NOLS: National Outdoor Leadership School Home
 
  Current Issue
Summer 2003 Issue
    Cover Article
    Message from the Director
    Alumni Trailblazers
    Alumni Profile
    Issue Room
    Wild Side of Medicine
    Expedition Photography
    Expedition Planning
    Chapter Update
Leader Archives
  Address Update Form

Online Gift Form

Contact Us

Alumni Explorers
By Kerry Brophy

This issue’s Trailblazer Series proves that once you’re a NOLS grad, the fun is just beginning…

This regular column highlights what some of the nearly 75,000 grads around the world are doing with their NOLS education. From writing books, to climbing mountains, to making change, these folks are taking NOLS lessons in leadership, wilderness ethics and more out of the wilderness and into their communities.

Polk
Deters


Polk Deters
Whitewater Kayaker

© Jenning Steger

In the rough and tumble world of whitewater boating, a first descent is like the holy grail of paddling—it’s the rush of adrenaline that comes with twisting and turning down a stretch of river no human has ever tackled. First descents are what NOLS Instructor Polk Deters lives for, and he’s had the honor of being one of the first people down some of the world’s toughest rivers.

Take, for example, his recent expedition down the Stikine River in Northern British Columbia. Once called the “Everest of Rivers,” the Stikine is ‘very solid’ class V, which in the paddling world means that it’s about as furious and fast as a river can get. Polk joined an intrepid group of boaters on the Stikine’s Grand Canyon, becoming among the first 20 people to have ever paddled that stretch of whitewater. When the group took off, the river was flowing at an average of 8,000 cubic feet per second (cfs). Before they made their way to the end-point three days later, the river’s water level had more than doubled to 20,000 cfs. That’s a lot of whitewater.

“It was a pretty intense experience going to bed and putting a marker on the river and then waking up to see it 2 1/2 feet underwater, and not having any idea what’s downstream,” says Deters.

With a growing total of 25 first descents, Deters has made a name for himself in the whitewater community. He’s been featured in countless kayaking movies and articles and has also excelled in the racing scene, where he was ranked 4th in the world in 1999 in an open class race in New Zealand.

For Deters, the feeling of winding around a corner and not knowing what’s next is unmatched. “Doing new rivers is a big thing for me,” he says. “First and foremost is to do a river that no one else has done, going around a corner and having no idea what’s ahead.”

Surprisingly, one of Deters most memorable recent expeditions wasn’t at all about big water: It was about big conservation. In December he joined the Nature Conservancy to map and scout three rivers in the Yunnan Province in southwest China. While the group tackled some big water, and paddled in areas that had never been explored, Deters was most excited about his role in trying to protect one of the most ecologically diverse areas in the world.

“Rivers take you to places that a lot of people don’t get to see,” says Deters. “A lot of these are remote places where the only way in is by river craft. That’s a pretty cool feeling.”

Polk
Deters

If you're not getting The Leader in the mail and you want to, click here.

  ALUMNI EVENTS
Alumni Trips
Alumni Courses
Reunions
Seminars
  ALSO SEE...
NOLS On the Road
Leave No Trace Master Courses
   
Chat:
Chat with a real person.
Share:

Sign up for the NOLSie News
NOLS Top of Page
NOLS Home About Us Courses Apply Wilderness Medicine Institute NOLS Professional Training Alumni Store Donate NOLS Home Parents Press Room School Resources Photos NOLS.TV Events WRMC The NOLS Blog Introduction About Leadership History Mission & Values Profiles Partnerships Frequent Questions Find a Course School Locations Skills Leave No Trace Financial Aid Academic Credit NOLS Pro Home 1-3 Day Courses 7-30 Day Courses Risk Management Staff Clients Design Your Course Contact NOLS Pro NOLS Pro 1-3 Days 7-30 Days Risk Management Clients Contact Us NOLS Pro Design Your Course NOLS Pro Staff Overview Outcome-based Curriculum Faculty Overview Outcome-based Curriculum Faculty Case Studies Overview Administrative Training Staff Training Consulting Conference: WRMC How to Apply Apply Online Download an Application Admission Policies WMI Home About WMI Courses Schedule FAQ Photos & Movies Curriculum Updates Employment Sponsors WMI Home About WMI Admissions Courses Schedule Host a Course Resources Gallery Alumni Home Trips and Events The Leader Alumni Chapters Employment Staying in Touch Volunteer Photos & Videos Home NOLS Photos NOLS.TV The NOLS Podcast NOLS on Flickr Leave No Trace Overview Leave No Trace Principles Leave No Trace Master Educator Course Host a Course Contact Enroll Map of Events Dream Expedition Leadership Week Press Room Images for the Press Archives