Abelino Fernandez Leger
What's up! I started guiding on the Rio Grande with Kokopelli in 2019 and have been in love with the river ever since. I grew up here in Santa Fe, New Mexico and am a proud 14th generation New Mexican!
I have a deep passion for my history, New Mexico history. All the cultural changes, invasions, rebellions, conquests and political shifts that have shaped this land have flowed up and down the Rio Grande corridor, and now I get to ride down its rapids all summer long. There is nothing quite like the play, beauty and physical challenge that rafting offers. Whether it’s playing with the waves in the river, admiring the beauty of the rocks, or challenging yourself to have better paddle skills, river running is my favorite thing to do.
During the off season I am normally a student at Claremont Mckenna College in Southern California where I am studying environmental analysis and economics. In 2020 I also worked at Ski Santa Fe with ski patrol as a safety teamer.
What is your favorite river and why?
My Favorite section to run is the Taos Box on the Rio Grande. The Box is something special, there just is not anything quite like it. Although there may be other great class IV sections, or very pretty full day trips, nothing beats The Box. The Full Day trip allows you to completely forget all your other worries once you get on the water and really get to know the people you are paddling with all the while offering jaw-dropping beauty for 14 miles of wilderness. You get to pass underneath the Gorge Bridge, see some Bighorn Sheep, geological formations from eons ago and maybe even some river otters. If all that wasn’t enough the Rio Bravo section gets you involved in awesome Class IV rapids. The rapids are either a big water blast or incredibly low water technical challenges, but either way it includes big drops and lots of gradient. Best of all, the Box is on the Rio Grande which is the same water that has provided the lifeblood of civilization for my ancestors both Hispanic and Native American.
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. None of them were even holding the paddle correctly at first. Expectations were reversed soon after we got on the water. I learned that not only were the girls much better listeners than any boys boats I’ve had, but they were all cheerleaders who soon turned our boat into the Kokopelli Cheer Squad. All of my crew members had excellent rhythm and timing as a result. That crew was one of the best groups of paddlers I’ve had. Despite having less weight and muscle mass than the other boats nobody fell in and our boat stayed upright (which is more than I can say for the other boats during that high water year)! It was a great reminder to not read a book by its cover.
What are your other hobbies, interests, or passions and why are they important to you?
While at school I am involved in several theater clubs, but my favorite to perform is improv comedy. I see rafting and improvising both as great and direct ways to put smiles on people’s faces. There is no better feeling than hearing a whole crowd all laugh at something you didn’t know you were going to say 40 seconds prior. Another passion of mine is Red and Green Chile! While at home in New Mexico I eat red or green chile just about every day. I love going around Santa Fe and New Mexico to try all the subtle differences between restaurants and regions and comparing them to the ultimate gold standard: my mom’s home cooking.
What are your river-related certifications?
First Aid & CPR, Wilderness First Aid, American Canoe Association Rafting Instructor L4
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