Monday, December 14, 2009



We arrived at Bonito Falls for our second time to slay the monster. Previously, Ian Garcia and Tyler Bradt had paddled to the lip with the intention of firing it off. Upon arrival at the lip, they determined the water was too low and they did not feel confident falling off it...

3 weeks later we returned to identical water levels. With only 5 more days in the country, I felt pretty anxious to get this drop in the bag. Our crew was Evan Garcia, Steve Fisher, Ian Garcia, myself, and Anton Immler. We all made the decision to run it.

From a distance, this drop looks good to go, but when you get to the lip you realize how f****d up the entrance is. A diagonal lateral feeding to the right, then current moving back to the left, before finally falling around 60 feet to the pool at the bottom. You don't want to be on the river left side of the drop as it's a big flake that could send you flat.

We decided Ian and I would go first while the rest of the crew filmed/photographed from the bluffs. We were both super nervous but also excited to get it over with. Honestly, one of the sketchiest parts of this drop is scouting it. To get to the lip we tied a rope off to a rock and then waded through the fast moving current to get to the lip. One slip into the rushing river could send you over the falls. I hate this kind of thing and took my time getting to the scouting zone. After some thought and speculation Ian stated his standard "F**** this i'm going" and began hiking up to the lip. I told him I would gladly rock paper scissors him but his decision could not be altered.




I watched from the top of the drop as he vanished into the snake like entrance over the lip of the drop. Fisher came through on the radio and stated his skirt had imploded but he was fine. I was stoked to get my huck on.

I climbed into my kayak, hit record on my Go Pro HD head cam, and paddled towards the falls. The entrance was smooth as butter. A sweet boof from the left side, up against the right wall, back to the left, and then momentum back right. This is where I made my mistake. In an attempt to be further right I angled my boat just slightly further right then it needed to be. My last thoughts as I went off the lip were "I am going to stomp the hell out of this thing!" Then right as I hit the lip the flake grabbed my right edge and immediately tossed me flat, and sideways. In one last desperate attempt I hucked my weight back and forward to try and get the bow down to no avail. I landed sideways, flat, and sitting upright. Basically the worst position to be in...



For any future or current waterfall hucker reading this, remember: It is always better to land flat tucking forward then sitting upright. Had I landed flat and tucked forward I may not have broken my back. That being said, there was hardly any aeration and I had a LOT of momentum. Even Ian who ran the drop almost perfect took a wicked hit and had 2 blackish eyes. I also smashed my face and have a bit of a cut on my left eye. The water was too low and even with a perfect line this bad boy will bitch slap you...

The next part of the incident was not very much fun. I couldn't breath for about 30 seconds and all I could do is gargle muffled wheezing. It sounds like i'm dying on the video. After some time Ian got me out of my boat and laid me in the water. I was in a bit of shock but after a while was able to stand. My muscles were all twitching and it was pretty clear something was not right. I had full mobility and the pain wasn't actually that bad. The next step was getting me the f**** out of the canyon. There are vertical walls on both sides and really the only way out besides paddling would be via helicopter. Not having that kind of $ or wanting to deal with that kind of a scene I opted to paddle out the remaining 300 meters of class 3 +. Luckily Fisher got me on a tibloc so I was able to easier pull myself the 300 feet of bushed out steepness up to the road. We then got to the truck and drove about 1.5 hours to a hospital in Bariloche.

Thank god for Ian's fluent espanol at the hospital. After my x rays it was clear I had compressed and broken a piece off of my L2 Vertabre. I'm still waiting to get a second opinion on this so i'll post the pics here on my news site and if you have any expertise in this area let me know what you think.


Anyway, it doesn't seem to be that BAD of a fracture. It sucks, but I think I can make a full recovery with good rehab....

After some negotiations we convinced the hospital to let me go and stay at a friends house in Bariloche. The boys took a door off its hinges and were able to take me out on that, (although I was actually good walk). Special thanks to Fredrico Medina and all his friends for letting us stay in their home...

The next day we began the drive back to Pucon while I slept in the back of the pickup truck. Unfortunately, our truck broke down and now we are still stranded in Asorno awaiting repairs....

