I sat down recently with my old friend and fellow original DBP Admin Dale Guarniere to get the scoop on the first home of Dirt Bag Paddlers, next weekend’s Pesh Fest, and the meaning of #danewho and chasing your dreams…
DBP: First off, we are stoked for the first annual Peshtigo River Festival that you started at Kosir’s Rapid Rafts in Silver Cliff, WI, which will be happening next weekend. Tell us a bit about what you have in store for the weekend. 

DG: For Pesh Fest we will have a TON of paddler friendly perks all day and all night! There will be plenty of beer, live music and DJs, good food, paddling related raffles, and most importantly the Peshtigo River. If you’re a serious paddler and looking for a great race or an intermediate paddler getting into the sport more, we will have something for you. Anyone who doesn’t kayak can raft and camp and enjoy what we are all in love with, the river.
DBP: What makes the Peshtigo so special? 
DG: When asked what makes your home run special, everyone always has that biased answer, but let me tell you why the Peshtigo is the best-to-go. First off it’s the longest continuous stretch of whitewater in the Midwest! I HATE flat water! There are seven class III rapids that all have their own little flair, great for play if you don’t mind a shallow river. The big daddy Horse Race will always get your heart pumping for 100 yards. And then there’s the fact that it’s a free flowing stream in the heart of the Northwoods. There’s nothing quite like paddling through our forest lands knowing that there are no towns, factories, or farms upstream. Sure, there’s no dams so we are rain dependent, but when it goes huge there are no flow restrictions or impurities to worry about, just good clean fun! The Peshtigo is one of the pioneer runs of the sport, since back in the fiberglass days dirtbags have made the pilgrimage to play. There are also five other quality rivers within an hour’s drive, and a bunch of waterfalls to drop! It’s really a special place. 

DBP: You are the River Manager at Kosir’s, the oldest commercial whitewater outfitter in Wisconsin. Your great uncle first sent boats down the river in 1975. Tell us a bit about the local history of rafting and how it all ties into that special bar located conveniently at the takeout, Rapids Resort. 
DG: When my family was first approached by a local kayaker to start a commercial run it was somewhat laughable for them. They had been in the bar game for only a short time, and a risk like that seemed unnecessary. But every weekend kayakers continued to paddle the Peshtigo, taking out here by the bridge because our bar, Rapids Resort, was literally steps away from the river bank, and this part of Wisconsin is very remote, even more so in the 70’s. (In fact, in the early days boaters would call the bar to get the reading on the gauge painted on the bridge.) Wade (that persistent kayaker) was consistent in bugging Grandpa and Uncle Dan Kosir, saying you have the perfect take out for the greatest run, you HAVE to do this. In 1975 Wade finally convinced them, and after buying surplus rafts from Ohiopyle, Kosir’s Rapid Rafts was born. Wade didn’t know that he was about to become one of the first river managers in America! Along with my dad Tony, he pioneered ideas such as cutting half the floor out of bucket boats and replacing it with mesh, or in later years designing the Mini Me and Funyak with Dick DeChaunt, owner of Hyside Whitewater Inflatables. Most importantly, they invented the way we guide our trips, and to this day we go beyond basic safety expectations and requirements, just to show how on the forefront of safety, kayaking, and whitewater rafting Wade really was.
Wade paved the way for guys like me, making our jobs super easy. Being the River Manager here was something I was born for (literally) and now that you’re gone I can claim the spot. {EDITOR’S NOTE: The Author was River Manager from 2008-2015.}

DBP: What’s it like growing up the son of a raft company owner? How old were you when you first went rafting? When did the coolness of the situation finally kick in? 
DG: Growing up the son of a raft company owner is one of the luckiest thing you could be born into. I went rafting with my dad for my first time at age ten, and started understanding things around 14. I was 16 or 17 when customers started to putting stock in me, and not until I was 23 and first started kayaking can I say I started to honestly understand water. I could always see my line and execute; even at 17 I could steer a 16 footer like it was a ten footer, but my brain was not truly comprehending why I knew it was right, it took me much longer to figure out why. I compare it to not actually knowing how to spell a hard word but knowing it’s on the test and memorizing the order of the letters rather than honestly knowing how to spell it.

