Melissa Vaughn
Kayak Instructor & Rafting Guide

Melissa started kayaking on the James River In 2010 but didn’t find her passion for whitewater until she worked at Pucon Kayak Hostel in 2013 and saw the Whitewater Grand Prix, a class V kayaking competition. After watching the bad ass women compete – this inspired her to whole-heartedly pursue the sport. Since then, Melissa has kayaked all over the South East, the Payette’s in Idaho, White Salmon in Washington, as well as international kayaking in Colombia and Chile. When she’s not kayaking she likes to provide a safe experience for others on the river in a raft. Melissa has guided on the New River and Gauley River in West Virginia, the Payette in Idaho and she is excited to be on the James River this summer.

Patrick Griffin
Founder, Instructor

Patrick learned to guide rafts with Richmond Raft Company in Spring 2003. Skills learned through four seasons of guiding in Richmond and kayaking with friends ultimately led him to explore rivers around the world. Over the past decade he paddled and guided in Alaska, Norway, Costa Rica, Mexico, Nepal, Uganda, India and Chile.  From his experience working for various River Outfitters on six continents, Patrick brings to RVA Paddlesports a unique blend of safety, instruction, & style from some of the best rivers and guides around. In addition to river experience, Patrick has over 60 field days working for various Wilderness Therapy Programs in the US.  Patrick’s favorite type of paddling is expedition style trips.  “I love being able to absorb myself in the rhythm of the river and mountains for days on end.  The trip becomes less about each rapid and more about working with your team to safely navigate the river.  Paddling has led me to the most incredible and hidden places on the planet.  I hope to share those places with people in the future.”

Certifications: ACA Level 4 Kayak Instructor, Rescue 3 Whitewater Rescue Technician, WMI WFR, Virginia Teaching License, Nehru Institute of Mountaineering – BMC 28 day

Matt Hughes
Senior Raft Guide

Matt Hughes began kayaking in 2002, the summer he graduated high school.  He became a founding member of the whitewater kayaking team at Virginia Commonwealth University the following year, and has been involved in whitewater ever since.  Matt managed a raft company in Norway for 6 years, and has worked on the Arkansas River in Colorado as well.  Currently he runs a computer and cell phone repair company in downtown Richmond.  Off the river Matt enjoys traveling the world and spending time with his girlfriend and their 3 dogs.  Matt can’t wait to show you some urban whitewater on the James River here in Richmond!

Certifications:  Wilderness First Responder, Whitewater Rescue Technician
Adam Tremper

Adam has been paddling since Fall 2009 and has never looked back. Living in Richmond has given Adam access to whitewater 24/7/365, which has allowed him to develop his paddling ability quicker than he could have anywhere else. Outside of Richmond, Adam worked guiding raft and kayak trips in Buena Vista Colorado with Kodi Rafting and Bend, Oregon with the American Canoe Association. Adam’s favorite discipline of paddling is playboating. When asked why Adam loves to paddle he said “I love paddling because it is a deep, complex, and challenging sport that is fun at any level. The camaraderie, the places I have been able to go, and the inner peace the water gives me keeps be coming back for more every single day. Paddling makes me a very happy person and I love sharing it with others.

Certifications: ACA Level 4 Kayak Instructor, Rescue 3 Swiftwater Rescue Technician, SOLO WFR, CPR, Certified Nurse

Jack Martin
Raft Guide

Jack first paddled the James in an 80 pound metal canoe in the late 1970s.  Since then, a life of adventure has taken him kayaking in the Alaskan Arctic, mountaineering in the Pyrenees and Swiss Alps, backcountry skiing across California’s Sierra Nevada range, and winter camping in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Through it all, he’s maintained a home, family and law practice in Richmond, paddling the James at every opportunity. Today, Jack swears that the outdoor adventure available within the city limits of RVA equals that of all the far flung places he’s been — and he can’t wait to share it with YOU.

Thomas Franco
Kayak Instructor, Rafting Guide

Thomas Franco has been teaching kayaking for at least five years.  He started off teaching younger kids how to kayak at Passages Adventure Camp during the summer.  When he’s not kayaking, he is studying at Virginia Commonwealth University. Thomas enjoys the many races he has kayaked and his experience traveling with friends to paddle.  His favorite river to race and paddle is Green river in North Carolina.  Another race that he thought was super fun and actually placed well in was the race on the Eagle section of the Beaver River.  He placed 16th and actually scored points towards the King of New York race series.  His accomplishments traveling with his kayaks are noted throughout the East and West coast of the U.S and internationally in Mexico. He listens to great music, is easy going, a great member of the RVA Paddlesports team, and will show you a great time on the river.


Katie Lemmert

Katie was introduced to the world of whitewater kayaking in 2008. Living in Richmond, Virginia it was easy to pick up the sport and she was immediately hooked. She works full time as a graphic designer and can kayak everyday after work if she wants. Her desire to be outside on the river and to spend time with good people fueled her progression as a paddler.  Kayaking has given Katie the opportunity to see different parts of the world. She has traveled to Norway, Costa Rica and parts of the South Eastern United States to kayak. Katie is excited to share the river with you and to see where whitewater kayaking will take her in the future.

Certifications: ACA Level 4 Kayak Instructor, CRP & First Aid

Sejal Kinker

Sejal Kinker has paddled many rivers in Mexico, Costa Rica and Thailand but loves her home river – the James.  She hopes to travel to India one day and paddle in her home country.  The past few years, she has spent some of her focus on encouraging women to grow in the sport. Her hope is to inspire paddlers as her mentors did her, to paddle with finesse and efficiency vs. strength. When asked what she loves about paddling: “It allows me to live in the moment and to be present on the river.”

When not on the river Sejal is a Certified Hand Therapist whose skills in the field translates well to paddling.  With her knowledge of shoulder rehabilitation she is able to focus on her students with a critical eye and encourage them to form habits to paddle safely and prevent injury.

Certifications: ACA Level 5 kayaking, CPR & First Aid, Occupational Therapist, Certified Hand Therapist, Wilderness First Aid

Matt Ellenberg

Matt started kayaking as a camper at Passages Adventure Camp in 2001. He quickly fell in love with being out on the water with friends and has been paddling ever since. Matt started teaching at Passages shortly after in 2003 and continues to do so today. He has taught elementary and middle school students at Passages, high school students as a coach of the Trinity School kayaking team, college students as the former president of the Virginia Tech Whitewater club, and everything from class I to V. When asked why he loves kayaking Matt said, “Kayaking has taken him to the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen and introduced me to lifelong friends…not to mention it’s ridiculously fun and I’m no good at football.”

Certifications: Critical Care and Nationally Registered Paramedic, CPR instructor, Advanced Cardiac Life Support and Pediatric Advanced Life Support.