I hope to make it back to Cali by the end of the week although i'm not sure what it will be like to fly. Thanks to all the boys for helping out the cripple (again).

In reality, if I had to hurt myself, now is not a bad time. I'm under the deadline to finish this new movie "Dream Result" as well as a lot of my music. I've already mentally prepared myself for an injury at some stage in my kayaking career, and now was the time. If you continue to step it up in any sport it's unlikely that you will go unscathed (although there are exceptions.) I'm just really thankful it isn't worse...

Luckily for us kayakers, we don't have to deal with these things as much as our pro snowboarder or biker friends. Kayaking is a fairly forgiving sport. Look at guys like Travis Pastrana who have broken almost every single bone in their body and are still getting after it. Look at other kayakers even, Jason Hale, Ben Brown, James Bebbington (2X broken back) and they are all as fit and savage as ever.

I will be back in time for Spring season Stakeout ready for more rivers, more tricks, more drops, and more fun.

Overall the Chile segment came together great and i'm super pleased with the footage! Dream Result will be finished Feb 27th! Help me pay for these Argentinian hospital bills...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


This is a drop that has been looked at by many kayakers... In fact, I don't think there's a top paddler who has ever come to Chile and not laid eyes on the beast. The monster is at the put in for the classic class IV/V run on the upper Palguin. This section has several 20 ft waterfalls and we have been getting some sick freestyle shots over the past few days. I did the first ever switch hail mary off a 20 ftr earlier in the day. That being said, it was SUPER sloppy and i'm not counting it as a LEGITIMATE new trick. However, the potential is there and I will stick one someday. I was able to stick a forward hail mary after 4 attempts... Pretty sweet footage...

That was the start of the day... Later in the afternoon the stage was set for Steve to run the big dawg.The entrance on this thing is FULL ON. Twisted boily current that all folds into the wall on the left. As well, there is a rock ledge that juts out at the bottom of the drop... There is a reason many people have walked away from this drop. Nonetheless, there is a SICK line. Like many drops it's just a matter of bucking up and doing it... I'll just let this photo speak for itself. The footage will be featured in DREAM RESULT!



Monday, December 7, 2009

We woke up with a wicked hangover on Dec 6th with the intention of doing some filming on the upper Palguin. Little did we know, a world record would be broken later this day. After filming Anton and Ben May style the upper section in the Topo Duo, Fisher threw out the idea of running Middle Palguin in the Duo (70 ft.) Initially I thought it was not a good idea, but after watching good lines in the Duo on the upper section I told Fisher i'd think about it. Thankfully, Anton volunteered with no hesitation. I wasn't sure if it was a great idea but either way I knew it would be good footage...

Ian Garcia and I decided to go first to set up safety for the Duo. Ian went first and then I waited about 15 seconds before going. My line felt super smooth off the lip but my skirt imploded on impact. Right as I came up, Ian was just surfacing as well. He had taken about 20 seconds of downtime! We both imploded our skirts and had to self rescue. This was a bit of a junk show but after about 45 minutes we got everything ready for the World Record Tandem Kayak Descent. At this moment thunder and lighting kicked in and Ian and I both contemplated how good of a plan it actually was. "At least it's not us up there!" We laughed.

To our astonishment and content, Anton and Fisher STYLED the line. No worries! The boat had a huge dent but was intact nonetheless. A new world record for kayaking, even if it is a bit of a joke. That being said, how long will it be before someone runs something bigger in a Duo???

I think we may be on to something here... Imagine a 19 person kayak. Just think about it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


I've always enjoyed jumping off tall cliffs. Ever since I was a little kid I would practice swan dives every summer for days on end. One of the reasons I thought kayaking looked so cool was the free fall element. All my summers jumping into pools on the river were perfect training for one day learning to run waterfalls...

I have been raising my height bar a little bit each year, and yesterday, I clearly hit my limit. My highest gainer is 80 feet, and before this jump my tallest straight air at just over 100 feet. I'm an amateur cliff diver, but I really enjoy it and i've never sustained any injuries. I learned a cheap lesson yesterday when I took it just a little bit too high...

