Thom is a career science teacher, spending his entire teaching career in one oppressively small, poorly appointed, 1950’s era, converted kindergarten classroom at Robert Gray Middle School. He does his best to teach eighth graders earth science in the face of ever-dwindling school budgets and ever-increasing class sizes. He would have been committed to an asylum long ago if he didn’t live in a rural setting outside Portland, Oregon where he can spend a great deal of time exploring and appreciating the forests and rivers of the Pacific Northwest.
Thom’s interest in the out-of-doors began with his involvement in a boy scout troop in Shaker Heights, Ohio. While Ohio is not known for its outdoor recreation opportunities, Thom gained an appreciation for camping, hiking, and water sports by accompanying his scout troop to the few wild places that did exist, eventually earning the rank of Eagle Scout.
While attending college at Ohio State University, Thom found weekend work guiding whitewater tours on wild rivers in the neighboring state of West Virginia. He made the acquaintance of one particularly talented guide, James Snyder, who would go on to radically redesign whitewater kayaks, thereby revolutionizing that sport. These tiny new kayaks, called ‘squirt boats,' were capable of very gymnastic moves and even underwater maneuvers. Thom sponsored Snyder's first trip to the western U.S. to introduce this new breed of kayak and new approach to kayaking to boaters in the West.
Upon completing college with an honors degree in Environmental Education, Thom immigrated to Portland, Oregon where he continued guiding on rivers in California, Oregon and Idaho, while also teaching environmental science at a series of outdoor education centers around Portland. He responded to the lack of local river safety instruction by establishing his own kayaking school about the same time that he was hired as a science teacher for Portland Public Schools. His operation of River City Kayak School led to the acquisition of property along the Clackamas River in rural Clackamas County, outside Portland.