Lifestyle Rafting Rivers Wallace

DIRTBAG BOOKCLUB ~ Reviewing Adam Piggott’s RUN GUTS PULL CONES. by Ian Bailey 

Adam Piggott is a man who’s been there, done that and now written the book on it. Twice. Last year saw the release of his first book Pushing Rubber Downhill, memoirs of over 15 years of experience commercial raft guiding and professional dirtbagging across the globe. From the Tully to the Nile, the Rockies to the Alps, Adam’s on and off river adventures make for a fast paced, exciting read. His new book Run Guts Pull Cones: a rafting adventure in the Italian Alps has just hit the market and picks up where the previous one left off.

After working as a raft guide all over the world and having endless adventures along the way, the season ends and the money starts to run out. Adam finds himself back in his hometown of Perth Australia, waiting on tables and biding his time. Predictably, the end of season blues kick in, along with the sad realisation that the world has gone on without him. People have grown up, moved on – settled and nobody at home is interested in his exploits. He struggles to find his identity when it becomes clear that the two worlds in which he moves in could not be further apart.

So you’ve travelled all over the world, you’ve had amazing adventures, blah blah blah. Dude, they haven’t changed. They’re still the same; the same old lives, same jobs, same old. And now you come in telling everyone how awesome you are and showing them what they haven’t done.

But it wasn’t meant that way. I didn’t imagine that coming home would be like this. I thought people would recognize what I’ve done and who I’ve become.

You’re nuts. Do you think that people should be stopping in the street and staring at the hero raft guide? If you need to go back to rafting, then go back to rafting. But do it for yourself, not for what other people think.

A meeting with an old friend helps him to see that his travelling days are not yet over and that for now at least, he belongs on the river. Adam books flights to Italy, to work for a rafting company in a quiet alpine valley, where the story unfolds…

Finally the day came when I boarded the plane to Italy. My rafting helmet sat strapped to the outside of my hand luggage and I felt like I had an identity again. I wasn’t that guy who worked in a restaurant. I was that guy who rafted down rivers.

What follows is a hilariously accurate portrayal of life as a raft guide working overseas. Broken boats, customers from hell, workplace politics and lashings of drunken debauchery. Not to mention, the inevitable Wallace:
Tobia’s raft was upside down.

I yelled at my crew to start back paddling, as I scanned the bank for a point where I could stop. We moved towards the bank and I saw a collection of rocks that seemed suitable. The thing that was bothering me was that there was no sign of Tobia. He should have been up on his raft and re-flipping it, but all that I could see was a collection of little red helmets that dotted the river. None of the customers were attempting to swim to safety. It was all wide-mouth shock and slow panic.

I caught sight of Nic’s boat as I ground to a stop on the rocks. I lept out and instructed the closest customer to hold the raft in place. His friends’ looks implied that he had better not fuck it up. I signalled for Nic to stop on the other side of the river as I got my first glimpse of Tobia. He was in the water and holding on to the raft with a couple of his crew. He seemed unable to do anything. I ran back upstream towards him, my rope in my hand.

“Get on top of your raft!” I yelled at him, my voice small and thin above the tumult of the river and the rain.

He shook his head and cried out something to me.

I wasn’t taking any of this shit. “Climb up on that raft, or find another fucking job!” I yelled.

He reached for the holes in the floor and slowly began to pull himself up. Nic was waiting downstream with his rope. The capsized raft was closer to him and as Tobia finally scrambled up in to a sitting position, he hit him in the chest with his rope.

At that point I flung my own rope and managed to snare two of the swimmers with one throw. I swung them to the bank and then I frantically tried to get them both to let go of the rope. I saw Tobia lying flat on his stomach and attempting to hold on to Nic’s rope, but the load was too great and he let go before it pulled him off the raft.

Nic blew hard on his whistle and when he had my attention he pointed back upstream. I turned to look and that’s when I saw another raft coming down the wrong way up.

The raft came over a large wave, its form moving slowly like a giant slug, and then it entered a massive hole and didn’t come out. More little red helmets appeared in clusters around the river and I saw Nonno’s black helmet in there with them. He hadn’t been able to keep hold of the raft when it hit the big hole.

Riccardo was racing around the river and he signalled that he had rescued four of the swimmers. I threw my rope to another one as I signalled for Nic to take off and chase Tobia downstream.

Below us the river narrowed and then made a hard turn to the right which culminated in a small headwall rapid. There were two protected eddies immediately after that rapid and then the river spread out into a wide and rocky run that went on for kilometres. I knew we had to clear everything up by that point, or we’d be in real trouble…”

Mr. Piggott steals a kiss from the lovely Mrs. P in Italy on his wedding day

For those that guide, the book feels somehow familiar. The events that unfold and the characters that Adam meet will all seem very relatable to those from your own guiding career. For those that don’t, the book is a fun insight into the world of the season-chasing raft guide.

As for the meaning of the phrase “Run Guts, Pull Cones?” I guess you’ll have to read it to find out…


Run Guts Pull Cones is available in both paperback and kindle formats here 


Ian Bailey guided (and WALLACED)on the Barron River in Australia a few years back, the same whitewater where a young Adam Piggott first cut his teeth many seasons ago…

EDITOR’S DESK: Ian Bailey, DBP Admin and longtime member of our esteemed staff here at DBP MAGAZINE ONLINE, hails from the UK and is also an experienced guide who has worked in the industry around the globe. Most recently he raft guided the Ottawa River in Canada, and has spent time pushing rubber in Iceland, Japan, Nepal, and Australia, along with a few canyon guiding in the Middle East. He’s off to Finland to work as a snowmobile guide again. “I’m going to have a crack at a book… but the actual writing bit is killing me!” Enjoy his fantastic writing in his adventure blog-

By Chicago Mike

Editor-in-Chief "Chicago" Mike Toughill is co-founder of Dirt Bag Paddlers and former Peshtigo River Manager at Kosir's Rapid Rafts in Wisconsin. He's been Wallacing since 2003.

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