Larry Laba, owner of Russian River Adventures, shown here with Lesley Pfeiffer and Jim Boyce of Regional Parks' Lifeguard Services, is a longtime supporter of Regional Parks' River Patrol. As summer winds down, we asked him about his involvement in this life-saving program.
You donate life vests to the River Patrol. Why is this program important to you?
Many people who come to swim in the river don't understand that even at beaches at our Parks, some places can be dangerous. You can be walking in water that is 2 feet deep and in the next step drop off to 6 feet deep. The Water Safety Patrol was meant to save lives on the river, and I want people to enjoy the river safely. Also, many people find out that wearing a life vest is actually more fun because it makes swimming and floating easier.
How many life vests did you donate this year?
90 this year and somewhere between 300 and 400 since the beginning of the program.
You own Russian River Adventures in Healdsburg. How did you get involved in water sports?
I began a love affair with rivers when I was about 10 years old, canoeing, swimming, fishing and camping. In the early ‘90s, I designed the first SOAR Inflatable Canoe and entered the outdoor recreation industry. Subsequently, I moved to Sonoma County and began offering river trips.
Thousands of people come to the Russian River every year. What makes this river so special?There are many canoeable rivers like the Russian River east of the Rocky Mountains, but few to the west. The Russian usually has a nice gentle current, making it easy for people to explore. The river is also home to great biodiversity. Visitors are likely to see lots of birds that only frequent riparian habitat, like herons, kingfishers and osprey. Plus, on any given day, there are likely to be surprises like river otters and bald eagles. This is the only river of its kind in all of California.
If you could tell visitors one thing about how to be safe at the river, what would it be?
Something that I tell all of the guests that come rafting down the river with us is that even though they might be good swimmers, wearing a life vest makes being in the water easier and more fun.