Meet The Oldest and Ugliest Guide on the River

Jack Lund, the man, the myth, the legend of West Virginia whitewater

Hi. I’m Jack Lund, the oldest and ugliest guide on the river. As a Social Security recipient, I’m probably too old to be doing this. But I just can’t stop. It’s too much fun. Almost every day during the whitewater rafting season, I get to drive a rubber boat down one of the country’s most beautiful and exciting whitewater runs. That’s great, but the real attraction for me is meeting six or seven new people and sharing a really fun day with them. It’s always new, it’s always different and it’s always a blast.

My first few years after college were spent in the aviation business. I lived in South Florida and did some flight instructing and flew charters and ferry flights all over the Caribbean and Central America. Flying was like raft guiding – big fun and small pay. Like a fool, I tried chasing the big bucks in the business world. I sold land in Arizona, managed some transmission shops and actually made a little money at it. Sadly, it became obvious that no matter how much I made, I could always spend just a little more.

In the early 1980s, I decided to take some time off from the real world. I bought an old van, fixed up a bed in it and took off to see the country. I figured that, if I were really frugal, my meager savings might last a year or two. I’d always paddled canoes for fun so I eventually wound up visiting a friend in Tennessee who had a small rafting company. Maybe I could bum a canoe shuttle on one of his river trips, I thought. He got really excited because one of his raft guides hadn’t shown up for work. He talked me into guiding a raft for him, despite the fact that I had never even sat in a raft before. The boat driving turned out to be easy, the crew was great, and I had a wonderful time. Then I found out that guides actually get paid.

This guiding stuff was such big fun that I drove over to West Virginia where I’d heard the best whitewater could be found. It was July and not many outfitters hire guides in July. There was, however, a struggling little raft company that was desperate for help. It was American-Canadian Expeditions, known as ACE. That was 1987 and I’ve been with ACE ever since.

I’ve seen it grow from the smallest West Virginia outfitter to the largest. I met the woman of my dreams (the boss’s ex-girlfriend) and we’ve been married over 20 years. I’ve been privileged to work at ACE as a guide and also in the marketing and guide training areas. My wife is ACE’s business manager and the company built her a house in the woods here at ACE’s 1,500-acre resort. I get to stay in the house as long as I’m good.

Most guides get into the business when they’re young. I didn’t start guiding till I was well over 40. I think that previous “real world” experience helped me appreciate what a gift it is to work in this business. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it and would gladly do it over again.

Here’s a clip of Jack in action on his favorite river section, the Lower Gauley:

Who else out there has ever thought about packing up a van and taking off for a while? Anybody have a similar story about falling into the best job ever?

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This entry was posted in Gauley River Rafting, New River Rafting, People and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
  • Dixon

    Boy, have you had fun!

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