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Alumni & Friends

Rapid Transit

A photo of river-rafters. Courtesy of Whitewater Voyages.Courtesy of Whitewater Voyages.

Bill McGinnis (M.A., '75) always has been drawn to the rushing water of California rivers.

Growing up in the East Bay hills, he enjoyed hiking near creeks with friends and family. His teenage years found him training as a river guide with one of the state's first river-rafting outfitters. Then, after earning his master's degree in English literature from SF State, he founded his own company, Whitewater Voyages, with two rafts and a $500 gift from his grandmother.

Today, the company is the largest firm in the state, guiding more people on more single- and multi-day trips than any other company. McGinnis says that what sets his company apart from others is its philosophy.

"We define each river trip as a journey -- not just a physical one from put-in to take-out, but as a move from fear to confidence and joy," says McGinnis, who was recognized by Paddler magazine in 2000 as one of the Top 100 Paddlers of the Century. "In many ways it's a transition of emotions that goes well beyond the notion of getting from Point A to Point B."

All told, McGinnis and his staff of trained river-rafters run trips along seven rivers: the American, Kaweah, Kern, Kings, Merced, Tuolumne and Yuba. Trips range in length from half-day to three days; prices range from $109 - $559.

McGinnis doesn't guide many trips anymore; these days, he trains new guides and oversees the operation from base camp in El Sobrante. True to his training as a scribe, he also writes. His latest book, "The Guide's Guide Augmented," is designed to help river-rafting guides and outfitters increase the fun, safety and overall quality of the trips they oversee and equip.

Looking back, McGinnis says his years at SF State prepared him perfectly for a career appreciating nature and the written word.

"I learned a lot about communication and using words in ways that would help me relate to people as whole and dynamic beings," he says. "When you're enjoying nature's beauty on a rushing river, not much matters beyond that."


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