When will the kayak waterfall record chase end? Barely a month or two after Pedro Olivia broke the mark with a 127-foot plunge in Brazil, Tyler Bradt upped the ante even more with a whopping 186-foot drop off Washington’s Palouse Falls on April 22, 2009.
On a sailboat in Mexico for a few weeks leading up to the huck, Bradt returned to Hood River in mid-April tan, rested and ready for the premier of his Africa Revolution Tour film. Little did he know at the time, but he was also ready for the record books.
While there, he ran various runs “to get in waterfall-running mode” and then scouted Palouse when it was running 5,000 cfs. “The landing was obviously a little hectic looking, but it looked runnable,” he told LVM’s John Grace in an interview.
A week later, he returned at a lower flow and it still looked runnable, and that’s when he started considering running it and plunging back into the record books.
While PL was unable to schedule an interview with Bradt (it is boating season, after all), following are snippets from LVM’s audio interview with the new world record holder (listen to the entire interview by clicking LVM Here. Look for footage of the record-breaking huck on the upcoming video from Rev-Inn Dream Result.
Click here for more info. Plus, scroll below for comments from former world record holder Tao Berman…
In His Own Words
Interview by Lunch Video Magazine
“The day before I scouted it with Rush (Sturges), but didn’t think it would be at a runnable flow. It was about 2,000-3,000 cfs lower. But I looked at the lip and knew it would be runnable at that level, and was even more manageable at that flow. The lip was a little more difficult…it had more humps and rolls than I thought.”
“It was something I felt was really runnable and stickable and something I really wanted to do. We had an incredible team, and decided the next day was the day.”
“I was up the night before until 1 a.m. rigging a prototype skirt system that wouldn’t implode. I didn’t sleep too well that night. We got up early the next morning and everyone was quiet for a little bit as it dawned on us what the day meant.
“Once there, we started breaking it down into the steps it takes to pull something like that off. Once we had the safety set up, I geared up and carried my boat to the top, focused on running the waterfall.
“There’s no way it could’ve been successful without the team that we had. The general attitude of the team was amazing. Everyone was positive and super supportive. It’s so crucial to have the right team with you. We took all the safety precautions necessary.
“I accepted the risk. I wouldn’t have run it if I thought there was a likely potential of getting hurt. I judged the freefall, and got a good idea of what the freefall would be like. I felt good about it, and that it was a manageable distance to fall.
“I was afraid of how the wind would affect me, freefalling from that far. It was an unknown variable and was hard to judge, but I was still confident that it’d be okay.
“It was hard to see the lip from river right, so I paddled over to the left. I did a couple of ferries back and forth above the horizon line, which was kind of scary.
“The lip was a lot more complicated than I thought. The line was about a boat-width wide. I had to scout it for a while and redo all my visuals. If you can’t picture yourself running it well, there’s no way you should run it. I ran it a hundred times in my head. I needed a left stroke to counteract the seam coming in, then go into my tuck.
“My immediate feeling was one of rushing down the lip faster that I anticipated. But I was right where I wanted to be, just as I visualized. Then I tucked forward at the lip. It was the most wild freefall sensation I’ve ever felt.
“I thought, “Okay, it’s impact time.’ Then that moment went by and I was still freefalling.
“I took a huge hit to the chest right away. It hit me onto the back deck and knocked the wind out of me. Then I was ready for something else to happen which I wasn’t super happy about. My whole body was in shock, and I couldn’t breathe.
“I rolled up with the short piece of my paddle. The first thing I saw was Ian and Cody and the bottom, but I couldn’t yell to them. I hooked left behind them and then finally yelled. They couldn’t believe that I had floated behind them, paddling with the short end of my paddle.
“It was an amazing moment…we had the recipe for success on that day. Few days work out as beautifully as that day.
Tidbits from Tao
As an earlier world waterfall record holder with his drop off Canada’s 98-foot Johnston Falls, Tao Berman appreciates a good huck. Here are his thoughts on Tyler’s 186-foot freefall:
“I think it’s great to see Tyler continue to redefine the limits of how big of a waterfall can be run. Back in the day people told me if I attempted an 100-foot waterfall I’d kill myself. Descents like this should remind everyone that the only true limits are ones we set for ourselves.
“I spent the first 10 years of my career running waterfalls. For the past couple of years I’ve been more focused on extreme racing and really difficult drops. If at some point in the future I decide to refocus on waterfalls it’s possible that I’d look at something as big as Palouse, but everything would need to look near perfect for me to consider attempting it.
“I don’t think there’s a limit as to how high of a waterfall can be run. Assuming the waterfall is absolutely perfect there is no reason someone couldn’t run a 300-foot waterfall, or even bigger, some day. With enough water in a constricted space, the surface tension would be broken up enough that the body should be able to take the impact. The limits of how high of a waterfall can be run are very different than the limits of how difficult of a rapid (or cascading falls) can be done.