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By Rafael Ortiz

The hardest part about first descending a waterfall is overcoming the fear of uncertainty. Trusting your scouting ability turns to be your only life insurance. You get in your boat and follow the line that you’ve come up with, hoping that it will make you successfully run the falls.

In the town of Valle de Bravo, Estado de México, Tyler Bradt, Rush Sturges, Brooks Baldwin and myself, started the river taking care of the entrée falls: a 45 footer, with a crooked lead-in and a log stuck at the lip. So the first mission was setting a system to extract the piece of wood. After a couple of hours, Tyler managed to lasso it, and then the next step was setting up the Z-drag that would get the wood out of the way.

Brooks would be filming from river right, as he hung from some rocks next to the edge. Rush held the downstream camera. Tyler waited at the bottom, just in case. Only I would run it.

“ Peel out of the eddie holding a 45º downstream angle, gather some speed in that direction until I would spot the flake which I’d be aiming (just left) for. Hard right semi-boof stoke, massive left boof stroke, and I’d be airborne just above the lip of the big fall, trying to turn my boat 90º just before landing. Stabilize my boat with a right stoke that would melt me right into the 40 foot freefall. Tuck forward, hit the pool, and float up”.

Such a slim line… As I hit the pool at the bottom I would realize that it had worked out. I would just come up and start cheering, after nailing my line successfully. Took me a while to believe it really.

Then we still had a good section of whitewater to run.

Rafa Ortiz


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