While wearing one of the sik new HD GO PRO head cams (which was sadly set up wrong by me) Anton Immler and I decided it would be cool if we jumped right next to each other for the shot. We estimated the cliff to be around 100 feet, but after jumping it became clear that it was bigger. The decision was made that Anton would jump first and I would follow right behind. However, we didn't really consider that because he would be jumping upstream, after impact the current would sweep him down stream towards my landing zone. This was pretty stupid. Anton took the leap of faith and I followed a split second behind, a bit close. The free fall was amazing. Watching the replay we fell for almost 3 seconds! When I was about to land I thought for sure I was going to hit Anton. Fearing an impact I made my feet flat. You can see my splash is huge by comparison to Anton's. I've used this technique to jump into shallow pools, but it's no bueno from this height. My last minute reaction was to try and not go deep into the pool. I think if I would have kept my toes pointed the outcome would have been different. I felt my knees both explode in opposite directions and pain shoot through my legs. I thought for certain I had broken them initially. I struggled to swim to shore where the boys pulled me out and laid me on my back. It took us about 45 minutes to get me out of the canyon. As the hike went on the legs started to feel better, but it was still a struggle to bend them.

Although the doctor at the local hospital seemed a bit marginal to me, he was very convinced that there is nothing wrong. He prescribed me some anti inflammatories and sent me on my way. Now I find myself at an internet cafe while the boys run the fire... I'm really hoping a few more days will do it... It feels a lot better today, and i'm so fortunate it's not worse. So far this trip has had a rough start with a hurt shoulder (while partying, then made worse after running a 60 ftr twice) and now this incident. I'm learning valuable lessons and thankfully haven't sustained anything too serious. We have an all star crew down here right now and I have no doubt some serious progression is about to go down... Keeping my fingers crossed for a quick recovery... For now i'm a sad site to watch walk....

Saturday, October 24, 2009


On October 14th remnants of a typhoon hit Cali with full force. Parts of the state received upwards of 10 inches of rain, causing flooding and rain fall records. An event like this is extremely rare for the time of year, and during a short window the world famous Middle Kings section opened up...

In the history of California boating, to my knowledge, none of the high Sierra multi days have ever been attempted during the Fall time. The main reason being snow, good water levels, and the freezing temperatures. Due to the unpredictability of the season, putting in the effort to do a run like Middle Kings is a major gamble. Will there be too much snow on the pass? Too much water at the source? Too little? The ground is so unsaturated in the Fall it's hard to say how long the water levels could be optimal for. Our biggest fear was hiking all the way in and discovering that the river had dropped overnight to an un-runnable level. Nonetheless, an opportunity like this rarely happens, and it had to be taken advantage of.

Most crews take 5-7 days to complete this section of whitewater. (Although some animals like Tommy Hillike and John Grace have done it in under 24 hours, a feat that will always amaze me). Our goal was to do 1 day hike in, and 3 days paddle out. The crew was myself, Darin McQuoid, Ben Stookesberry, and Chris Korbulick. A solid team ready to take on the monster mission!


We arrived at the trail head after a 12 hour drive at 3 AM. I was unprepared for the first nights sleep in the parking lot and spent most the night shivering cold. I awoke to a harsh and hostile winter wonderland. This was not the Middle Kings parking lot I knew. Frost blanketed trees and there was a solid 2 feet of snow on the ground. While sitting in the car I genuinely considered pulling the plug. Was this actually a good idea? How could I survive in the wilderness if I was already freezing in the parking lot? Ben offered me an extra sleeping bag he had, and I decided with that I would be able to stay warm enough in the wild. I also salvaged some extra layers. By the time I was packed I had the heaviest boat I had ever packed, about to do one of the worst hikes of my life.... Uncertainty and excitement loomed over us as we set off into the snow...
My two least favorite kinds of hiking are post holing in snowboard boots, and hiking with a kayak. Middle Kings in the Fall is a torturous combination of both. The pass is slow, arguous and time consuming. With each step the pain got worse until I developed the worst shin splints I had ever had. We hoped to make it to the river but opted to camp instead of hiking in the dark. We set up camp beneath an orange sky that turned to rain and howling wind. I stayed warm enough in my bivy but had trouble sleeping with the wind and the creaking pine trees all around me.


