Twenty years ago, there were a few open boaters such as Dave Simpson who pioneered the hardest steep creeks alongside the best whitewater kayakers at the time. But since then, kayaking’s progression has rapidly outpaced canoeing in design and technique — particularly when it comes to running huge drops.
Part of this is just the nature of the craft: Open boats are simply bigger; their center of gravity is higher. They’re more difficult to hike in and out of remote regions.
But over the past couple of years there have been some sweet milestones. In 2012 an open boater paddled the Toxaway Gorge in North Carolina — among the hardest runs in the country — and just recently longtime river safety guru Jim Coffey styled this 60 footer in Costa Rica, breaking the open boat waterfall record that had stood since the early 90s.
So cool seeing open boaters run these drops; it’s kind of the equivalent of seeing people get monster barrels on longboards. The style and technique are just badass.