Rob Lesser | USA


Rob set the standard for big water exploratory Class V kayaking in the 1970s, ‘80s & ‘90s. He is best known for pioneering descents of the Grand Canyon of the Stikine (1981) in northern British Columbia and the North Fork of the Payette (1977) in his home state of Idaho. With the Stikine descent he became the first to complete what has more recently become the Triple Crown of big water expedition boating – Devil’s Canyon of Alaska’s Susitna, Turnback Canyon on Canada’s Alsek, and the GC of the Stikine. Rob was one of the early world travelers with a kayak, recording descents in Chile (Bio Bio, 1979), New Zealand (Nevis Bluff, 1982), Mexico, Costa Rica, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, and Norway. In 1984 he was part of the first complete descent of Pakistan’s Braldu River which drains the glaciers of K2.

His photos and stories of his exploratory runs appeared in the paddling and outdoor magazines while others were filmed for ABC’s American Sportsman or for networks in the UK, Canada, and Australia. With his friendly and laid-back manner, he became an internationally known ambassador for the sport. He was instrumental in developing many of the earliest whitewater rodeos, particularly the Payette Whitewater Roundup and in 1979 he started the Idaho Whitewater Association to represent paddlers in the fight to protect Idaho rivers from dam developers. In 1981 he became the first sales rep in the U.S. kayaking industry working 16 years for Perception. Overall, from exploring big water in a kayak to photojournalism to films to conservation to events to working in the industry, many of the life-style boaters of today are following Rob’s footsteps.

Explorer Accomplishments:
• First descent Grand Canyon of the Stikine, BC, Canada (1981)
• First complete descent North Fork of the Payette, Idaho (1977)
• First descent Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Wyoming (1981)
• First descent Braldu, Pakistan (1984)
• First descent Clark’s Fork of the Yellowstone, Wyoming (1984)
• First or early descents in Alaska: Susitna, Tsaina, Upper Willow Ck, Nellie Juan, Kotsina, Chakina, Granite Ck, Goat Ck, Happy, Kijak, Hallet, and Chakachatna

Other Accomplishments:
• Biologist – Whitman College (BA, 1967), University of Montana (MA, 1973)
• Ranger Naturalist – Yellowstone NP (1967-68), Mt. McKinley NP (1970-73)
• Founded Idaho Whitewater Association (1979)
• Elected to Royal Geographical Society (1984)