Charlie Walbridge is a nationally-known whitewater safety expert with 45 years of river running experience.

Charlie Walbridge

Paddling the Cranberry River in West Virginia

He learned to canoe at summer camp in the early 60’s and began paddling whitewater seriously while attending college in 1967. He has paddled rivers throughout the US and Canada and made several first descents. He was an A-ranked C-1 slalom and wildwater racer in the mid-70’s and worked part-time as a river guide until the mid-eighties. He has collected and published reports of U.S. whitewater fatalities for over 30 years.  He is a well-known writer on whitewater safety issues and has written books and magazine articles on the subject. He’s served as an expert witness in many wrongful death cases and is quoted often in newspapers and magazines.

Charlie has been active in both the American Canoe Association (ACA) and American Whitewater (AW). He held the position of Safety Chairman for both organizations and now serves on the AW Board of Directors.  As a member of the ACA Instruction Committee he helped develop programs in whitewater canoeing and swiftwater rescue. He is a swiftwater rescue instructor-trainer-educator and trains students and instructors.

Charlie ran Wildwater Designs, a mail order company, for 22 years.

Charlie Walbridge using throw bag.

Adapted and innovated throw bag.

Charlie Walbridge sewing Hi Float PFD

Charlie Walbridge invented the Hi Float PFD.

During this time he developed the HiFloat life vest and adapted the throw-line rescue bag for whitewater use. Having closed this business he works as an independent sales rep and a consultant to outfitters, schools, organizations, government agencies, and attorneys on whitewater safety issues . He is also active in river conservation issues locally.

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Paul Fisher running “Kazoodie” Falls


Roger Ziebel on the Upper Blackwater