Keller lives for thrills of big drops

It was late June 2003 when North Carolina paddling prodigy Pat Keller ventured into Rutherford Creek in British Columbia, a seldom-run and remote stretch of dangerous whitewater. With him on the kayak mission was fellow Asheville paddler Matt Sheridan, his best friend.

A moment after a misstep, 19-year-old Sheridan was swimming. It was up to Keller to save him from the sieves and undercut rocks downstream.

“I slipped. I was on a mossy rock and I slipped when I threw Matt a rope,” Keller said. “I went into the river and when I got out downstream, I couldn’t get back to him.”

Keller never saw his friend again.

“I was looking right into his eyes,” Keller said. “I think about that every day, man. Every single day.”

This March, Keller again endured the most painful of blows when his mentor, 29- year-old Daniel DeLaVergne, a paddling adventurer whose filmwork elevated Keller into the highest realms of expert paddling, was struck by a train in a tunnel where he was scouting a video location outside of Asheville, N.C.

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