Preparing to land in less than a meter of water:
The girl in front of me stepped off. She didn’t jump out towards the ‘safe zone’. She didn’t land flat on her back as instructed. She just stepped off. The top of her yellow helmet instantly disappeared into the washing machine of violent water below. “Oh shit! Here we go…” said our Kiwi guide who was posted at the top of the waterfall. Every 4 or 5 seconds we’d catch a glimpse of her life vest or wetsuit right before it was sucked back to the bottom. I’m no spin cycle virgin, and I’ve taken my fair share of big waves on the head, but this was different. It didn’t let up. It wouldn’t let up. You can’t just go limp and wait it out. There’s nothing to wait out. The water just keeps falling. I immediately realized the severity of a broken safety rule. After scaling smooth, wet rocks with impressive speed, our Aussie guide gracefully grabbed the vest of the disobedient (and drowning) girl. Within seconds she was standing in the shallows, coughing up water, and confirming all her bones were intact. Our Kiwi guide looked at me with a smile, “You’re up, brotha. If you don’t do it right, you’ll break a leg.”
Tommy (right) and I hiking in:
Tommy and I (both surfers from CA) were in the unofficial ‘adventure sports capital of Europe’ - Interlaken. This small town in the Swiss Alps offers a plethora of extreme sports including, but not limited to: skydiving, hang gliding, bungee jumping, rock climbing, glacier trekking, river rafting, windsurfing, wake boarding, and canyoning. All we knew about canyoning prior to the trip was that it was supposed to be intense, and that we wanted to do it. We made arrangements our first night in Interlaken and were picked up from our hostel the next morning.
Sliding over and off a waterfall:
The day started early with a brief (but passionate) safety lesson. After a beautiful mountain drive and a short, sweaty hike in 7mm wetsuits, we arrived at our launch point. “Keep your elbows in and your feet in front of you.” I sat in the frigid water and assumed the position; a little push and I was off. The rushing snow runoff propelled me down a natural water slide and into a set of rapids. The only thing keeping me afloat was my life vest, but that didn’t protect me from frequent collisions with a mine field of submerged rocks. Bumps and bruises were a small price to pay for the experience of rafting without a raft. We descended a series of waterfalls over the next few kilometers by any means possible: climbing, rappelling, ziplining, and even jumping off a big one towards the end. Our ‘safe’ landing zone for the jump was less than a cubed meter (including deep!), but I didn’t make the same mistake as the girl in front of me. I jumped out, went prone mid-air, and back-flopped to safety. Interested in canyoning? Click here.
Rappelling down a slippery face (and yes, it is hard to keep your mouth closed while canyoning... it's that intense) :