Daredevil kayaker Rafael Ortiz of Mexico now carries the title of being the second person to kayak over Washington’s Palouse Falls and paddle himself to shore.
Ortiz, 24, plunged the 189-foot-tall waterfall — higher than Niagara Falls — April 25. According to the Red Bull website, which called Ortiz “a specialist for vertical water,” Ortiz soared down Mexico’s Big Banana Waterfall, which stands at 130 feet, in 2010.
The first person to kayak down the U.S. falls – and set a world record for longest drop – was Montana’s Tyler Bradt, 23, in April 2009.
Red Bull said that because Ortiz was thrown out of the kayak as he hit the surface of the water , “community rules” did not recognize his bold move as matching Bradt’s record.
According to Ortiz’s blog, he was 8 years old and in Veracruz when he first entered the rapids in a raft. He was 14 when his parents gave him a whitewater kayak.
Years later, he became the first Mexican to compete in the World Freestyle Championships in Australia, where he came in 22nd in the junior category. Ortiz says that his search for huge waterfalls has led him back to Veracruz and to India, Africa, Pakistan and Brazil.
“Time freezes for an instant as I find myself surrounded by drops falling with me,” he says in his blog. “It all becomes so peaceful as you go down. … The mist gets in my eyes, but I wipe my face with my fist so I can enjoy the ultimate moment and feel the satisfaction of doing it.”
April seems to be a popular month for extreme kayakers and waterfalls.
In 2011, Jesse Coombs, 40, plunged 96 feet down the remote Abiqua Falls in Oregon, becoming the first person to successfully kayak the sheer drop.
Abiqua Falls is considered one of the most difficult because of a very quick vertical dissent that makes hitting the water at the right angle risky. The jaw-dropping plunge was caught on camera in photos and video.