We are river family – meet Steve Nomchong

No stranger to racing, guiding or safety training, this week we meet Steve Nomchong. Steve grew up in southern reaches of Australia, experienced rafting at a relatively young age and got hooked.
Steve was too young to vote in 1983 when a proposed dam that would have flooded the Franklin River in Tasmania became a major issue in that year’s federal election. It took a few years but he got the chance to raft the Franklin in early 1986 and see what all the fuss had been about. That trip changed the course of his life.
What motivates you to keep paddling/rafting?
It used to be about exploring the world, testing my physical and problem-solving skills, and introducing new people to the beauty of wild places. Now it’s more about spending time with old friends.
Best moment on a river?
There are so many! One I’ll never forget is how intimidated I felt when I first went to work on the Zambezi. I knew how to bounce a raft down the rocky creeks we call rivers in Australia but this was an order of magnitude more water than I’d ever rafted.
Most ironic life lesson?
I once did an overnight kayak trip with a couple of friends and as a huge thunderstorm hit camp we realised that we were the ones that always relied on others to bring the tents pegs for the tarp and the tin opener!
Worst moment on a river?
The very first time I was Trip Leader a raft flipped just before camp and a guest in his sixties ended up with extreme back pain and a racing pulse. Having received wilderness first aid training we were fairly confidently able to clear his spine. However the symptoms persisted so one of the guides and the guest’s son ran out of the canyon to arrange a helicopter evacuation. It was a long night of regularly monitoring the guest, now patient, until the heli arrived at first light. The rest of the day on the river was a bit sombre but when the guest turned up for the celebratory dinner in the evening it was smiles (and relief) all around.
What do you do outside of rafting – how do you maintain a life balance?
N/a – retired is the term that best describes my rafting these days.
How has rafting impacted those around you and are there any crossovers to life off the river?
When scouting a hard rapid you plan your run by starting with where you want to end up at the bottom and work your way backwards to the top. You also have to work out what your options are if things don’t go to plan at critical points. I’ve found the same approach is applicable to many challenges in life and business.
Looking back on your experiences on the IRF BOD or developing the GT&E – would you change anything or how would you improve where we’ve got to so far?
The bulk of work often falls on a few enthusiastic volunteers and despite their best intentions their time is limited, enthusiasm wanes and priorities change. Finding a way to properly fund executive positions is what has and continues to be an unresolved challenge and slows the IRF realising its full potential.
Any words of wisdom to those new to rafting?
Keep the flat side down!
What do you think is the key strength of the IRF?
Thousands of people from a very diverse range of backgrounds united by their love of rivers.
When will we see you next?
As I write this, I’m on my way to Ecuador to paddle with some friends from Australia, including on the Quijos where we ran the 2005 WRC. Then I’ll be going to Argentina to help out the local Race Director at the R4 WRC. I’d say there’s a fair chance you’ll see me on the river bank at next year’s R6 WRC on the Tully river in Australia too!

Steve is one of our River Family. Are You?
#AreYouReady #RaftersAreAwesome #RiverFamily #StrongerTogether #WeAreIRF

We’re looking for more stories of River Family – if you have a story to tell, email Sean with your story and photos.