We woke up at dawn and set foot again on the icy trail. We arrived at the river at about 9:30 and wasted no time putting on. Unfortunately, the water was super low and made for a long morning of portaging and manky drops. Luckily, by afternoon many of the small tributaries started contributing lots of water... Running Middle Kings is done in different ways. Some groups take a lot of pre-caution and scout most the rapids. Because everyone in the crew (besides Chris) had done the section we were able to "bomb" most the rapids blind. Ben took the lead most the time and did an excellent job remembering most the rapids... We opted to portage one of the more committing gorges due to time constraints and the cold rain. The night was shaping up to be a rough one as we rolled into Simpson Meadows. The rain was still falling and we were all cold and exhausted from our 11 hour day. Luckily we were able to get a ripping fire going and by the time it was raging the rain let up. To our surprise we slept under a starry sky and were greeted with more amiable temperatures the following morning.


My dry suit was frozen but the sun was shining. We all knew today would be one of the biggest with some of the more challenging whitewater ahead. In order to complete the run in time we would need to paddle the "Angry Beaver Section" and half of the "Bottom 9." The Bottom 9 is an especially challenging section dropping 250 ft per mile and sometimes as much as 375. There is literally zero flat water for 9 straight miles. All boulder gardens with big holes. Swimming is absolutely not an option. In the event that you did swim it is almost certain that you will be swimming into a class IV/V rapid. Even worse, there is a chance you will be swept into a sive or strainer. This section is really fun quality whitewater, but it also keeps you on your toes. We ran one rapid blind that would have been a portage with a pretty nasty slot at the bottom. Luckily we all came through... Overall we had great lines aside from one solid crash by Ben on a drop the rest of us walked... Again we arrived at camp close to dark. Since we had dropped a couple more thousand feet the weather was starting to be much more pleasant. For the first time I had an ok nights sleep, and again awoke to sunshine! Middle Kings in the Fall was starting to feel really worth it...
frozen boat!


The one thing I notice about Middle Kings is that it never ends. It just keeps giving. At every horizon line you think "it has to let up a little bit." Somehow it never does. It just stays steep and relentless. We were all having a blast but also pretty ready to be out of the canyon. We arrived at one of the bigger holes of the section and I jumped out for a scout. The hole was mackin but I really couldn't be bothered with another portage. My shin splits were getting progressively worse and the hole was followed by a good sized pool. I signaled the classic sign for "big f****** hole" and informed the group it would "most likely be good." I took the lead and we dropped in. A fully loaded Nomad moves like a tank and I blew through the pour over no worries. I caught the eddy and turned around in time to see Darin getting beat down in the hole. I scrambled to get onto the slick rocks to hit him with a bag, but by the time I was out of my boat Ben boofed on top of him, and started getting beat down. This only lasted for a few seconds as Chris came flying in and landed on Ben, thus knocking him out of the hole. Chris took a quick beating before subbing out and popping up downstream. We were all laughing in the eddy and stoked to have made it through. The end was near....

We reached the confluence of the South Kings at around 2:00. Everyone has the urge to celebrate at the confluence but it's never over till it's over. The remaining 6 miles through Garlic Falls actually claims a lot of swimmers. The combination of the higher volume and sheer exhaustion is a major factor. We were all on the edge of what is a safe energy level to be paddling at. Paddling turns to steering as your body starts to give up a bit. With the end in site we hammered through and made it to the take out at around 5.

The weather was about 70 in the canyon and the last rapids were backlit by a hot sun. It was a great feeling to have the mission behind us and to be floating through more hospitable waters. I breathed a sigh of relief with the journey we had accomplished.
It's always wild finishing the Kings because you go from one of the most serene and beautiful places on earth, straight into Fresno. It never ceases to amaze me that a place so helish can be so close to one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Driving into the city is always a bit of a reality check. Endless strip malls and urban sprawl that haunt this world. Cities make me feel fortunate for what I have, but also depressed at what we've turned into. No blog post, film, or picture can truly capture the experience of the Kings. I look forward to my next adventure in there, although I really hope it's not in the Fall...

