Guides & Staff

River Guides

The key to any great guided adventure are the guides that will accompany you on your trip. Rafting and Adventure Sports is our profession, so we take it seriously. Our guides are serious about safety, serious about good times and serious about fun! They have an extremely high level of experience that is unmatched in the adventure travel industry in California. They will navigate you safely down the river, fly you over the Gold Country, hike you through the Sierras and bomb you down bike trails. They will tell you about the history of the area, its birds and animals, also keep you amused with stories from their years exploring the world.

We have a very diverse group of river guides. These are world class whitewater guides with a passion for rafting and kayaking that has taken them to some of the most adventurous, challenging and picturesque rivers around the world in countries such as New Zealand, India, Nepal, Zimbabwe, Turkey Costa Rica, Honduras, Australia and Canada. Their world class experience in guiding rivers will enhance your experience with us on the American River.

  • Stacey ChewStacey Chew

    Anyone who has been rafting with us over the past decade knows Stacey. She is a legend and heads up our guide crew. Don’t let her small stature and flawless cashiering skills fool you; “Chewy” can muscle her boat down the river better than anyone.
    Top that off with natural ninja guiding skills and you’re in it to win it Stacey-style. Even after spending several years guiding in New Zealand, she even gave Alaska a try – she calls Tahoe home.

  • Gordy BulfordGordy Bulford

    A world class kayaker and one of our senior guides, Gordy hails from Masterton in New Zealand. Having spent several years on the creeks and rivers of California, Gordy enjoys being in a raft full of people or dropping off a massive waterfall in his kayak. He has almost a decade of experience guiding on some of the hardest rivers in the world. Don’t let his boyish charm fool you, he’s about as competent and confident a raft guide can get.

  • Arnie ChandolaArnie Chandola

    Arnie is the Owner and Operations Manager of AWE and has over 20 years of experience on rivers worldwide. Arnie has a stellar river resume including impressive descents on world-class rivers. He has lived in and worked on rivers in New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Turkey, Austria, Nepal and India. He has also guided in Colorado, West Virginia, Montana, Pennsylvania and Idaho. In the winter Arnie lives in New Zealand where he guides on the Rangitikei River - which happens to be one of the best commercially rafted rivers in the world.
    An extremely competent organizer, Arnie will make sure all the details for your river adventure are complete both on and off the river.

  • Tom McGradyTom McGrady

    From Auburn and often accused of being one of the best looking guides on the water, Tom takes pride in the precise and catlike movements of his raft. Another longtime member of our crew, Tom’s been everywhere and seen just about everything, including some of the best routes down the river. He’s spent several seasons guiding and helping river rescue courses in New Zealand. Last year he gave a proper job a try and hated it – so he’s back doing what he loves, guiding people down the river.

  • Steve ZonarichSteve Zonarich

    Originally from New York and another corporate refugee turned raft guide. Several years ago Steve left the comforts of life as a commercial construction manager in Maryland and moved to California to live in a tent and become a raft guide. Steve helps do everything at AWE. From guiding to towing 20 rafts across Folsom lake on our Jetski, from fixing trailers to remodeling restrooms – Steve can do it all. Steve’s a true renaissance man, a world traveller with a philosophical outlook on life. His dream is to live the simple life on a 1000 acre ranch farming the land.

  • Tara WardTara Ward

    Guiding a raft and making sure Brian does not hurt himself or get into trouble, Tara has her hands full most of the summer! Originally from North Carolina, she has spent the last several years chasing rivers across the country all the way down to Costa Rica. An awesome guide and an absolute superstar she is a joy to have as a guide. Don’t let her southern drawl fool you.’d better paddle when she says so or you’ll be taking a swim or even worse!

  • Brian SiderbergBrian Siderberg

    You could run a small third world country with the energy Brian has. Often accused of having ADD – Brian is a truly unique personality and cannot decide if he wants to be a surf bum in Costa Rica or a river bum in California. Plucked from obscurity from our guide school a few years ago, Brian has become a solid raft guide! At present he is doing an awesome job being a full time boyfriend making sure Tara is kept happy too.