DBP: You were born and raised on the banks of the Peshtigo, and now live in a cabin with no running water, a wood burning stove, and a three minute walk from the takeout. Tell us what it’s like having a special relationship with your home river. How many laps do you think you’ve run in your life? 
DG: I’m sure there is much more out there as far as living situations but nothing can compare to getting dressed and going, that’s it, no logistics. I often stay in town a half hour from the river and it makes me almost anxious. This is my happy place. As far as putting a number on it I couldn’t even guess, all I know is that I’ll pass my dad one day, no matter what he thinks! Hahah!
DBP: Kosir’s, original home of the Dirt Bag Paddlers, also hosts Frank Fest on Piers Gorge of the Menominee River every summer. This will be the 3rd year. The festival was started to honor our good friend Frank Sade, who guided for you. Please share a memory of working with Frank up on the Menom. 
DG: One of the biggest things Kosir’s does is Frank Fest. After my accident we had a great river guide come to work for us. Frank was strong and athletic, and he really stepped up for me and my family, running so many trips and lifting so many rafts for me when I couldn’t. Frank was unfortunately taken too  early from us, but he has left us with two great things. The credit for popularity of DBP in my opinion goes all to Frank; after he passed, fans came in by the hundreds. I still think he is up there telling people to press LIKE right now. He also left us with Frank Fest, a weekend in late summer to celebrate his home stretch, Piers Gorge. We feast, we boat, we sing, we dance, and most of us at the end of it all shed one more tear for our guy Frank Sade. Nigh nigh princess…
DBP: You mentioned your accident In 2012 you broke your back after flipping your car, only days before we were to set out on a multi day paddling mission. You were stuck in the hospital for months and couldn’t paddle for a year. What was it like to come back from that devastating injury? What was it like to finally get back out there? How did it feel to get your first Wallace afterwards, survive it, and know that everything would be ok? 
DG: In September of 2012 I made a poor decision and damn near lost paddling all together, breaking two ribs, ruptured my spleen, bruising my kidneys, breaking my face, and dusting three vertebrae. The hospital time was long and the recovery time was longer.  Many good things came from this (it sounds odd to say but hear me out). Folks crawled out of the woodwork for me, paddling friends, high school friends, family friends, and especially my family. Every single person there went through a very hard time watching me like that, which I regret that the most. But I wouldn’t be the person I am today without  that incident or all those people in my life. Struggle only makes you stronger. It helps me on top of every waterfall or in every surf wave, the moments of struggle ring in my brain and make the task at hand seem so much easier.
When the comeback finally came it came strong! I got back in the saddle again on the Menominee and never looked back! It took me a little longer to get on anything other than my home runs, but I eventually made my way up to L’anse, MI and experienced a major Wallace. We rafted the Falls River and Jason Flannery and I wallaced four of the 80 ledges. It was freezing! Honestly I lost my cool a little bit (no pun intended) and walked out, and Aaron Erdrich took the blunt of it. It was our first time boating with Aaron, and I didn’t understand what it was like to have someone push you to be successful. I took it the wrong way and instead of realizing he was trying to make me a better boater, I thought he was being reckless. I came at him with the words, “I will never paddle with you again.” To make a long story short, Aaron and I have paddled 20+ Class IV-V rivers since then and I have developed a new best friend. But to answer your question of when did I know every thing would be ok? When I walked away from Aaron and Flan up that hill and got to Burger King and warmed up. Hahahaha!

DBP: Although you had done some kayaking before the wreck, you’ve put your all into it in the last year and a half, running some classic whitewater out East, down South, and of course all over the Northwoods. Tell us what you’ve been up to that led to you making the 2015 All Wallace Team. 
DG: The only kayaking I had done before the wreck left me discouraged. But the struggle made me a stronger person and more ready to kayak big waterfalls. Like I said before, I can’t give enough credit to Aaron, pushing me to chase him (and Dane), paddling big runs like Brush Creek and the West Fork of the French Broad, and home runs like the Presque Isle and the Black River.  Aaron was always there. The kayaking speaks for itself. People love a good story and boy I have one to tell, and it keeps growing. The All Wallace Team was a huge surprise! I’m expecting paddling accolades to come in the future of course (you can’t be the best without honestly thinking you are the best) but this one came early.

DBP: Ok, everyone has been waiting for this… What’s the deal with #danewho? And what, or who (Hahahah!) is a #danewhooligan? 
DG: Hahahahaha! #danewho is simple really! It’s for all of us, we are all Dirt Bag Paddlers, we are all Demshitz, and we are all #danewhooligans, fans of Dane Jackson. When my friends started calling me “Dane who?” it was all for motivation. I would feel uneasy in a play boat on big water, and all Aaron would have to do is say Dane who? and I would have to go do it. Being a confident boater is so huge, and whatever you have to do to dig that confidence out of you is what you should go with. For me it’s music and Dane. “Look out Dane, I’m comin’ for ya!” That’s something I said to Dane at Gauley Fest and I hope he remembers.
DBP: Tell us how you and Aaron came to join Team Watershed. Those Drybags you two scored are the best on the market! 

DG: Aaron and I were on an adventure of a lifetime. We’d just paddled ten great runs in the southeast, on a mission to validate it all. We went to Southern Raft Supply and got hooked up with Justin. He went beyond taking care of us and brought our talents to Team Watershed! We are still beyond stoked! 
DBP: Now that the season is underway at Kosir’s we all know what you’ll be up to, but what are the next goals for Dale #danewho Guarniere? 
DG: The season is underway at Kosir’s so it’s river manager time for me, but kayaking doesn’t take a break. I have many major goals. As for the next step, things like the Green River and the Big G still hide from my river log. “I’m comin’ for ya!”

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