Before he graduated with a business administration degree and spent four years hitchhiking around the world, Paul Fogal ’69 spent his childhood answering phones and booking reservations at two Ocean Grove, New Jersey, hotels his parents owned.
So, when Fogal landed a job as a river guide at the Youghiogheny River in Western Pennsylvania in the mid-1970s, it didn’t take long for his boss to put him to work three days a week booking reservations. That’s when Fogal realized he’d found his niche.
“I was kind of figuring out what I wanted to do with my life,” says Fogal. “It slowly started to dawn on me that I could do this—and I could do it better than him.”
After two seasons at Youghiogheny River, Fogal and his brother, Doug, opened their own business. That was 1976. Today their company, Pocono Whitewater, located in the Lehigh Valley, has taken over 1 million people down the Lehigh River.
For Fogal, a lifelong water sports enthusiast who has paddled on all seven continents, it’s the perfect job. “People come here to have a nice time, and [I] get to go and have a nice time with them,” says Fogal, who despite owning the business still works as a guide on occasion. We asked him what people need to know before heading down the rapids.
Be In Shape
You’ll need to help paddle the raft, and you’ll need to be able to get back in it if you fall out, says Fogal. If you do go overboard, be sure not to panic. It can create a dangerous situation both for the guides and other rafters.
Plan On Being Tired
The trips can be intense and exhausting, so if you’re traveling a great distance to go rafting, consider getting a hotel room for the night and head home the next day, says Fogal.
Leave the flip flops at home; rafters must wear closed-toe shoes, says Fogal. In summertime, it’s good to have a hat and sunglasses, and apply plenty of sunscreen. In colder weather, some businesses will supply wet suits. Call ahead to confirm. And be sure to have dry clothes and towels in the car for a reward, he says.
Ditch the Valuables
“When the water gets low here in the summertime we’ll go snorkeling in the pools below the rapids and we always find cell phones,” says Fogal. Leave your cell, wallet, and any other valuables in a locked car or secured locker. Leave the jewelry at home. And if you just have to get a whitewater selfie, buy a waterproof case for your phone in advance, says Fogal.