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I’ve got to admit, I’m still picking my jaw off the floor.
This week, the FOX News program “The Five” showed a video of Vestavia Hills native and U.S. Freestyle Kayak team member Bennett Smith flipping and tumbling down local waterfalls… on purpose.
(Caution: Bennett is an experienced pro. Don’t try this!).
Thanks to its nationwide audience, the short 30 second breathtaking video clip has gone viral.
Haven’t seen it? Take a look yourself.
Just in case you are wondering, yes, that’s Bennett diving down Little River Canyon Falls and the dam under the 280 bridge near the Grandview Medical Center. He also tumbles down some waterfalls in and around Chattanooga.
Flipping a Kayak
On New Year’s Day I caught up with Bennett who now resides in Chattanooga.
I asked him how he got started kayaking, especially flipping it down steep, treacherous waterfalls.
“I used to be really into gymnastics growing up, doing front and back flips,” he said. “I got into kayaking from one of my friends in middle school. It was then I discovered this kind of quirky subset of whitewater kayaking called freestyle kayaking. So, I transferred my gymnastic skills over to kayaking.”
The sport of freestyle kayaking is much like freestyle snowboarding. It is not a race. Instead you perform numerous acrobatic moves, flips and spins. Bennett, who is a pro, started at age 13. He has been freestyle kayaking for 11 years.
Along with being a freestyle kayak pro, Bennett is an advocate for clean water and rivers. While he was in college at Auburn University, Bennett got to work as an intern for the Black Warrior Riverkeeper.
“Through kayaking I really got into the outdoors. It made me conscious how important it is to protect our resources because they are finite. Kayaking, especially in Alabama, you get exposed to a lot of polluted rivers. Alabama has a number of water quality issues. It all made me want to get involved. So, I was very fortunate to work for Black Warrior Riverkeeper.”
Favorite Place to Kayak
Some of Bennett’s favorite places to put in his kayak is the Black Warrior River System – especially the Sipsey Fork, Mulberry Fork and Locust Fork. He then told me with a chuckle, he loves tall waterfalls!
That’s quite obvious in the video. And now it is viral. What a great way to start off the New Year.
Want to Learn How to Canoe/Kayak and Support Our Rivers? Here is How.
And of course, you can’t kayak without clean rivers and streams. Want to know who to support? Alabama Rivers Alliance has the comprehensive directory of water protection groups, big and small across the state. It’s a great place to start. You may also want to check out the new Waterkeeper Alliance website.