Two kayakers got close to breaking Kenton Grua, et al., speed record thru the Grand Canyon #ColoradoRiver

Map of Grand Canyon National Park via the NPS
Map of Grand Canyon National Park via the NPS

From the Spokane Spokesman-Review (Rich Landers):

Ben Orkin of Portland and Harrison Rea of Georgia, paddling separately, launched on the Colorado River on Jan. 7 for an attempt at setting a record: The seasoned Colorado River guides wanted to be the fastest non-motorized boaters to traverse the Grand Canyon 277 miles from Lee’s Ferry to the Grand Wash Cliffs.

The record was set by a dory in 1983 during much faster flood-stage flows, but January was the only time the pair could score a coveted permit. They’d hoped to make up for slower river flows with their high-performance — but fragile — kayaks.

The time to beat was 36 hours and 38 minutes. Orkin and Rea were on track to finish in about 36 hours, until notorious Crystal Rapid had its way with Rea’s boat.

Crystal Rapid via HPS.com
Crystal Rapid via HPS.com

They self-rescued after Rea’s collision with a rock and subsequent capsize, repaired the boat, continued paddling — and still nearly broke the overall record.

Orkin arrived exhausted at Grand Wash Cliffs in 37 hours and 48 minutes after launching, one hour and 10 minutes slower than The Emerald Mile’s flood-assisted run.

A wrap-up story by Canoe & Kayak online says that despite failing to beat the non-motorized record, Orkin, who paddled ahead of Rea after the boat repair, became the fastest kayaker to complete the canyon, “taking the lead in a category legendary whitewater pioneer Fletcher Anderson started in the late ‘70s when he completed a solo kayak descent of the canyon in 49 hours.”

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