Meet the Guides page / Hall of Fame
Ryan Web: After 11 years of professional guiding and managing a neighboring rafting company, Ryan joined the Zoller’s rafting team in the summer of 2008. Ryan has a very short commute being our next-door neighbor with his wife Charlotta and their extra smiling son Lucien. In Ryan’s first full season with Zoller’s he became the 3rd most requested guide on staff. In the off season, Ryan is a stay at home dad, basketball coach for the mighty Trout Lake / Glenwood Mustangs-Eagles and volunteers on local environmental boards. Ryan has consistently been one of the most requested guides on the river and arguably has the wildest hair.
Zak: The summer of 2006 Zak arrived as a guest and quickly asked how he could become a guide. After a month of training in the fall of 06, Zak went home to West Virginia, sold his restaurant and home, then headed out west with his wife Yonah. In Zak’s very short career as a professional river guide, he has become one of the most requested river guides in White Salmon River history. It’s the boyish charm.
Keenan has been a professional guide since '99 several of those years managing another White Salmon River company. His favorite task is to take a scared group of newbies and turn them into hardened group of rafters in just one half day trip. Keenan still likes to spend his free time on the water whether he is kiteboarding or standup paddling. He is just full of energy on and off the water, which makes us wonder what he was like as a 3rd grader.
Bryce showed up at Zoller’s river school in 2009 as an energetic fun loving college grad (political science). Breaking into the team of Zoller river guides is near impossible but because of personality, hard work, and many years of running whitewater rafts with his grandpa, Bryce fit right in with the team. It was not until mid season that we found out his grandpa is Vladimer Kovalik the co-creator of the self bailing raft and a legendary rafter from Russia. If Bryce keeps up the great work, he will become a legend as well.
McKenzie Zoller AKA “The Boss” first showed her authority at Zoller’s Outdoor Odysseys at about age 10. This is when she started to levy fines in the form of tickets to guides for infractions such as leaving their gear out or parking under her rope swing. From that moment on she was known as “The Boss”. The guides put her to early training and started teaching her how to guide at a very young age, but McKenzie says they really just wanted her to do their work for them on the river. Her favorite guide has always been Shawn & “Frenchie” (not Mark, her dad?!). August 9th 2010 McKenzie became the youngest licensed class IV whitewater river guide in the state of Washington and the 11th multi-generational river guide of the Zoller team.
Micah has been hanging out with the Zoller river crew for years and is the brother-in-law to Russ Jr. and Angie. Micah has guided rafts for fun over the years and after four days in our river school with expert trainer Ryan Webb he was ready to go and started his professional career in 2011. Mid-way through his rookie year he was dropping rafts over Husum Falls and coming up with a huge smile. We are not sure there has ever been a more energetic river guide on the White Salmon River.
Dave’s professional career started in “98” and he arrived at Zoller’s on the White Salmon River in the spring of 2003 and is an avid kayaker and river guide. Dave and his wife Talia own over 30 kayaks. Dave says, “many are just dropped off like kittens to a cat lady”. Dave is our favorite hoarder. Interesting note about Dave’s Ford pick-up. He converted it to run on straight vegetable oil in 2005 and was WAY ahead of the curve with bio-diesel. For years he got really funny looks from restaurant managers when he pulled in asking for their old fryer oil on his multiple trips to southern Mexico. Can you imagine driving down the highway and rather than looking for Chevron to fill up, you are looking for McDonalds? Keep eating deep fried foods to help keep Dave’s truck on the road!!
Kyle started his guiding career in 2011 but he applied for the job in 2003. It all started when I promised to make him a river guide if he came to work for me when he turned 17 years old. I was just a little bit surprised when after all those years he called. How could I say no??? In the off season Kyle attends classes at AZUSA studying neurosciences, whatever the heck that it. We just know he’ll be in college another 12 years and that equals a lot of years guiding the White Salmon River
Rick has been a friend of the Zoller team since he first started guiding on the White Salmon River in 2006. He was always willing to help us out on the river, but his plate was pretty full managing the White Salmon operations of another great river company from northern Washington. In 2013 we “made him an offer he could not refuse” and now he is in the regular line-up of the guide team. Request Rick as your guide and you will be treated to the best “Husum Falls Speech” ever!
Tom Arguably the smartest river guide on the White Salmon River, Tommy is a graduate of MIT. I’m sure his mom is proud that he is putting all those smarts to use on the White Salmon River. Tommy’s professional career started here with Zoller’s in 2007 shortly after moving to the area. In the off season Tommy does…. Well, nothing. He is retired.
Todd: After hearing how great it was to raft in the Northwest, Todd headed on out from PA to check out what our area had to offer and immediately landed a position with Zollers in 2013. Previously Todd was a staff manager for one of the world’s largest rafting companies and came with the credentials as a whitewater safety instructor and paramedic. He got hooked on the area and now makes it home. Todd is our key rescue trainer for the annual river guide school we put on each spring.
