It was this picture that set me off…
Isn’t it fantastically extreme? WOW – what more can you say…
Extreme kayaking seems to be all about making the biggest drop and beating your compatriots to finding the next big drop.
Ben Stookesberry, a 30-year old professional kayaker, seeks out big drops all over the world. He has made 51 first descents in 11 countries so far.
Pedro Oliva and Tyler Bradt have both set world record drops this year. Oliva first made headlines when he went over a 127 foot water fall in Brazil, and just weeks later Bradt shattered that record by dropping 186 feet over Palouse Falls in Washington State.
It is these sort of antics that has brought extreme kayaking to our attention.
Technology continues to evolve, offering better, more stable, boats, paddles, and other gear, which is allowing the top kayakers to challenge some impressive runs, such as the Rio Santo Domingo in Chiapas in Mexico, which drops 480 feet in just an eighth of a mile and has two waterfalls of 90 feet or more. It is just one of several extreme runs that Stookesberry is hoping to conquer in the months ahead.
Interesting little video this one from solesupfront :
Bradt, Stookesberry and Oliva are one of about half a dozen professional kayakers who tackle waterfalls above 100 feet.
A little over a decade ago, a 50- or 60-foot waterfall was thought to be the biggest drop a kayaker could survive. But sturdier boats and new techniques have allowed daredevils to push the outer limits of the sport.
It’s not all about being the one to do the biggest drop, it also allows the extreme kayakers to venture into unexplored river gorges and uncharted rapids that were previously deemed out of reach, sealed off by fortress-like waterfalls where portaging is impossible.
They are becoming the equivalent of 19th century explorers risking their lives to claim a “first descent” of a waterfall or a long, treacherous stretch of river!
The most extreme kayakers have also developed new techniques to control their descents over massive falls. Boaters tuck forward like high divers, laying flat across the bow and angling their boats nose first, which reduces the surface area hitting the water and softens the impact. Some even attach fins to the back of the boats so that they drop straight down, like a dart. The most common injury, kayakers say, is a broken nose.
“Approaching the lip, there’s this feeling of being completely out of control, completely in the hands of the river,” Ben Stookesberry says. “You lose all that fear and all that anticipation, because there’s no turning back.”
Rather them than me, tho’ I have to admire their courage.