William (Bill) McGinnis Bio


William McGinnis is a whitewater rafting pioneer and an award-winning, best-selling author.

A California native, William McGinnis grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. From his youth on through college and graduate school, McGinnis seized every opportunity to sail San Francisco Bay and raft and canoe rivers throughout California and beyond.

At Richmond’s Harry Ells High School, he presided over the chess club, served on the senior board, competed in impromptu and extemporaneous tournament public speaking with David Dansky’s Forensics Club, and wrote poetic, satiric and philosophic tidbits.

Making lemonade out of lemons: When he graduated with a BA and an MA in English literature from San Francisco State University, McGinnis applied to every junior college west of the Mississippi only to discover there were no teaching jobs to be found. This turned out to be one of the best things that’s ever happened to him.

Instead of teaching, Bill wrote Whitewater Rafting, which was published in 1975 in hardcover and softcover by Quadrangle: The New York Times Book Company. The first thorough guide to the art of river rafting, Whitewater Rafting was considered the bible of the sport for decades and was reprinted many times.

Also in 1975, with two rafts, a $500 gift from his grandmother and no vehicle, McGinnis founded Whitewater Voyages. Over the next ten years or so, McGinnis’ company grew to have a staff of over 200 river guides, a fleet of over 200 inflatable boats, and 32 trucks and buses operating on up to 19 rivers. Through the years, not only did McGinnis and his crew guide more people down more California rivers than any other outfitter, they also pioneered guided rafting trips on a number of rivers and set a new standard of caring professionalism—a whole new way of guiding trips in a fun, nurturing, inclusive, life-affirming way that inspired an entire outfitting industry.

In 1981, McGinnis published the original Guides Guide and then in 2006 the greatly expanded Guides Guide Augmented. To this day, this comprehensive work serves as a bible for professional river guides all over the world. In recognition of his many contributions to the sport of rafting, in 2000, Bill was named one of the “Top 100 Paddlers of the Century” by Paddler Magazine, a leading national paddle-sport publication.

While he has a slew of first descents and pioneering raft runs in California and throughout the world to his credit, McGinnis says it is his influence on guiding that he is most proud of. The essence of good guiding, he says, is “…appreciating, nurturing people. Helping them move from fear to confidence to joy, from being a stranger in a group to bonding, from feeling cut-off from nature to feeling in love with and at one with this planet, and from being somewhat scattered inside and maybe self-critical to feeling more self-accepting, more energized, more alive, more whole.”

It’s been said that we gain experience—and eventually wisdom—by making mistakes. This certainly applies to McGinnis. At least the making mistakes part! One such near-death misadventure is described in his short but terrifying ebook, “Disaster on the Clearwater: Rafting Beyond the Limits.”

In 2012, McGinnis published his first thriller novel, Whitewater: A Thriller. The next year, in 2013, after outfitting for 38 years, he sold his company in order to focus on writing the award-winning Adam Weldon Thriller Series, which now includes: Gold Bay, Cyclops Conspiracy, and Slay the Dragon. Both fun and thought-provoking, these fast-paced thrillers keep the reader hooked from beginning to end. According to the The Epoch Times, McGinnis has  “an intriguing writing style” that uses “fiction to provide facts” and “storylines that are contemporaneous with current world events.”

McGinnis also wrote Sailing the Greek Islands: Dancing with Cyclops, and he is one of the authors of Writers Success Secrets which hit #4 on the Wall Street Journal Best Seller List, #1 in Barnes and Noble, and #1 in all of its Amazon categories.