SPECIAL SPECIAL thanks to our boy JOSE for helping run shuttle. You are the man! Also thanks to Darin for hooking me up with some photos for the post!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Alexandra Falls World Record 2 year Anniversary

On Sept 7th 2007 Tyler Bradt set the World Record Waterfall Descent of Alexandra Falls at 107 feet. I too attempted the falls, but lost the record after my skirt imploded and I swam into a hideous pocket behind the curtain. A lot of people have asked me about my experience, and there has been a lot of misunderstanding as to what happened to me exactly. I thought I would use the 2 year anniversary to post the video on YouTube and tell the story as it was...

I had my mind set on running Alexandra Falls since the first time I saw Ed Lucero attempt it in 2003. Something about the Falls has always appealed to me despite the fact that it is a high risk drop. Looking at the pictures it's clear that there is an enormous cave behind the curtain, and the high volume would unquestionably be a ferocious hit. After running numerous 60-80 footers with my good friend Tyler in the 06/07 seasons I decided it was time to raise the bar a notch. Along with Brooks Baldwin and Patrick Camblin, we set off into Canada's Northwest Territories to film the Slave River along with Alexandra.

We arrived at Alexandra Falls on Sept 1st at 5:00 AM en route to the Slave. The frigid morning air was bitter on my hands as I raced down to the Falls. We were all excited to see it and I was praying that the water level would be reasonable. Frost coated the edge of the drop as I cautiously worked my way to the lip. When I got there and looked down, I let out a shout of excitement. The lip was perfect, and the water level couldn't have been better. At that moment I knew almost for certain that I would be running the drop. However, as a general rule it's better to not commit to a drop until the day the stage is set. For about an hour the 4 of us scouted from different angles and discussed various lines... The morning sun began to illuminate the banks of the river and we still had a few more hours of driving to go. The decision was made that we would stop at Alexandra on our way south in one weeks time. This would give us a week to practice and prepare on the Slave.

The next week was one of sleepless nights and crazy dreams. There are a lot of risks that go into running a drop of Alexandra's size, and to me impact was not my biggest concern. The cave was constantly on my mind. An inevitable skirt implosion could leave you in the pocket with no means of escape. Furthermore the icy cold water and inaccessibility of the cave were major factors. The only thing safety can do for you on this drop is pick you up at the bottom, alive or dead. There is no way to actually get into the cave behind the drop. All the risks weighed out, I did my best to not think about it too much. We focused on running big rapids on the Slave including a 2nd descent on the top of Pelican which hadn't been run since Lindgren and Fisher were in town. Each day that passed Alexandra grew closer and closer. We all talked about it constantly, and not a single one of us said they were going to run it for certain.

Finally on the night of Sept 6th we decided to pull some troops together. Our host Keith Morrison was unable to rally, but we managed to convince another local John Blyth to come along with some friends to set safety. We woke up early and drove the two hours to the Falls. On the drive we saw a few bears and moose in the woods. In the distance storm clouds started to roll in and spits of rain began hitting the windshield. I was really nervous. I was so set on running the falls that I was most likely going to do it rain or shine. Sunshine is always a nice thing to have so I prayed that the weather would let up. Amazingly, right as we pulled into the Alexandra parking lot, the rain ceased. After an hour of scouting the clouds cleared and the sun shone down upon us. I was ready to live the moment and have the falls behind me.

Camera angles are always the last thing I want to do when I'm about to fire up a stout. Nonetheless, I am a film maker and kayaker. I spent the next 2 hours orchestrating camera angles, discussing safety, the line, and worse case scenarios. Finally the stage was set. Tyler had made it clear that he was still uncertain if he wanted to run the drop. In typical Tyler fashion he would make his decision "in his paddling gear, with his boat, at the lip." Brooks filmed me walking towards the lip of the drop and I didn't really feel like being interviewed. The only words that I could muster were "this is what it's all about."

