Vets Find Community on the Water

If you’re a veteran of any era looking to get on the water this summer, check out Team River Runners Spokane (TRR). Team River Runners helps elevate the physical and mental health of veterans through adaptive watersports, offering indoor pool training, flatwater paddling, and guided whitewater rafting. There’s no paddle or water training necessary to join TRR; “paddling boot camp,” as they call it, will teach new paddlers everything from proper wear of a PFD to the proper wet exit of a kayak. Thanks to donations, TRR Spokane provides all the pool fees, watercraft, and associated gear to veterans, their families, and caretakers.

This summer, TRR Spokane will take scenic outings on local lakes and waterways like the Little Spokane River. They also offer multi-day river camping trips, paddling conferences, and training programs throughout the year. In winter, TRR Spokane prepares for outdoor paddling at the Eastern Washington University’s indoor pool on Wednesday nights, where they practice basic to advanced paddle techniques and self-rescue and buddy-assisted rescue moves. TRR has multiple community partnerships; their connection with the Spokane Canoe and Kayak Club has led to a planned paddle this summer of a 22-foot Voyager Canoe on Horseshoe Lake/Exley Falls.

“I have learned a tremendous amount about paddling and paddling safety,” says veteran and TRR Spokane member Travis Arnold. “However, more importantly, I have learned how our local chapter walks the walk when it comes to the TRR mission to ‘provide all veterans an opportunity to find health, healing, community purpose, and new challenges.’”

Using adaptations such as swivel seats at the edge of a pool, disabled paddlers are able to engage in things like the regional kayak football tournament that was held on April 29, 2023. Kayak football, which follows the rules of football but includes the techniques of water polo and hockey, fosters a competitive spirit and strengthens camaraderie. Thanks to two students from EWU’s mechanical engineering department, TRR also has a kayak retrofitted with a custom swivel seat to provide a seamless transfer for disabled paddlers both in the pool and outdoors.

“My advice to all the veterans reading this and deciding whether to check out TRR [is to] come join us, because we have a blast and you are worth it,” says Arnold. Learn more at, or contact chapter coordinator Stan Mrzygod at Transportation and river shuttle services are available through Inland Northwest Disable Veterans Sports Association, who will be hosting a spaghetti feed on May 6 from 4-7 p.m., open to all to carbo-load for Bloomsday at the VFW Post 1435 in Spokane Valley.

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