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Tuna

September 20th, 2009

Fifteen years ago, in the same week that my middle son, Johah, was born, a good friend of mine drove to Colorado with a combined wad of our hard-earned cash and bought us both complete whitewater kayaking setups. We loved running rivers and we had both guided professionally, but we knew precious little about how to kayak.

That friend was Ryan Ollivier, AKA, Tuna. How he got that nickname is another story entirely.

After a run on the Payette River in Idaho

After a run on the Payette River in Idaho, circa August 1998.

We got all of one easy run in that fall before the cold weather came. But we spent all winter in a pool at the University of Utah, learning and practicing our eskimo rolls till we both had them down cold and locked into muscle memory.

Even now, you could tip me over in a kayak and my body will automatically go through my set-up routine: tuck up against the deck, find the surface with my paddle, sweep it in a big arc across the surface while pulling myself upright with a quick snap of the hips. Just like riding a bike. In a swimming pool anyway.

Minutes after a successful run through Skull rapid on the Colorado River

Minutes after a successful run through Skull rapid on the Colorado River. Photo: Ryan Ollivier

 Once we had our own eskimo rolls down, lots of friends and brothers and cousins were recruited into the fold and what followed was a lot of great kayaking trips on rivers all over the West.

Tuna could make a 13-foot boat dance in a way the short-boaters of today never will. Provo River at high water, 1994

Tuna could make a 13-foot boat dance in a way the short-boaters of today never will. Provo River at high water, 1994

Tuna spent one summer guiding on the Salmon River in Idaho, then he followed that up by guiding on the two most challenging sections of the Colorado River this side of the Grand Canyon–Westwater and Cataract.

He’s a professional businessman now and has ditched the nickname, but he still considers this his favorite office.

Ryan Ollivier at the Westwater put-in, August 2009.

Ryan Ollivier at the Westwater put-in, August 2009.

 

The crux of Sock it to Me, August 2009. photo: Ryan Ollivier

The crux of Sock it to Me, August 2009. photo: Ryan Ollivier

It just seems appropriate to mark this 15th anniversary of learning to kayak with a simple thanks to a friend who has gotten me out to see and experience a lot of things I might never have done on my own.

Thanks Tuna. Sorry we missed the Westwater trip this year.

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  • TUNA CAT

    I just wish we still had the Stones to Kayak the BIG stuff. Although there will always be at least 2 Westwater Trips a year :) Everytime I go past the Endo Hole after Last Chance, I long for my 13′ Pirouette with that FLAT deck that would throw me up in the air!!!

  • hobblecreek possee

    amen tuna nuthin like getin 13 feet of air from an old school barge with lots of volume

  • http://www.aaronollivier.com UTteleskier

    Three cheers for Tuna for getting permits to run Westwater every year. Those canyons walls closing in as the rapids approach is my cathedral. I’m not sure how, but once the river makes an abrupt right turn and you hear the low rumble of the rapids ahead, time seems stop and nothing else matters except the hole or wave directly ahead of your boat.

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  • http://www.pricebonus.com/ Michelle

    Three cheers for Tuna for getting permits to run Westwater every year. Those canyons walls closing in as the rapids approach is my cathedral. I’m not sure how, but once the river makes an abrupt right turn and you hear the low rumble of the rapids ahead, time seems stop and nothing else matters except the hole or wave directly ahead of your boat.

  • Zubair Ali Sahil

    wowowoowoow
    so nice dear
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