Surfing has its biggest wave, skiing its steepest line, and mountain biking its hairiest descent. Now the world of whitewater kayaking has what many are deeming the sport’s largest rapid ever run, with Dane Jackson’s successful descent of the Malupa rapid on Pakistan’s mighty Indus River.
On a fall trip with fellow kayakers Evan Moore, Carson Lindsay and Johnny Chase, Jackson claimed the first descent of the last un-run rapid of the Indus River’s famed 85-mile Rondu Gorge section (excluding one other must-portage rapid deemed un-runnable). Jackson’s successful run of the steep, complex and volatile high-volume rapid (shown at the 5-minute mark) highlights the just-released video above from the American paddling team’s expedition.
Though a bit downplayed in the recap, Jackson’s first descent reverberated on social media channels, where many kayakers are calling it the biggest rapid ever run. That leaves definitions of rapids, sizes, volumes and difficulty levels up for debate; paddlers have successfully braved the likes of China’s Yangtze Gorge, as well as the Inga Rapids in the Democratic Republic of Congo, claimed as the largest rapids ever successfully paddled during an high-profile international team’s 2011 first descent. Meanwhile, others may contend a lower-volume cascading drop like Washington’s Sunset Falls or even Palouse Falls at 189 feet as “the biggest ever.” Regardless of rapids vs falls, size and difficulty, measured by height, gradient or volume, kayaking’s social channels buzzed with Jackson’s recent exploits — labeling it as noteworthy as the first successful runs by whitewater stalwarts Ben Marr (2012) and Nouria Newman (2014) through Site Zed, the longtime final un-run rapid of North America’s great expedition paddling test piece: British Columbia’s Grand Canyon of the Stikine River.
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Jackson deflects credit to the team, pointing to prior expeditions that have progressively lowered the Rondu Gorge’s overall portage count over the last two years, with Swiss standout Sven Lammler recently getting the lowest number with just two. That’s two portages on a continuous stretch of massive whitewater with hundreds of Class V rapids that regularly humbles the world’s best (not to mention the less obvious dangers of construction off the water). “I didn’t necessarily put on to try and get the lowest number of portages,” Jackson says. “But I just kept seeing the lines.”
Making the feat even more impressive: Jackson had already taken two horrendous swims on the run, one of which he called “one of the most savage beatdowns I’ve had.” Yet he still hit the Holy Grail of going big, calling the Indus “by far some of the hardest and stoutest whitewater I’ve ever done — it’s in a league of its own.”
Paddling peers were quick to put the feat into perspective. “It’s the biggest rapid ever run in a kayak,” posted kayaker Jeremy Nash. “History has been made. He’s experienced something far different from any other kayaker: the 35th chamber of Shaolin Kungfu.”
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