The Explorer category includes adventurers, scientists, or expedition leaders who exemplified superior feats in previously unchallenged whitewater.
Rob Lesser Inducted 2005
Rob’s photos and stories of his exploratory runs have appeared in the paddling and outdoor magazines and also have been filmed for networks in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia. With his friendly and laid-back manner, he became an internationally known ambassador for the sport.
Herbert Rittlinger Inducted 2006
An explorer, pioneer, and advocate, Herbert’s travels took him to rivers in China, Japan, Australia, and Greece, South America and Africa, paddling both whitewater and flatwater.
Walt Blackadar Inducted 2007
Walt’s accomplishments in “big water” river running had a major influence on what was considered doable in whitewater paddling. In 1971, Walt soloed Turnback Canyon on the Alsek at the time was considered by some as whitewater’s Everest.
Mick Hopkinson Inducted 2008
Exploring the wild rivers where paddlers had never ventured, Mick spent seven years exploring and making first descents of the most technical runs in the Alps before moving onto the Himalayas.
Lars Holbek Inducted 2009
Lars Holbek explored some of the world’s most difficult, top-quality whitewater, and was the first to paddle all of them.
Mikey Abbott Inducted 2010
Mikey has traveled to some of the biggest mountains of the world to paddle on mainly on multi-day, self-support expeditions, often on first descents, and with the humility that any aspiring Jedi Knight would wish for.
Richard Bangs Inducted 2011
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, Richard’s most significant contribution to the world of whitewater exploration and recreation.
Dave Knowles aka “Green Slime” Inducted 2013
Throughout his paddling career, Dave has documented detailed maps and river grading for virtually every river drainage in Nepal and most rivers in Europe. His guide books, considered by many as the Bibles of river running, are not only filled with the essential details, maps, information, and advice about the rivers but also with amusing anecdotes and drawings.
Julie Munger Inducted 2017
Julie has been a big part of the rafting world for over 30 years, she was a huge part of breaking down barriers for women in the sport. She led the US Women’s Rafting team for many years, and she took part in many first descents and worldwide river explorations. She has taken her experience and passion and become one of the leading safety and rescue instructors for whitewater rescue in the world.
Nikki Kelly Inducted 2017
In the world of competitive rafting Nikki Kelly is the most successful paddler (including men) of her generation; her team were World Champions in 1999, 2001, 2003 and 2013 – every other year they competed they achieved a second, two thirds and two fourths. She has broken down gender barriers in the world of whitewater rafting and kayaking.