  • Travis PaulTravis Paul

    Originally from Colorado and the youngest member of our guide crew, Travis has excelled as a first year river guide. Back for another summer on the American, Travis is getting better on the river and giving Tom a run for his money as our most handsome guide. When he’s not on the river he can be found surfing or plastered halfway up a vertical rock face. An accomplished pianist, Travis can put on a real show with a set of keys.

  • Ryan HuntRyan Hunt

    Don’t let his boyish looks and charm fool you. Ryan has the experience of someone twice his age! Often found guiding clients down the highest commercially run waterfall in the world, on the Kaituna River, New Zealand. Behind that skinny frame and young face is a solid Grade 5 raft guide. Coming from a sheep farming family in New Zealand Ryan is a pro at getting a groups unruly guest together and focused “it’s like herding kittens mate” he once said.

  • Kaitlyn WeitzelKaitlyn Weitzel

    A civil engineer and a raft guide – now that’s skills! Kaitlyn grew up in California and has been guiding with us for several years. She is an awesome personality and a superb raft guide. After several years of guiding in California she spent last winter honing her skills on the rivers in New Zealand.

  • Jesper SorensenJesper Sorensen

    Hailing from Aalborg in Denmark, Jesper brings another funny accent to the AWE crew. A solid raft guide and kayaker with years of experience guiding in Africa, Nepal and Norway, he has made a great addition to our summer rafting crew. Very popular amongst the ladies, he loves long walks on the beach and a California accent. Sadly he is devoted his entire life to learning the ways of the water and feels relationships are a serious distraction! .

  • Jeff WebberJeff Webber

    Jeff’s first picture in a raft was when he was 5 months old! Growing up in a suburb of Los Angeles, he did everything he could to get away from the city! He’s pretty much grown up around water, rivers and rafting. He’s a veteran AWE guide and has guided extensively in New Zealand, Iceland, Norway, Canada and all over California. Jeff runs our guides school and its a responsibility he takes very seriously, making sure the new generation of AWE guides are the best they can be.

  • Tom BuckmanTom Buckman

    Another person that cannot be blamed for leaving their country, Tom is our resident British guide and a real international man of mystery! Often referred to as the James Bond of rafting, Tom guides with the natural grace and finesse bestowed unto him by his stiff upper lip. Having guided in Norway, Austria and Costa Rica, his raft crew often swear they hear the whispered words of Shakespeare originating from the back of the raft.

  • Sonny JimSonny Jim

    Raised in New Zealand on a sheep farm, the first thing Sonny did when he was old enough was to get out of the country and head to mainland Australia. He spent years guiding on the Tully River, naturally increasing the average IQ of the area. After he finally had enough of being an Aussie he headed to Uganda to guide on the mighty Nile. After a few years traveling the world and getting confused for an Australian everywhere he went, he finally decided to go back home to New Zealand. When not in California he can be found guiding on some of the hardest whitewater in the world.

  • Daniel WrigleyDaniel Wrigley

    Another one of our Kiwi crew Wriggle’s has had enough of the cold wet South Island weather and decided to come back to California. His love for the outdoors and Mexican food keeps him grounded. A solid guide with years of experience he add to the wealth of knowledge and experience to our guide staff. Shy at first but don’t let that fool you – he’s quite the character and will keep you entertained the entire day!

  • Johann VargasJohann Vargas

    As the only Central American in our crew, Johann is from gorgeous Costa Rica, a truly magical country with amazing rivers. Johann brings years of experience and adds Latin culture to our already diverse crew. He has an infexious smile and is alway ready to help and like all Latinos has some pretty amazing dance moves at the back of the raft!

  • Matias CollMatias Coll

    Originally from Argentina, Matias grew up in California and has rafted all over the place. He lives the live on envy traveling from one beautiful river to another as the seasons change. He is a super competent raft guide and inspires confidence in all his crew.

  • Melissa Miller-HensonMelissa Miller-Henson

    Mel is another one of our awesome Trip Leaders, having rafted on almost every river in California, she bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to all trips. In the real world Mel works as a Environmental Consultant in Davis and being on a trip with her is a real educational experience.

