AO Guide’s Efforts Lead to new Kayak School on the Futaleufu!

Posted January 20, 2007 by Robyn Suddeth

A few posts ago, I introduced a guide, Brooke Johnson, who spent the last seven months raising money for a non profit organization in Chile called Project Futa. The purpose of Project Futa is to try and inspire local Chileans to fight for the protection of the Futaleufu River, against a possible dam that would drown the valley for hydroelectric power. How to accomplish this? Simple- introduce locals to the river.

Before Project Futa, it was often difficult for locals to afford access to the more advanced and remote stretches of the Futaleufu, due to equipment costs, training and shuttles. And without really being exposed to the beauty and magic of the river canyon, many locals were unaware of the potential for loss if a dam were to be built. Enter Aren Rane, an American kayaker who fell in love with the Futaleufu. He saw this indifference and distance from the river within the local population, and decided to become their ambassador. He set up a free kayak school for any local kid that wanted to learn. Now, his earlier students have started guiding commercial trips for larger companies, and many are safety kayaking as well. More importantly, they have learned about the Futaleufu and are inspired to protect it. It is a beautiful plan really. But sometimes it is hard to keep funding a free school…

Enter Brooke Johnson, an AO guide who also fell in love with the Futaleufu last winter, on her first trip down then. She decided that this winter, she wanted to contribute to the cause. By the time she left for Chile in December, she had drummed up over 600 dollars in support of Project Futa, and all of us who contributed were excited to see how that money would be used…

(Drum role please.) Brooke emailed me last week with the news: The money is being used to set two of Aren’s original students up with their own kayak school, making it a completely Chilean operation, and giving locals a chance to also profit off of the tourists that are attracted to their home. Yay! What an awesome accomplishment. Tessa, Brooke and I will all be down there in February, and have signed up as some of their very first students. (From previous experience, I can tell you I’ll be quite the trial for these new teachers… I don’t really seem to be a natural at the whole rolling thing.)

Congrats Brooke, and for anyone reading this that contributed… thanks from Futaleufu!


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