Kayaking has done a lot for Sam Drevo.
Only 30, he has paddled on five continents, raced with the U.S. Junior Olympic team, run the European Cup tour and generally excelled at every category of whitewater sport. He has appeared in a number of documentaries and as a commentator for ABC Sports. In 2000, he founded Northwest River Guides, which operates as eNRG Kayaking, a local outfit that teaches kayaking classes at all levels and leads whitewater expeditions all over the world.
Born in Maryland, Drevo started kayaking at age 8 after attending Valley Mill Camp, a training ground for Olympic paddlers. At 15, he competed with the U.S. Junior Olympic team in Norway. After developing repetitive stress injuries during his freshman year at American University, Drevo moved to Whistler, British Columbia, for a winter to learn to snowboard, swinging through Oregon on the way. A few months here were enough to convince him to transfer to Lewis & Clark College, where he earned a business degree and founded the college paddle club. WW caught up with Drevo while he was on his way to lead a conference of river conservationists on an Upper Clackamas River paddle.
WW: What are your favorite places to paddle in Oregon? Sam Drevo: Opal Creek on the Little North Fork of the Santiam River, and also the Little White Salmon in the Columbia River Gorge.
Ever had any injuries? Nope. Never broken a bone.
What's the craziest thing you've ever done in a kayak? I've run plenty of waterfalls that were 50 or 60 feet high. There was the spillway of the Paonia Reservoir Dam, which was about 150 feet high, that I paddled. That was on a bunch of different sports video shows.
What was your most challenging expedition? In 2005, I went on one of the most extreme expeditions I've been on, in Africa, on the Zambezi River. We rappelled off Victoria Falls, which is a 350-foot waterfall, and explored the Upper Minus Rapids for a television show. And that was taking everything that I've known and prepared for in my life, and sort of redefined my limits.
What's your greatest achievement? I guess the pinnacle of my career was in 2001 when I won the Gorge Games [now defunct] and beat a couple of Olympians. It's pretty much one of the toughest competitions.
Is Portland a good town for a pro kayaker? There's no question. I've been to every state in the country, and I've paddled extensively for the past 22 years. I've been fortunate enough to explore and work for and with just about every major outdoor center in the continental U.S. that does kayaking and river sports. And how does Portland weigh up? There are over 100 great kayak runs within an hour of this city, and probably closer to 200 or even more; the ocean is only an hour and a half away; and then you've got two mountain ranges on either side of the city, and there's rivers flowing off of either side. It's one of the best places as far as exploring and as far as running new rivers. Portland is pretty much the best city in the country.