Kearns and Sons RS Aesthetics

A paddler’s life

After his talk at the Ravalli County Museum this month and after the hurricane season subsides in Colombia, Tyler Bradt, of Stevensville, will return to South America to complete the last leg of his circumnavigation of the earth in his sailboat, the Wizard’s Eye. Photos courtesy of Tyler Bradt.

After his talk at the Ravalli County Museum this month and after the hurricane season subsides in Colombia, Tyler Bradt, of Stevensville, will return to South America to complete the last leg of his circumnavigation of the earth in his sailboat, the Wizard’s Eye. Photos courtesy of Tyler Bradt.

By Michael Howell

Bored? Looking for some excitement? How about paddling your kayak over a 189 foot high water fall. That’s the kind fun and excitement that Tyler Bradt likes to have. He set a world record doing just that when he dropped over the top of Palouse Falls in April of 2009.
Bradt is known as one of the most accomplished kayakers in the world and one of the most daring. You could call him a thrill seeker, a daredevil, but his ties to the water and kayaking go a lot deeper than that. You only have to talk to him for a few minutes to recognize the depth of his passion for just being on the water, being out there.
An exhibit of Bradt’s many accomplishments is currently on display at the Ravalli County Museum and will run through October 13. But the man himself is coming to speak at the Museum, located at 205 Bedford Street in Hamilton, on Thursday evening, September 8, at 6 p.m., when he will give a presentation, sign posters and answer questions from the community.
So what drives a man to do such things?
“I guess I sort of live my life from one adventure to the next,” said Bradt. “I guess what really drives me is it’s a deep passion of mine, kayaking and traveling and using the sports as a means of experiencing the world.” But there is more than the passion driving him.
“I also have a lot of curiosity and a desire to experience some of the most amazing places on the planet,” he said. “I just absolutely love it.”
Bradt said growing up in Montana he was a pretty typical child, learning to hunt and fish and be in the outdoors. But then, when he was six years old, his dad gave him a gift that would change his life: a kayak.
“It was like the first domino in this cascade of events that has shaped my life,” he said. It was the kayak that put him on the road to the extreme activities that he continues to engage in to this day.
“I have always loved doing activities that push me, excite me and put me at the edge,” he said.
The lifestyle is physically demanding. According to Bradt, now 30, he does some of the usual sorts of training to prepare himself for extreme events, like push-ups, sit-ups and curls. He says it keeps his body strong and his muscles ready to take some sort of impact.
“But really, the best possible training for kayaking is just kayaking,” he said. He said he spends as many days on the river as possible and it keeps his body balanced and ready do something like go over the top of Palouse Falls.
Of course, not every trip goes the way you hope. It was going over the Abiqua Falls in Oregon, only about half the height of his record-breaking plunge over the Palouse, where the risk caught up with him. One of his vertebrae was crushed in that fall. It wasn’t exactly a life-changing event, but it did give him pause to think.
“I may have passed the point that I am going to be out looking for a 200 foot waterfall,” he said, “but I still have a passion for kayaking and I’m excited to continue with some extreme kayaking, but I’m putting more emphasis on the journey and the exploration involved.”
In fact, as soon as the hurricane season is over in Columbia, he will be taking up where he left off on the last leg of a four-year journey sailing around the world. Included in the trip will be a repeat of a trip down the Caqueta River in southwestern Columbia that he took at flood stage. He said the first trip involved such long overland portages due to the high water that he wants to do it again to secure the honor of having made the first complete descent.
As far as Bradt is concerned, his days of adventure and thrill seeking are not over.
“It’s a lifestyle, a journey,” he said. “I’ll always be a paddler.”

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