Bob Sehlinger has been involved in the riverine outfitting industry for several decades, so the Inverness resident was quite surprised when he recently found out he was inducted into the Appalachian Whitewater Hall of Fame. South.
Sehlinger, now 76, was one of 62 people inducted into the inaugural Hall of Fame class in Asheville, North Carolina, in November.
“It was awesome,” he said. “It’s really weird to be honored for something you’ve done in a past life. It totally came out of nowhere.
The Southern Appalachian Whitewater Hall of Fame honors individuals who have been innovators, leaders and pioneers in paddle sports in this region.
Sehlinger made a name for himself in the 1970s when he formed SAGE, a wilderness arts and expedition company that offered high school kayaking, climbing, survival and hiking lessons. and universities in a region of seven states, as well as courses for the general public.
Thousands of people took these courses from 1974 to 1983. During this time, he lived in Kentucky and started a rafting company called Cumberland Outdoor Adventures which organized trips on the Kentucky and Tennessee rivers. He later partnered with Eastern River Expeditions in Maine. He was also the third president of the Eastern Professional River Outfitters Association.
Sehlinger was also recruited to write guides on canoeing and kayaking in Kentucky, Georgia and Tennessee by Thomas Press in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Thomas Press hired him to sign other authors for new types of books for five to six years, but he moved to the Birmingham (Inverness) area in 1983 and formed his own business called Menasha Ridge Press, which specializes in in books on the outdoors and travel.
His business is now known as AdventureKeen and includes Menasha Ridge Press, Wilderness Press, The Unofficial Guides, Clerisy Press, and Adventure Publications. One of his bestsellers is The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, which has sold 4 million copies since 1985 and is updated annually, he said.
Sehlinger said he had always loved the outdoors, from his childhood, when he found salamanders under the rocks, until he was a scout and served in the United States military.
When he worked in the river outfitting business, he frequented the rivers three to four days a week.
He said he didn’t really have a favorite river, but was very familiar with Elkhorn Creek in Frankfort, Ky., The Hiwassee River in Southern Kentucky, and the Nantahala River in West Carolina. from the North, he said. “I know them like the back of my hand. “
After moving to Alabama, he spent less time on the rivers, but continued to canoe and kayak every year and regularly raft with friends, he said. But over the past two years, his time on the river has been scarce, he said.
“I can still paddle very well, but I’m having a hard time getting on and off the boat,” he said.
Sehlinger has also focused more on the publishing industry in recent decades. He himself is the author of 27 books and is a past president of the Southern Publishers Association and has participated at the invitation of the United States Department of State and the United States Information Service on educational missions for publishers in Hungary, Romania and Russia.
He loves the publishing industry, he says. “It’s a fun and creative field. “
He likes to brainstorm and come up with concepts to serve people who need specific types of information, whether in business, the outdoors or sports, he said. In total, his companies have nearly 1,000 titles in print, he said. They are distributed throughout North America and other English-speaking countries, with translations into foreign languages in some countries that speak other languages, he said.
He was honored to be selected for the Southern Appalachian Whitewater Hall of Fame, he said.
Other Hall of Fame inductees included Olympic paddlers, instructors, guide writers, river outfitter leaders, canoe and paddle club leaders, watershed protectors and innovators in design and the manufacture of boats and paddling equipment.
The inaugural class included two well-known politicians: President Jimmy Carter, who, as governor of Georgia, defended the 57-mile designation of the Chattooga River as part of the National Wild and Scenic River System, protecting it from development. ; and former United States Senator and Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander, who, as Governor of Tennessee, championed the protection of the Ocoee River and extended state protection of rivers and, as United States Senator, was the driving force behind the Great American Outdoors Act of 2020, which provided billions of dollars to conserve and maintain public lands and water.
Sehlinger said the recent induction ceremony allowed him to reconnect with old, very close friends he had not seen for 15 to 20 years and he was grateful for the opportunity.