Caught With His Pants Down

Posted May 18, 2023 by Gregg Armstrong, Co-Founder

In the early 1960’s California had a significant impact on what has become modern day whitewater rafting. George Armstrong, a pioneer of the sport, placed his first raft in the Stanislaus River in 1962. He had four young children at the time who were between the ages of 5 and 12, and his 5th and final child was in the womb of his wife Dolores. Today’s rafting tale is about that child and his first rafting trip as a guide 15 years later. His name is Scott and he is now in charge of running All-Outdoors.

All of us were young when our two adventurous parents put us in a raft and took us down the river. My brother Scott was no exception. As soon as he could swim, he joined his four older siblings and climbed aboard.

Early Armstrong family rafting trip with 7-year-old Scott in the back of the raft.

Joining the ranks

When All-Outdoors was in its infant stages, Mark, the oldest child, was in college and became the first guide tutored by his dad George. As the company grew, my sister Sherri, myself, and my younger brother Randy followed suit. The Armstrong family made up the crew in the first years, but Scott was still too young to be part of the team. He felt a little left out and began to pester dad about being a guide. 

Finally, when Scott was 15 years old, our father said he could guide one of the rafts carrying only luggage (no guests) down the Stanislaus River on one of our upcoming 2-day wilderness trips. 

It was an early summer trip in 1977 with about 20 guests. All the gear and food needed for the 2-day trip was loaded onto Scott’s raft. My dad, brother Randy, and myself were driving the shuttle vehicles that day. We watched the three rafts with guests shove off from shore with Scott following in the luggage raft, before driving up the road to a high and good viewing spot. We were eager to watch Scott navigate the first big and challenging rapid, “Death Rock”. What we saw in the next few minutes has been burned into our memory banks as if it happened yesterday.

Scott (right) with his older brothers Randy (left) and Mark (middle), and his dad George
behind him on the Grand Canyon in 1995.

Missing something?

As Scott rounded the corner and entered into the rapid, everything looked like it was going well. At the halfway point there is a critical move that needs to be made to prevent a raft from hitting Death Rock itself. Unfortunately, Scott did not make that move.

Instead of floating past the rock cleanly, the boat hit it at an angle. The look on Scott’s face was not a happy one at this point because he knew what was going to happen next. The water coming from upstream pushed his raft up the rock until it flipped upside down and floated around the rock downstream towards the other three rafts. 

After spending several seconds under the raft, Scott popped out and pulled himself onto the upside down raft. He got busy steering the boat to shore. In all the commotion, he failed to notice that when he came out from underneath the raft, he was without his shorts! As he floated toward the 20 guests, he could see that they were chuckling and pointing. Had he looked up the embankment toward the road, he would have seen his two brothers doing the same. (Dad not so much.) Scott got caught with his pants down on his very first day of guiding!

Scott guiding a raft on Cherry Creek (Class V) with expertise.

The mishap did not stop him

It was not a very glamorous start to Scott’s professional river guiding career, but much has changed since then. Over the next several years (and with his shorts properly cinched up), he honed and improved his guiding skills on many different rivers throughout California and elsewhere. And he didn’t stop at guiding. At the age of 19, he was helping manage one of the main river operations for All-Outdoors on the South Fork of the American River. By the time he was 24, he was managing ALL operations for the company. Scott has an amazing ability to keep a lot of balls in the air, and not let anything hit the ground when it comes to being an outfitter.

Scott keeps his guiding skills sharp by participating on regular AO trips as well as on other exciting adventures, all while running a successful outfitting business. As a testimony to Scott’s abilities, read about the first successful descent of the Nile River from its source to the sea in 2004. It was a historic 3000-mile expedition. Scott led the trip through the 800-mile difficult, upper whitewater section. Despite his accomplishments, his older siblings cannot help but tease him about those early days. We do it with much love and respect.

Author Bio

Gregg Armstrong

Gregg is the middle child of George and Dolores Armstrong's five children. He has been working with All-Outdoors since it was founded. He guided and set up early operations on California rivers in the 70's and 80's before making marketing for AO and reservations his main responsibilities. One of his claims to fame is that he and his wife Marion had triplets, who grew up to enjoy rafting and outdoor activities as much as he does. When not doing AO and family life he loves to ski, garden, and spend time with people.


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