We are river family – meet Chris “Mongo” Reeder

A love of the ocean and living nowhere near to it led Chris “Mongo” Reeder to discover his life passion for rafting. Not content with just rafting, he’s leading an Adventure Racing project to get kids into the competitive world of adventure racing.
Chris grew up near the ocean in Maine and later moved to Colorado to follow a love of skiing. Colorado is about as far away from the ocean as you can get so in the summer he was naturally drawn to the next best thing, the river! He’d rafted in Maine growing up so it was a natural fit and has been working on the river in Colorado ever since.

What motivates you to keep rafting?

There are lots of ways to stay fit in the mountains and I do my fair share of all of them but for me nothing holds the same purity and passion that paddling does. I am always looking for excuses to get in an outrigger, a kayak, a raft, SUP, it doesn’t really matter what the craft or the difficulty, the need is always there. Paddling on the U.S. team gives me the opportunity to do it with a bunch of friends that have the same ridiculous at times (like when we are paddling flat water in the snow) passion to be out there and also gives us the chance to travel to some of the best places in the world. Over the years we have developed a lot of great relationships with many of the other teams and it also gives us the opportunity to catch up with old friends. Back at home it is about the best thing that you can do with your family and friends. Where else can you get away from everyone, bring everything including the kitchen sink, drink too much, make an ass of yourself and have no regrets?

Most memorable moment on the river?

I think that it was probably the moment that got me into raft racing. My wife Lisa was racing for the U.S. team before I was and in 2001 I tagged along with her to the Zambezi river where I kayaked along for three weeks. That was my first experience with international raft racing and as soon as I got home I took a job with a team called “behind the 8 ball” and we started training for the U.S. nationals. We were able to squeak out a win and that qualified us to represent our country in the Czech Republic. We defended our title for twelve years and got to race all over the world.

Ironic/humorous river story to share?

One time we were in Ecuador for a race and on our first day floating the down river stretch on the Quijos we came to this incredible waterfall located in this really cool slot canyon. We stopped for a little photo session and a couple of the guys got right in it claiming aloud “it’s so beautiful!” When describing this nirvana to our shuttle driver on the way back he informed us that it was in fact the sewer for El Chaco. Todd Toledo endured a week of living hell with whatever version of Montezumas revenge they have in Ecuador. He still managed to help us paddle to a third place overall with the bottom of his paddling pants taped shut to control the leakage. Total stud.

Worst moment on the river?

Many have been through it, but having a guest die on your boat definitely sticks with you.

What do you do outside of rafting?

In the winter I am the Assistant Ski Patrol Director for a ski area in Colorado named Vail. Ski Patrollers are very similar to Raft Guides and being around a different crew of outdoor professionals in the winter is refreshing and something I look forward to with the change of seasons each year. However, without a doubt having two teenage daughters that still want to go on new adventures with their dad every chance they get is the highlight of my life.

Are you currently involved in any big projects outside of rafting?

Five years ago I embarked on a new project with one of my partners in the raft company called the Kids Adventure Games ( It is designed to engage kids in the competitive world of adventure racing and we travel around the U.S. in the summer setting up three mile courses for teams of two with fifteen obstacles spread throughout the course. Obstacles include zip lines, tyrollean traverses, cargo nets, mud pits, blow gun hunts, a 75 meter slip n slide down the side of a mountain and whatever else we can brainstorm. Ages range from 6-14, competitors are timed and awarded for first through third place in each category. We have 9 stops on the tour and most stops sell out months in advance. Parents have described it as “life changing” and something that should be mandatory in this age of device dependency and detachment from the world around them. Most of us have had some similar impactful event that lead us to live a life on the river where we can have that connection every day. We are trying to facilitate a similar experience that will leave them wanting more, something that they accomplish through the reliance on a partner or friend. Last year the event we put on in Vail had over 1000 kids participate and the other stops on the tour are catching up fast.

Words of wisdom to those new to rafting?

Pay attention to the people you meet and make excuses to go see them in Africa, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador or wherever it takes you. Rafting happens in some of the most beautiful places on earth and the group of people that share the love are the same everywhere. They are a great way to get mainlined into the best experience possible, make the effort.

What do you think is the key strength of the IRF?

I think it is a concentration of people from around the world that are the most passionate about the resource that the host nation is providing all coming together to shed some light on the potential that a country has in that resource. It brings host communities together to provide services on a scale that many of these small communities have never had to work together to accomplish. From every member of the community with a cab or van, a grandma that can cook, a school with students to come and cheer or inviting teams of strangers into their homes to live for a week. It is amazing to see and when visiting places for pre-worlds and then the World Championships a year later it is always fun to see the growth and pride that a community has in doing the best they can. It always seems to bring out the best in the hosting communities and sometimes I am simply blown away by the efforts they will go to for a bunch of rafters.

When will we see you next?
Bring the world championships back to the Zambezi or the Futa and I will have no choice but to check out of my retirement home and dust off the old race paddle. If that doesn’t happen though I will probably be back anyway. I clearly have a problem and all my family and friends seem to do is encourage me. I guess there must be worse problems to have.
Side effects may include: world travel, friends all over the planet, joy, uncontrollable shivering, that smile that you can’t wipe off of your face, poverty, dancing, heavy drinking, laughter, failure, spontaneous nudity and long periods of waiting in the middle of nowhere.

Mongo 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.