The Evolution of Whitewater Kayaking

“THE IMPACT WAS HEAVY,” says 23-year-old Montanan kayaker Tyler Bradt of his 80-mile-per-hour entry into the pool at the bottom of eastern Washington’s 186-foot Palouse Falls this past April. “I took a huge hit to the chest, which knocked the wind out of me and jackknifed me against the back of my boat. I had so much adrenaline going through me, I didn’t know if I was hurt or not.”

Since March, kayakers have broken world waterfall records three times, raising the takeoff height an astounding 78 feet and making a serious media splash. After his plunge, Bradt appeared on Anderson Cooper 360 . The previous month, Brazilian Pedro Oliva, 26, debuted footage of his March 4 run over his home country’s 127-foot Salto Belo on the Today show, where Ann Curry touted “the growing popularity of extreme kayaking.” On Mother’s Day, Christie Glissmeyer, 30, of Hood River, Oregon, launched off 108-foot Metlako Falls, setting a new women’s record. At least a dozen others—, including Brendan Wells, who’s 15, —have now broken the 100-foot mark.

Ask any of these huckers the obvious question—, why?

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