After a very modest career as a K1, C1 and C2 slalom competitor Risa made a name for herself as a hold-nothing-back eastern squirter and creeker who developed a taste for big western hydraulics along the way. She distinguished herself with the first female descent of the Green River Narrows and second female runs on the North Fork Payette and Niagara Gorge. She competed through the 80’s, 90’s and 00’s and has represented the US in six Freestyle World Championships (1993-2007). However, it has been through volunteerism and her professional training in marketing that she’s made her greatest contributions to whitewater kayaking – notably as a Board member, President and Executive Director (twice) of American Whitewater. She has catalyzed or been very involved with securing flows and establishing permanent public access on the Tallulah and Niagara Gorges, Russell Fork, Green Narrows, Upper Yough, Watauga, Tallulah, Tuckasegee and Upper Nantahala Rivers.
Risa fueled AW’s resources in the early 1980’s by adding the Marketplace to the annual Gauley River Festival and again in the early 2000’s by developing corporate partnerships. She founded and coordinated the National Organization of Whitewater Rodeos from 1989 to 2002 which included as many as forty whitewater festivals. As the Marketing Director for Perception Kayaks in the 90’s Risa fully supported river conservation. Perception was the second company to join the Outdoor Industry Conservation Alliance whose early beneficiary was Idaho Rivers United and its fight to keep water in the Payette River. She also catalyzed an industry initiative to encourage young paddlers with the Symposium on Youth Instruction.
Risa co-produces international conferences for whitewater courses and park leaders, helps whitewater park advocates formulate project plans, chairs USA Freestyle Kayaking and the International Whitewater Hall of Fame and organizes the Potomac Whitewater Festival. She has served on boards of the Adventure Sports Center International, Nantahala Outdoor Center, National River Cleanup Week, Conservation Alliance, and the North American Paddle Sports Association. “Somewhere along the way whitewater sport, once ‘exciting and adventurous’ became ‘edgy and dangerous.’ I’m doing my part to bring whitewater to more people in friendly, familiar terms so they will include it in their portfolio of life long outdoor activity options.”