Max: In some ways, Max is a “late comer”. He showed up well after our normal hiring season in 2014. After spending half a day with Max on and off the water I knew that we’d better suit him up in a ZooRaft uniform before anyone else got ahold of him. He is that good. His previous experience as a river guide gave him the skills, but it is his charm that makes him a favorite.
Megan: This young lady grew up with raft guide McKenzie Zoller and came looking for some office work the summer of 2015. She then, let it slip out that she really wanted to guide the rafts. Well, it did not take long and she was on the river making it happen with the best of them. After just one season with us, she was able to manage the office and the river, occasionally at the same time!
Seth showed up on a Monday as a customer and new resident of the Gorge. By Tuesday he had signed up for our guide school that started in 4 days. While we do not utilize our guide school to enhance our river staff, by the end of the 2015 course, I put my arm around his shoulder and asked what he was doing the remainder of the summer. The rest is history. Scroll up and see how Seth looks like Ben Koefed. Maybe long lost brothers?
Nick joined the team in 2015… by surprise. He had signed up for river guide school to enhance his already full resume of outdoor skills. We liked him and wanted him on staff, but thought he was heading straight back up to Alaska to continue his outdoor pursuits. The second we found out he was not going to Alaska, and that he actually had moved to the area we gave him a W-4 and told him work starts now.
Guide Hall of Fame
Phil Zoller: What can we say about the man who was the first river guide and started it all on the White Salmon River? Growing up I thought all kids were off on great adventure every weekend and all summer long. It was not until Jr. High that I realized other kids had fathers who did “real work”. I’m glad I was not one of them. Dad’s exploits and adventures into the outdoors are too numerous to count and we’ve embellished them often enough that fact and fiction get a little blurry at times. Now in his mid 70s, dad still hits the rivers, last year along spending five days on the Snake in Hell’s Canyon along with another run down the White Salmon. He and I are currently planning an epic wilderness trek into Grizzly Bear country later this year. My father was and is, a modern day explorer.
Russ Sr. Now in his 27th season of professional whitewater guiding with Zoller’s on the Klickitat, White Salmon, and Snake Rivers. Russ guides side by side with his wife Joetta, son Russ Jr. and Daughter in-law Angie. In his spare time, Russ is the owner of Allied Sign co. Russ can tell you every bit of river history, identify plant and wildlife all while getting you soaking wet. Without a doubt, Russ Sr. ranks easily as one of the top five guides in the history of White Salmon River running in terms of number of clients served, number of runs down the river and number of years of professional service, and number of smiles he has put on the faces of our guests. While the Zoller name is kind of known as a rafting dynasty, The Russ Cole Sr. clan is every bit as strong and will very soon go into a third generation of river guides.
Marq has 27 years of professional experience all with Zoller's on the Klickitat and White Salmon and Snake Rivers. Marq is the former director of our Snake River operation and has hiked and climbed every peak in Hell’s Canyon. On the side Marq acts as the CEO of Wilson Enterprises. Back in the mid 80’s I met Marq (he was my boss) and very quickly started training him as a guide on the White Salmon River so we could work two jobs together. Fast forward a couple of decades and we have become family since the marriage of our kids, a whitewater wedding to remember for sure.
Joetta has 22 years of professional experience all with Zoller's on the Klickitat and White Salmon and Snake Rivers. Co-founder and owner of Allied sign. The only grandmother river guide on the White Salmon River. Joetta has her grand daughter in “pre-guide” training and looks forward raising up yet another great river guide. While her husband, Russ Cole Sr. may have been given credit for leading the Cole Family rafting dynasty, everyone knows that it is Joetta that holds the dynasty together.
Andy was born and raised right here in beautiful downtown BZ Corner Washington Andy is a 26 year veteran of professional guiding on the White Salmon River, six with Zoller's on the Klickitat, White Salmon, and Snake River in Hell’s Canyon. Without a doubt Andy is one of the most entertaining individuals you could ever hang out with on the river, and he’s fun to hang out with off the river too!
Ben has 16 years of professional experience all with Zoller's on the Klickitat and White Salmon Rivers. Ben started his river running career a little young (as did many of us) at the prime age of 15 (we didn’t have laws back then). The problem with Ben starting to guide at such a young age was that he looked 12… at best. At least now he has a limited amount of facial hair. Ben’s river time might be limited starting in 2012 as he has just accepted an assignment with the Navy as a Chaplin.
Mark “Frenchie” has 11 years of professional experience all with Zoller’s on the White Salmon, Klickitat & Snake Rivers. For Frenchie there are three loves in life: 1)His family, 2)His sailboat and 3)The White Salmon River. Mark holds a record for running 148 professional trips down the White Salmon River in one season. Mark is one of the friendliest people I’ve ever known, yet he has the terrible habit of bragging about his grandson. If you get Mark as your guide, get ready for an hour of baby photos on his smart phone.
Russ Jr. is the son of Russ and Joetta Cole (see above) and a 12 year professional of the White Salmon, Klickitat and Snake Rivers. In 2007 Zoller’s acquired a new rookie river guide, Angela Duke. Five months later Jr. acquired Angie as his bride. In 2010 Jr. and Angie brought into this world future third generation river guide, Ryker Cole. Congrats!