  • Jennifer CudnikJennifer Cudnik

    J.C. grew up in Athens Georgia. She received her degree in Banking & Finance from the University of Georgia. However the massive amounts outdoor possibilities drew her to California. Before becoming a raft guide she spent a few years acting and adding some southern class to Hollywood. She has spent the last few years enjoying the untamed side of California as a whitewater rafting guide. Last year, J.C. travelled in Nepal and hiked in the Himalayas and also did a stint working in China as an outdoor guide. She is just returning from working a season in New Zealand, adding a touch of class to the island. Don’t let the blonde hair fool you, she is no Barbie doll and she hates being called Jennifer or Jen!

  • Rhys RowlandRhys Rowland

    A senior member of our staff, Rhys came to river guiding late in life, but loves his weekend job! A former water skier, windsurfer, competitive cyclist, triathlete and swimmer, he takes naturally to the water. During the winter months he spends his time boarding and skiing the mountains of California and Oregon. He works for a local government in the Sacramento Region as an environmental professional and rafts as much as possible during the summer months because he thinks its fun! Rhys likes to create awareness for guests about the river, the environment, while being physical and having fun all at the same time.

  • Colby GreenColby Green

    Originally from Ohio, Colby decided that he had enough of Cleveland and decided to check out rafting in California. That was 8 years ago and he’s never left. We’ll let a guest describe Colby. “Thanks for a great time on the river! Colby, you are a beast and I couldn’t have asked for a better guide to take us down our first level IV rafting trip. My friends and I all had a blast and I’m sure we all agree that our raft was the most “adventurous” of the three that we rafted with that day. I never felt like we were in any (serious) danger thanks to your experience and knowledge of the river and lunch (even though you did not make it) was delicious”.

  • Taylor CarlinTaylor Carlin

    Originally from Sacramento, Taylor has reached almost mythical status in the Coloma rafting community. After spending years guiding on the American he took his skills to New Zealand and Argentina. After his escapades in the Southern Hemisphere he decided to take his Cali charm to Norway and show those Vikings a thing or two about guiding rafts and improving their social skills. With his charming ways and tall dark handsome looks he is slowly gaining mythical status on Norway’s rivers and in their nightclubs. Currently on hiatus from AWE, he will be back after conquering the world of whitewater and then some.

  • Sedale TurbovskySedale Turbovsky

    One of our superstar guides that is always smiling and entertaining. After spending a day with Sedale on the river, his guests often want to adopt him! Sedale is a California native and has been guiding for several years. When not on the American River, he’s found roaming Patagonia, Argentina searching for the perfect river. Sedale also works as an consultant on environmental impact in the Sacramento area.

  • Tom Campbell “Rooster”Tom Campbell “Rooster”

    Tom has spent the past few decades avoiding a real job in search of the finest adventures and whitewater the planet has to offer. From West Virginia to Central America to Idaho, Africa to California the Rooster has left his mark on towns small and large! As a true Virginian, Rooster uses any excuse he can to leave his state and country. Over the years, Tom has chalked up an impressive list of rivers to his name and once the summer seasons come to an end, he spends the rest of the year on adventures across the globe. Tom is a laid back character who is rarely ruffled even in the most challenging situations. Tom’s great humor and mellow personality underlie his vast experience and ability as one of our most excellent raft guides. Always late for everything Rooster’s motto in life is “early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese”.

  • Nick WimsettNick Wimsett

    Originally from New Zealand, Nick is another one of our guides that has avoided a real job for over a decade. He is a world-class kayaker and raft guide, working his way from NZ to Africa, South American to Cali. He came to California years ago looking for big waterfalls and legendary creeks, in the process he fell in love with a beautiful Cali girl and never left. Now married and settled in Coloma, he gets his summer thrills guiding rafts and winter thrills filming the Deadliest Catch boats on the Bering Sea. Don’t let his calm demeanor and boyish charm fool you, he’s an animal in the back of the raft, yelling commands and guiding you effortlessly through class 5 rapids.

  • Chafic KhalilChafic Khalil

    Locally raised and locally trained, originally a city boy from LA, Chafic (pronounced Sha-feek) is well known for his repertoire of adorably bad jokes and ruggedness on the water. After years of rafting and trying to plant roots, he has finally found love (again) and settled just south of us. A successful and self-proclaimed kitten herder, Chafic’s ability to captain a raft in style is both envied and unmatched on the river. After years on rivers in California, New Zealand and Costa Rica, Chafic is still holding court in the back of his raft and somehow his jokes still entertain and keep our guests coming back for more. His favorite joke is “I almost had a psychic girlfriend but she left me before we met”. He’s still looking or maybe he’s finally found true love.

