Between Two Chollas - An Interview With Luke Kriken, River Guide
JM: Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Luke Kriken. Luke, what brought you into rafting?
LK: I was just looking for a summer job in between school, and found out that I knew somebody at this company. I had worked a care-providing gig for years, and decided I wanted to get a job for myself this time; I felt like I had played my part and donated to the community, so I really wanted to do something for myself. I found out about this, and had only been rafting once when I was 17- I’m pretty sure we were being such little jerks [on that trip] that the guide flipped the boat on purpose… but yeah, that was the one time I had rafted before this gig, and I came out here, had never even been to New Mexico; fell in love with the area and boating, and have been back every summer since.
JM: How long have you been professionally guiding?
LK: 4 seasons- 4 summers.
JM: So, what’s the most epic trip you’ve done so far?
LK: Cataract Canyon, 2015! 16 days, self-supported through the canyon, with Wendy Meyer as the awesome TL (trip leader). We just floated the first few days. I’d never ridden class IV [rapids] before. Then we had three days of class III rafting, about two and a half days of class IV. It was like, 5,000 cf/s, and I was in a Super… and I only fell out once! I thought I was going to flip- I saw the boat in front of me, I was second point- they hit this hole, and looked back at me yelling, “don’t hit it, don’t hit it!!” I couldn’t square up and hit it at an angle, and it just threw me out. I was holding onto the frame shouting, “I’m ok…” when I really wasn’t ok! But somehow I got back into the raft, and we were good. I had oar leashes, thankfully- that’s what saved me!
JM: What’s the hardest part about being a guide?
LK: The hardest part? Probably training your guests to do well in the boat. You got to set them up for success. That’s a good question. Logistics are really hard too, getting everything prepped. Then once you’re on the river, take a deep breath, because you’re on the river! [You’re] on the river finally, having done all the prep work, whether it’s a snack or lunch; but then just organizing all the other guides, trying to give them the best crew for them- once again, trying to set them up for success. So, yeah, just the logistics behind it all sometimes is really difficult. Giving another guide a seven or an eight-load, or little kids… it all falls on the trip leader, so sometimes it’s a very difficult job.
JM: And the best part about being a guide?
LK: The best part? Being on the river! Or, when you hit something you shouldn’t hit, but then you come through with all your people in the raft, and you’re like, “YES! We just did that! It wasn’t the plan, but we did it!” Like hitting Trench-Hole in Rock Garden [Rapid]. You hit it and you square up, and man, it’s a big, big hit. Somehow everyone stays in the raft, and you’re thinking “YES! I wish that was the line, but it isn’t… but we succeeded!” You won’t always have the ideal line, but you have to have plan A, B, and C under your belt, right? So, the happy accidents- the victories.
JM: What are any trips or rivers that you haven’t done yet, that are on your bucket list?
LK: The Zambezi, without a doubt! Especially since it’s supposedly going to get dammed in the next ten years, and that’s going to change it. So, that’s definitely a trip I want to do, and probably the Gauley. What’s another good one? The Futaleufu… pretty much every river I haven’t done!
JM: What is your favorite kind of boat, and why?
LK: Paddle boat guiding? I love the Sotars, they track well, they can high-side, it’s just so hard to flip them. Rowing, I really love the little “Tanager” AIRE boat we use for oar rigs. It’s got those bigger diameter tubes, when you’re rowing you can hit so much stuff. I really love rowing- I’ve fallen in love with that more over the years. Of course, I still love paddle guiding, but if I’m rowing the [Taos] Box, I’m a happy camper.
JM: Alright! One last, random question. What’s you’re favorite band?
LK: Favorite band… it’s so hard to choose. One thing I’ve been digging on lately is Bella Fleck and The Flecktones. They’re one of my favorites, for sure. I’m in a Bluegrass faze right now, so… Railroad Earth, and of course, got to love David Allan Coe. Those are the three that I’m listening to the most, at the moment.