C&K Hero Graham Charles

Graham Charles, mixing work and play. Courtesy photo.

Graham Charles, mixing work and play. Courtesy photo.

By Eugene Buchanan

When his team paddled into a deep, walled-in gorge on New Zealand's upper Hokitika River, Graham Charles, a skilled climber, didn't lead them out. He lead them through. Relying only on hand signals, Charles orchestrated a blind first descent of the Class V-plus canyon later dubbed the Gates of Argonath. "I only allowed people to go to the next eddy if I knew we could get them back," he says. "It was a real team session."

Proceeding ahead, calmly and with faith in one's teammates, is the key to success in any challenging endeavor. That approach, and a damn good sense of humor, is what makes Charles one of the most versatile paddlers and expedition leaders on the planet. His resume doesn't hurt either: Dozens of whitewater first de- scents, world-class slalom chops, and more sea kayak time in the Southern Ocean than anyone else alive. "I just love the places paddling takes you," says Charles, who pays it forward through his non-profit, Adventure Philosophy, which organizes philanthropic trips and youth scholarship programs. "But even more, I love the people you meet along the way."

This story first appeared in the March 2009 issue of Canoe & Kayak magazine.

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Richard Bangs // Greg Barton // Tao Berman // Paul Caffyn // Graham Charles // Serge Corbin // Nigel Dennis // Dubside // Steve Fisher // Bob Foote // Dan Gavere // Alan Hamilton // Freya Hoffmeister // Mick Hopkinson // Nikki Kelly // Payson Kennedy // Rob Lesser // Anna Levesque // Martin Litton // Brad Ludden // The LVM/T-Dub Connection // Sean Morely // Nappy Napoleon // Michael Peake // Scott Shipley // Jim Snyder // Rush Sturges //