of the River’s Mark Dubois River Conservation Award in 2012. Wendt was a humble and successful man who changed the rafting industry when opening his first business fifty years ago. He was a true adventurer and broadened the variety of locations for river runners across the world.

Looking to take a Wendt approach to whitewater rafting? Join us for our Private Boater Training this fall to learn the ropes of reading the river, or call 970-423-7036 for more information. Happy rafting!