Year Inducted: 2011
Sport: Whitewater Rafting
Years Active: 1966-present
Home Base: Venice, CA (USA)
Richard Bangs has been the preeminent whitewater rafting explorer of the last 40+ years. His always inquisitive mind and spirit of adventure has led him and his Sobek teammates to pioneer whitewater rafting on rivers throughout the world. The Zambezi, Omo, Bio Bio, Tatshenshini, Waghi & Watut, Yangtze, Euphrates, Coruh, and Indus have all experienced the Bangs’ touch.
Introduced to rivers with the Canoe Cruisers in Washington DC in 1966, he landed a dream job with Hatch River Expeditions in the Grand Canyon at 19. Perhaps because of the stories told by the Hatch’s of foreign river adventures or his family connection to the CIA, Richard always visualized adventure on a worldwide scale. In 1973 he hatched a plan to do the Omo in Ethiopia. After a successful 21 day first descent, Sobek the river outfitting company was born and returned with clients 7 months later. Over 50 rafting first descents followed in Asia, Africa, North & South America and Europe.
The Zambezi, from below Victoria Falls to Lake Kariba, is Richard’s most significant contribution to the world of whitewater exploration and recreation. He walked in Dr. Livingstone’s footsteps 130 years later and completed the next 60 miles and all the best remaining whitewater. Today the Zambezi is known worldwide as some of the best runable whitewater anywhere. A massive rafting industry has evolved in the intervening 30 years. Likewise on the Bio Bio in Chile until dams changed its future.
One of Richard’s greatest assets is his ability to uniquely chronicle the adventure and then get the story out through articles, books, videos, or film. And as a result, places never heard of before become world class adventure destinations. if you read Richard’s 17 books or numerous articles, what they are filled with are the people, cultures, history, politics, wildlife and scenic grandeur of the area they were privileged to float through. He adds a lot of texture and context to the experience.
Richard is still running rivers although not as intensely as in his 70’s & 80’s prime. He just did a run of Cataract Canyon at 65,000 cfs and tries to include river segments whenever he can on his present television show with PBS – Richard Bangs’ Adventure with Purpose.