Tyler decides he is in to run the drop, and we begin the most substantial game of rock paper scissors up to this point in my life. To my disappointment, I loose, and Tyler is first to go. All I want to do is get the drop over with. Tyler has decided to try a different line then me. He feels it is safer to seal launch into the eddie then to run the hole at the entrance. Whatever line is safer is up for debate, but I feel the need to run the drop from the top, entrance and all. Tyler and I discuss the line a little longer, and then we both agree that this must be the highest level of adrenaline besides maybe going into warfare. I give Tyler the thumbs up, hit record, and the show is on. I try to focus on watching his line while filming at the same time. Tyler has a flawless line. He feathers the water the whole way down and lands beautifully. He is immediately pushed away from the falls. It's clear that he is stunned from the hit as it takes him about 10 seconds to respond to anything. No claim means it must have hurt. Nonetheless, he is in his boat, un injured, and a new world record holder. I am ecstatic to see he is ok, and I waste no time to get up to my boat.

My heart is pounding until I shove off into the water. At this moment, all becomes still, all becomes quiet. I splash my face and drift towards the lip, imaging the line in my head. To this point in my kayak career, I have never seen such a stunning visual. I hit the hole with a bit of left angle, but for a split instant I think I am too far left, and I re correct back to the right. It's a mistake as I am about 1 foot off line and just a little bit too far to the right. I disappear into the curtain. Although it can't be seen on video, my angle off the drop was everything I wanted. I took one continuous stroke the whole way down with my eyes on the landing. I'll never forget the sensation of having the water droplets falling with me and the curtain from river left illuminated with golden sunlight. I remember falling, and falling, and falling. When you go deep on a waterfall, as I did, you actually fall a lot further then the height of the drop. I went straight down with the falls prob an additional 20 feet under water. It's a wild sensation to land but feel no hit until you are well beneath the surface of the water. I remember the impact as being soft, like falling into a bunch of cotton. I felt my skirt implode immediately, but I still had enough air in my boat to surface up to the top. I remember being in my boat just a few feet from the surface, before the current pushed me all the way down into blackness. At this point, I exited out of my boat. The rest of the experience can be described as violent and frightening. I went deep down to the bottom of the falls before surfacing in a small air pocket behind the curtain. My head bobbed above water for a split second, enough time to inhale some air mixed with water, and then back down into blackness. I surfaced again behind the curtain, inhaling more oxygen mixed with water, and then back into blackness. Essentially what was happening to me is body recirculation, I was caught between the falls and the cave getting the beat down of my life. On my third time being pushed down, I had my first moment of panic. I believe my exact thoughts were "Dammit Rush you shouldn't have run this thing. Now you're going to drown here." For an instant I breathed in some water and then stopped myself. My rational self came in and suddenly I had an enormous surge of energy. After I surfaced again I started swimming as hard as I could into the curtain. I then cannon balled up in an attempt to try and go deeper then my previous attempts. After a few seconds of being under I knew I was getting pushed out. The current seemed to calm down, and way above me I could see a faint glimmer of light. I still had breath left, but I was close to drowning. I let my entire body relax and a sense of euphoria and calmness came over me. I'll never forget the surface coming closer and closer and my arms reaching out for oxygen. Finally I broke through and inhaled sweet air. Tyler was right next to me and I started smiling immediately.

I had nothing to say except a gargled "F*** that was sketch dude."

Tyler pulled me into shore and I laid in the mist of the falls, trying to take it all in. 107 feet above me the boys were screaming with excitement and relief. I was so happy to have the falls behind me and to still be alive. Luckily my boat surfaced at the same time as me and I was able to paddle it out of the canyon. As Tyler and I floated down stream we both looked back up at the falls and asked ourselves "What the f*** were we thinking?"

I didn't really reflect too hard on this experience until the weeks and months after the experience. It took me a little while to get "back on the horse" and start running big waterfalls again. My fear of caves has only been enhanced by this experience, and I have a huge level of respect for them. This is the closest i've ever been to drowning, and hopefully the closest I will ever come. I use this experience to my advantage, and it has only improved my judgement on running drops. I imagine someday someone will run the falls again, but I am not sure if I want to be there to watch.

Stay safe,