Extreme kayaker: 'It looks like the end of the world'

Extreme kayaker: 'It looks like the end of the world' »Play Video
Jesse Coombs rides his kayak off Abiqua Falls. (courtesy Lucas Gilman)

PORTLAND, Ore. – It’s a daring stunt that only a handful of people have ever tried: riding a kayak down a 96-foot waterfall.

Professional kayaker Jesse Coombs of Corvallis did just that. The 40-year-old rode his kayak down Oregon’s Abiqua Falls this summer.

Coombs told KATU News he is one of only three kayakers to attempt the drop. It may not be the tallest waterfall, but it’s certainly one of the most dangerous, Coombs said.

“It’s sort of being nicknamed the punisher,” said Coombs.

The ride only lasted three seconds, but Coombs said the drop was much longer than it seems. “Really, three seconds is a long time,” he said.

The stunt initially made Coombs think twice. “I pulled into the water one time and pulled back out again before I got very close because I could tell mentally I wasn’t quite ready yet.”

“When I’m in the pool above it and I’m looking at that huge horizon line it looks like the end of the world.”

When he was ready for the falls, Coombs’ photographer, Lucas Gilman, captured the drop on video from multiple cameras.

“You hit the bottom and it’s a car wreck,” said Coombs. “It’s a lot of force, energy and you’re all tight and tensed up to protect your body so you’re just waiting on this hit, and you don’t know exactly when it’s going to happen.”

Coombs suffered a punctured lung and a fractured shoulder joint. He said otherwise, he nailed it.

He said the other two professionals who attempted the drop had more serious injuries. One broke his back, while the other dislocated both of his knees.

Coombs said he’s already looking for his next thrill, but not necessarily a bigger or more dangerous one.

“I look for ones that I think I can do successfully and fit within my profile of staying healthy and being happy.”