Heroes: Bob Foote

Bob Foote wanted to be a whitewater canoeist, but nobody showed him how. This was the late 1960s, well before anyone designed canoes to run formidable rapids. It was a time when a few intrepid souls made thigh straps from old Buick seatbelts, donned orange horseshoe life-vests, and pointed their department-store canoes downstream.

Bob Foote was one of them. At 21, he piloted a fiberglass canoe down Maryland’s Class III Gunpowder River and promptly smashed it to pieces. Soon thereafter, he tried the Lower Youghiogheny at flood, losing a second canoe in the first rapid. Reluctantly, he admitted to himself that it was time for a lesson.

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