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DBP: A Short History by “Chicago” Mike Toughill

The Dirt Bag Paddlers started with a bunch of us Kosir’s Rapid Raft river guides in northern Wisconsin in the summer of 2013. We had just had a crazy drunken batch of Chicago customers teach us how to Wallace… 
     The Wallace is roughly based on the legendary shot-blocking skills of former NBA player Ben Wallace. These nut ball Chicago professionals had been getting together for years, since back when the big man had played for the Bulls, shedding their glossy personas far away from the office to get hammered and slap each other’s drinks out of their hands around the campfire. Then when the weekend was done, sober up, drive home, and back to normal life. We loved the way the game was played, and got right into it. By Sunday night, when the custys all head home and all that’s left is raft guides and barbecue, everyone was soaked in beer and on guard. Being the crazy and drunken raft guides we  are, we immediately took The WALLACE to the river and applied it to our carnage terminology. 

     Around the same time, three of us went on a private trip out to Pennsylvania to paddle the Yough and party up Ohiopyle, one of the great river towns in America. We took to calling ourselves Dirtbags on this trip, Wallacing beers all over the town, not showering for days, and basically just living out of our tents and paddling, really celebrating the river lifestyle. Thus the Dirt Bag Paddlers were born.
     There are many forms of Wallace to the Dirtbag. On the river, Wallaces are separated into Upwards Wallace, where the boat is flipped and dumps the entire crew; the Downward Wallace, where the swimmer(s) take an especially nasty deep swim; and the Baby Wallace, where you might find that the dirtbag lost his or her seat, paddle, or maybe a custy or 
two…And  kayakers and C-1ers are Wallaced when they get worked in a hole, run over by a rubber pusher,  and of course anytime they swim. 

     Off the river, Dirtbags are well known by their frequent slapping of beers and other precious articles (such as paperwork) from each other’s hands. They take the same form as on the river, with the added caveat that one must properly declare the Wallace by yelling “Wallace” during the act. The Baby Wallace is a slight bump of the arm that results in slight spillage, kind of like a warning shot… “Hey Dirtbag, pay the f#€k attention!”
And never cry or get sore, watching your Wallaced drink soak into the earth! Scoop it up and pound it out!!! 
     In the very beginning you could only be a dirtbag by going on a  mission with one of us… But that didn’t last long. We started a Facebook page designed to make jokes and rep our style of living, figuring our audience would be our friends in Wisconsin that we paddled and worked with… Next thing you know, we got a hundred likes! Us Original DBs were like “you know these people?” “No…” We realized we were on to something.

     We went out to run the Upper Gauley in September for Gauley Fest, and our little network of friends made over years of paddling expanded overnight. We taught them the Wallace. Suddenly river rats from all over America were liking our posts. So we started thinking, let’s get Admins from all over America to share stuff about THEIR rivers and experiences. See, most river people don’t get to travel too far from their home stretches, because most of us are poor Dirtbags! We thought, what a great way to learn about other places, maybe make some friends and plan some new missions… BAM! It started to take off! 
     The more we shared, the more we realized that our jokes and fun was the same as people we had never met before, from rivers we had never heard of… from all over the WORLD! And we came to see very quickly that our experiences paddling were also universal to us all. We knew The River had no borders, no language barrier, just ONE LOVE! And  of course, Wallace! The Dirt Bag World was born!

     DBP looks all over the globe for Admins to share their stories. We’ve made friends from every region of The States and on every continent: Chile, Costa Rica, Brasil, Peru, Panama, Indonesia, Malaysia,  New Zealand, Australia, Bulgaria, Greece, the Philippines, Romania, Nepal, Iran, Kenya, Uganda, France, Turkey, Germany, England, Norway, Sweden, Ireland, Iceland, Canada… And we continue to grow. 

Dirt Bag Paddlers is all about sharing with the world our celebration of The River, and the paddling lifestyle, as well as bringing together all types of people and cultures with whitewater.  We are free out there, free from the imaginary boundaries that try to separate us from each other.  DBP is raft guides, kayakers, open boaters, shredders, squirt boaters, river boarders, SUPers; we are outfitters, racers, photographers, artists, writers, musicians… Just like our people who like and share with us. We’ll paddle all day with you, and smack your beer outta your hand afterwards cuz we love you. We’re  here to Wallace, enjoy life to the fullest, and take you along for the ride. One Love, One River! Cheers!

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