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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  Outdoors

Outpeople: Tanner Grant takes on whitewater rafting one step at a time

Tanner Grant, 37, of Spokane, is a whitewater rafting enthusiast. (Courtesy photo)
Tanner Grant, 37, of Spokane, is a whitewater rafting enthusiast. (Courtesy photo)

Tanner Grant of Spokane says it doesn’t necessarily take a village to become a whitewater rafter, but it helps.

“I got into rafting six years ago with a lot of help from my brother, Connor, his father-in-law, Dave English, and friends like Cole Cramer,” he said. “I can see a lot of places where the learning could go wrong without skilled mentors.”

What does he appreciate most about his mentors now that he has years of experience: “Their attention to safety,” he said. “That can’t be take for granted.”

Grant, 37, wet his feet and and everything else in the sport with easy floats, such as Class 1 stretches of the St. Joe River. “We nicknamed our raft The Quilt because of all the patches on it,” he said. “It wasn’t super dependable, so we only ran rivers that had roads next to them.

“I can remember going down the upper Spokane River from Corbin Park and pulling out at Harvard Road because I was too freaked out to risk Sullivan Rapids.”

A trip on Oregon’s Deschutes River was his first shot at whitewater. “I think of it as scary and awesome,” he said. “I was a passenger on (English’s) boat but he was brave enough to give me a lot of chances on the oars and help me see the best lines.

“It was my first time scouting rapids and there was a make-shift memorial to rafters who didn’t make it. Great.”

His first time down the Alberton Gorge of the Clark Fork River, Grant was ejected from a cataraft in Tumbleweed Rapid. “Every mistake is a learning experience,” he said.

He progressed by trying other boats before stepping up to a 15.5-foot Aire self-bailing raft and teaming with buddy Rob Ellis, who had the gear for multiday trips.

“Rob had all the stuff and some patience,” Grant said. “That opened the door to bigger, more remote rivers, including the Grande Ronde and Salmon river.”

Using a helmet-mounted GoPro camera, Grant has made a series of YouTube videos that detail the river rapids in nine popular regional river stretches. “I label the rapids in the videos to help other rafters become familiar with the rivers,” he said.

“I still have butterflies in my stomach when I put in on a new river. Even if it’s just Class 2. I’m nervous until I know the river.”

As he has gradually acquired more experience and skill, Grant says his eyes have opened to the virtues of river rafting as a family activity.

“My dad ran a boat down the main Salmon and he didn’t learn the sport until he was 65,” he said.

“And when I returned to Tumbleweed, a Class 3, with my 7-year-old son, we ran it without a problem. He loved it. He’s hooked.”

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