Extreme kayaker Tyler Bradt about his dangerous passion
BY SABINE FUSS
(Published in The Produktkulturmagazin issue 2 2018)
Tyler Bradt paddles calmly down the River Palouse in Washington in his kayak. The trees move slowly past him, the water is calm and drives him gently forward. As if by magic, the water suddenly becomes a torrential river that storms the red kayak until the abyss opens in the immediate vicinity. The strong tearing of the waterfall is not to be missed and suddenly the kayak disappears on the horizon and falls 58 metres into the depths. But all this is no coincidence, because Tyler Bradt is contending with the most important kayak ride of his life.
Tyler, what is it about canoeing that appeals to you in particular?
Kayaking is as much of a lifestyle as it is a sport. Following the water through the seasons, travelling from river to river, exploring deep wilderness with relative ease, and the amazing community surrounding whitewater kayaking is what has turned kayaking into my greatest passion in life.
You have held the world record for kayaking the highest recorded waterfall at 58 metres since 2009. What was your motivation behind accepting this extreme challenge?
At the time I was on a pursuit of kayaking off taller and taller waterfalls and exploring the possibilities of how high of a waterfall it might be possible to drop from in a kayak. I found Palouse Falls and it became a strong focus of mine. Through multiple trips to the falls and scouting it at different water levels, I finally found the right level and the perfect day for the descent. It went as well as I could have dreamed!
What goes through your head when you go over the edge? What kind of feeling is it?
The feeling was of immediate and extreme acceleration as I was pulled into the falls. There is so much adrenaline and extreme focus on staying on track that there isn't much room for thought. I did have an overwhelmingly positive feeling that everything was going perfectly as I was in free fall, followed by the sensation of free will that went on for much longer than I expected.
How do you prepare both physically and mentally for such an event?
I believe the only reason that the descent down Palouse Falls went so well was that I was both fully mentally and physically prepared for the drop. I paddled the waterfall with pure motivation and intent and was at the peak of my kayaking ability.
Each body of water is different. Which difficulties have to be overcome in this regard?
In the case of Palouse Falls the major difficulty is the sheer size of the waterfall and the consequences that come from decelerating too quickly upon re-entry into the water. It’s important to land with the kayak completely vertically, a small mistake can have a lot of consequences from that height.
Which destinations are still on your bucket list, and why?
The Himalayas have been calling to me for a long time now. They are the tallest mountain range on earth and home to some of the most incredible kayaking expeditions on the planet. I have never paddled there before and my current focus on expedition paddling is a driving force in putting the watersheds of these mountains at the top of my bucket list.
What do your upcoming adventures look like?
My upcoming adventures will take me from Mexico to Alaska and then on to the rivers of British Colombia before returning to South America for the winter of 2018/2019. I will then travel to Himalaya for the spring of 2019.
Born and raised in Bitterroot Valley, West Montana, Tyler Bradt began kayaking at the age of six. At the age of 15, he started his professional kayaking career. He toured the Northwest Territories to set his first free (water) fall world record over 32 metres and two years later broke his own record at the Palouse Falls in East Washington with 58 metres. After that he went on a five-year circumnavigation of the world. Now he dedicates all his time to whitewater kayaking.
Picture credits © Tim Kemple