AdventureWater Sports

Mission: Improbable

Kayaker Erik Boomer's audacious plan to paddle 45 miles of the world's hardest whitewater—in a single day

The deep and dark grand Canyon of Stikine
The deep and dark grand Canyon

British Columbia’s Grand Canyon of the Stikine River is one of the great whitewater problems: a 45-mile stretch of Class V–VI rapids that has been successfully paddled by fewer than a hundred kayakers. Of those, only one has done it alone: Doug Ammons, the legendary 55-year-old boater from Missoula, Montana, who is shrouded by kayakers in the same oracular light as Reinhold Messner is by mountaineers. This month, Erik Boomer, a 27-year-old photographer from McCall, Idaho, plans to one-up Ammons by paddling the Stikine alone—in one day.

“It’s every bit the equivalent of soloing a major Himalayan peak,” says Ammons, who took three days to run it himself in 1992. “Looking at people coming up, I knew Erik would be the one to do it.”

Boomer, who logged a first descent of Quebec’s 100-foot Chutes à Magnan waterfall in April 2011 and spent 104 days circumnavigating Canada’s Ellesmere Island by sea kayak last summer, plans to “create a mental map” of the Stikine’s 40 massive rapids by taking a couple of warm-up runs with a team before his solo attempt. Once he knows the lines, he’ll launch alone at first light and spend the next seven to 10 hours in the sheer-walled, 1,000-foot-deep gorge. “I see it as the culmination of all my skills,” he says. “It’s a soul project.”

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