Abelino Fernandez Leger
I've lived in Santa Fe my whole life and am always proud to say that my family has been living in New Mexico for 14 generations and our genealogy goes all the way back to the first Spanish Conquistadors to settle here.
Since then, my ancestors had plenty of intermarriages and, now, we are all just mutts. Because of that history, the land, rivers, mountains, and earth here in New Mexico is what I will always come back to as my home. For the rest of the year, I am a student at Claremont Mckenna College located in Southern California about 35 miles east of Downtown LA. I am studying Economics and Philosophy focusing more on political philosophy as opposed to ethics or metaphysics. After getting off the river I will usually head to the well regarded Santa Fe Opera where I work in another seasonal position as a theater Usher. I have always spent as much of my recreational time in the outdoors as possible. Backpacking, hiking, and camping mostly in the Sangre de Cristo mountains that essentially make up my backyard. During the winter, when I wasn’t studying, I made sure to Ski whenever I could, even if that meant going for a solo ski day because my brothers weren’t up for it, but that meant no one could slow me down, so even better. My family considers me to be the fish of the household, and so when my cousin, Tristan Leger (also a Kokopelli guide), introduced me to the river, I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up – the best raft guide I could be!
Kokopelli Guide: since 2019
What I like most about guiding is: People often forget that even though this is my job, we are (quite literally) all in the same boat together. Whenever my guests are having a fun ride down the rapids, so am I!! The two things I really have a passion for when guiding are 1) sharing what I love – boating, the river, the land and history that surrounds it — with my customers, and 2) taking guests who are initially nervous, scared or sometimes terrified about going down the bigger rapids, but after one or two rapids they not only feel safe but also have a huge smile on their face! By the end of the trip that nervousness is transformed into excitement for the next class III wave around the bend. When my customers get excited, I get excited!!
Favorite river and why: My favorite section to run is our Full Day Rio Chama trip. Every time I get scheduled for a Chama trip it feels like a treat. The full-day trip allows time for me to really get to know my guests and get comfortable with who I am taking down the river. The Chama is by far the most scenic section as the river meanders through the gorgeous multicolored sandstone cliffs and rich riparian river corridor. In addition to the scenery, the Chama also has some playful class II-III rapids that add a much need splash as well as mellow opportunities to try things like a rodeo in the boat or riding the bull. However, it would feel incomplete if I did not mention my love for the deep cultural history that I get to share when running the Rio Grande.
Favorite river-related story: We had a large church group from Texas rafting on the racecourse so I was hopeful for a crew of strong boys to take down the Class III+ rapids ahead, but I became weary when 6 teenage girls approached my boat all who had never been rafting and initially were confused about how to properly hold the paddle. Expectations were flipped upside down after we got on the water. I soon learned that not only were the girls better listeners in the boat, but also my crew was a group of dancers and cheerleaders who soon turned our boat into the Kokopelli Cheer Squad. All of our crew members had excellent rhythm and timing as a result. That crew was one of the best group of paddlers I have had all season because each stroke was perfectly synchronized with all the rest!
Certifications: Kokopelli Rafting 8-day Guide School 2019, First Aid & CPR
What are your other hobbies, interests, or passions and why are they important to you? Throughout school, I have always been happy when performing in various theater productions. Throughout high school, I did a lot of improv and comedic scenes and I have continued to work more on comedy now in college. Another passion of mine I like to mention is my love for Red and Green Chile. New Mexican Chile is something I have grown up eating on a daily basis and I love every step of the process from growing, drying, roasting, preparing and finally landing in my burrito and onto my tongue.