  • Chris PollardChris Pollard

    As an Australian, Chris used every excuse he could to leave his country and who would blame him! Having spent the better part of a decade guiding on some of the hardest commercial rivers in the world, he now lives a few miles from us with his beautiful wife Nicole. Chris is another one of our popular trip leaders and considers himself an expert at keeping his group of guests organized and focused on the task ahead. He has a charming personality and gentle humor and loves long walks in the Sierra foothills.

  • Charles “Chuck” Ortega

    Chuck was voted “Driver of the Year” for the Amador County School District. He’s a highly skilled and experienced driver and cannot wait for summer, when school is out he’s shuttling our rafting guests every day. Chuck is our “Senior” driver and being in his bus is a real treat. He has the largest collection of music and makes sure the ride to the river and back as entertaining as possible. This year Chuck is working on a “self driving school bus” – trying to compete with Google who just invented a self driving car. He hopes some day his system will be in all of California’s school busses.

  • Chaundra MartinoChaundra Martino

    When it comes to the whitewater, this girl’s got your back… or at least the back of your raft. From her perch on the stern, Chaundra surveys her river domain and simply wills the boat in any direction she pleases (which is usually right into the biggest waves she can find). Having spent several years guiding people in California and New Zealand, she has found her calling as a Health and Fitness Coach in Auburn. With her chiseled six-pack abs and massive gun’s – she is by far the fittest guide in California!

  • Walter “Chip” Heuser

    Another one of our superstar drivers, Chip was voted the “Driver of the Year” for Mother Lode School District. He’s a calming presence behind the wheel of our shuttle vans as they make their way down steep windy roads to the river. When he’s not driving he can be found on a raft enjoying the river. He is also making sure Chucks “self driving school” bus is the best system it can be.

  • Steve Tracey

    A veteran driver Steve has had so many years of driving busses and vans, he does not want to ever own a car! Another one of our star drivers that inspires confidence down windy roads narrow roads. A raft guide himself, Steve enjoys going down the river every chance he gets. A great personality, he’s always entertaining his passengers.

  • Helaina Marrs

    Helaina bring a touch of class to our driver staff and makes sure the boys are kept in line. She works as a driver manager of our local school district and has years of experience driving school busses and shuttle vans. She’s always cracking jokes and is one of those personalities thats naturally entertaining. A real treat having someone of her calibur behind the wheel of our vehicles.


Administrative Staff

From the second you call or email our office in Coloma and until you get home safely after your trip, you will be assured by our insight and knowledge of the rivers we raft, the local area and its attractions. Our office and Camp staff will be able to answer all of your questions, whether it be about the river, driving directions, camp toilets or how to handle a raft mutiny and water fights, especially when they are between people on the same raft! Our adventure staff has got you covered.

  • Jon OsgoodJon Osgood

    Jon founded American Whitewater Expeditions in 1978 and has been the main reason for our success over all these years. He’s grown AWE into the best whitewater rafting company on the American River. Originally from Michigan, Jon got his start in the industry designing rafts. He’s often confused for a better looking version of Ted Danson. Jon can be found enjoying himself on a river in his Paddle Cat or swimming out of his Inflatable Kayak in a class IV rapid.

  • JennJenn

    A corporate refugee, Jenn has been in the adventure travel industry for the past 3 years. A Sacramento native, she lived most of her professional life in San Diego working in commercial real estate. Leaving behind the corporate life, Jenn left San Diego seeking adventure. She packed up and moved to New Zealand working at one of the countries premier adventure lodges.
    Being a local she has heaps of knowledge about the area and is a real asset to our guests on the phone.

  • KristaKrista

    Krista is a local and full of knowledge of the area and of the rivers we raft on. Krista is a wealth of knowledge and her insights and personal experiences on trips will help you plan your trip. She loves rafting just as much as traveling and spends her winters in New Zealand working at a Kiwi rafting company. In her spare time and days off she’s either on the river or off hiking the trails that surround us.