Sam Grake – Whitewater Raft Guide – Gauley and New Rivers, Whitewater Kayak Guide
Adventures on the Gorge: How and when did you fall in love with white water rafting? How and when did you become a guide?
Sam Grake: Every year I fall more in love with whitewater rafting. But it all started in 2009, my junior year of college. I was majoring in Outdoor Rec and I had a friend who became a raft guide the year before. He told me about the job and that it covered food, housing, and other basic needs in addition to a paycheck. As a college kid on a tight budget that needed work for the summer, it sounded pretty good to me. I grew up in suburbia and had never seen anything like whitewater rafting. Nevertheless, I showed up for the first day of training. Cold. Wet. Scared. Probably the least likely to succeed.
13 years later, I’m still on the rio. I’ve done more than 3,000 trips down the New River, and about 500 on the Gauley. Seeing guests overcome their fears and have the best days of their lives makes it my favorite job day in and day out.
AOTG: What is your favorite part about being on the water?
Grake: I love being engaged all day. I love how whitewater helps me forget about everything else in the moment. I love being able to show people who grew up like me, what life has to offer, from a perspective that only a small group of people get to experience.
AOTG: What are three reasons people should take a white water rafting trip?
Grake: A. To learn something new about themselves.
B. To step outside of their comfort zone.
C. To explore a new activity that they will never forget.
AOTG: What makes Adventures on the Gorge different and special?
Grake: A. We have the best amenities for guests.
B. We have the most activities for guests.
C. We have the most food options on campus.
D. We have the most accessible location to town and the rivers.
E. We have extremely experienced staff overall.
AOTG: What is your advice to a first time rafter? and what trip do you suggest they take?
Grake: My advice to a first time rafter is to come into it with an open mind. Don’t pay attention to every scary piece of advice you hear on the bus ride in. I suggest first time guests do a Lower New River trip, followed by a Double Upper Gauley in the Fall.
AOTG: What is your favorite time of year in the New River Gorge and why?
Grake: My favorite time in the Gorge is the Spring. The river surges and we get big water for a few months every year. I love seeing the flowers bloom, and seeing special features in the forest being more exposed with less foliage.
AOTG: What makes the Gauley so spectacular?
Grake: The Gauley is special because the big water and steep gradient make it one of the best commercial runs in the world. In my opinion the Double Upper Gauley trip is the best one-day commercial whitewater experience in North America. The combination of the fall colors, morning fog, and world class whitewater make it a bucket list item, you won’t forget.
AOTG: What is your favorite memory at Adventures on the Gorge?
Grake: When everyday is filled with adrenaline and exhilaration, it’s hard to isolate one memory. But the best thing AOTG has given me has been the friendships made with colleagues and guests along the way. My favorite way to experience whitewater is with my kayak, not rafting. But the people I get to meet in the raft make my job something to look forward to every season.