Sledge Hammer

Gary Pera brought whitewater sledging stateside.

Gary Pera had been whitewater sledging for several years near his home in New Zealand when he met a girl from Aspen, Colorado. “A woman enticed me over here, and we decided to check out the rivers,” Pera explains. “I didn’t even know there was a ski resort, but I knew there was a good river — the Arkansas.”

Pera soon got to know the Colorado and the Roaring Fork Rivers, too, quickly introducing them to a sport no U.S. river had seen before. Whitewater sledging, also called river surfing or river boarding, looks like boogie boarding, but the board is a sledge that’s specially made for the river. Pera started a company — Aspen Seals — that now guides adventure-seekers who want to “plunge head-first into the rapids, one face shot after another” on those three nearby rivers.

It’s still the only business of its kind in this country, even though people have been sledging for thirty years in New Zealand and the adventure sport is known in Europe, South America, South Africa and Canada.

An Aspen Seals trek costs between $125 and $190 per person, depending on where you want to go and what class of rapids you want to tackle. You don’t need experience to fly head-first down a class V, but you’d better be an athlete or at least have a huge “go for it” attitude, which Pera says he tries to screen for. The price includes transportation, instructions, a wetsuit, helmet, life jacket, sledge and any other equipment you might need. Trips must be scheduled at least 48 hours in advance, at 1-970-618-4569. For more information, visit www.aspenseals.com.
Starts: Aug. 18. Daily, 2008

 
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