Is the world ready for the rollicking new sport of big-wave kayaking? Tao Berman, known for his first descents and for pushing river kayaking to the extreme, has realized a goal he set three years ago: to surf the biggest ocean waves ever attempted from aboard a kayak (see video).
The project, which culminated in 30-foot surf at Nelscott Reef in Oregon, brings to an end a remarkable paddling career for Berman. Over the years, Berman has owned as many as three kayaking world records — including highest waterfall descent (98.4 feet) — says he’s retiring, with nothing left to prove.
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But after witnessing what Berman accomplished at Nelscott, and realizing that giant ocean waves can be surfed from aboard kayaks, others are sure to follow in his wake.
“Tao has always been a step ahead of the game,” said Joe Carberry, senior editor of Canoe & Kayak magazine. “He saw something at Nescott Reef that no other kayakers saw, and had the focus and really worked hard to understand the ocean and to test his ability over those three years he had been planning to do this.”
But the feat was not accomplished without taking a few lumps. Berman, who possesses intimate knowledge of river dynamics, painfully discovered the ferocious power of ocean waves during a severe wipeout that delivered him end-over-end in cascading whitewater.
However, he claimed to have relished that experience. “If I left here knowing that I was carving down the waves and never got to feel the raw power of the ocean, it wouldn’t quite feel complete,” he said.
It’ll be interesting to see how long Berman, once described by Sports Illustrated as “the best-known kayaker on the planet,” stays in retirement.
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