How these guys rowed the world’s strongest current

The current at Norway’s Saltstraumen Strait is life threatening, but that didn’t stop these oarsmen.
© Emil Sollie / Red Bull Content Pool
By Corinna Halloran

Deep in the heart of northern Norway lies a beast that comes alive at six-hour intervals with each tidal change. But this beast is so fierce, and so wild, that it can easily terrify anyone – especially when its current is at its strongest during a full moon. The Saltstraumen has the world’s strongest tidal current: during the tidal rush, it sends 400 million cubic metres of seawater through a 1.9km long, 150-metre wide strait. That’s way more than Niagara Falls.

In recent history, the current has taken the lives of 60 people, including the grandmother of the man featured in the above video. Then there are whirlpools, rocks, and a whole load of ominous tales steeped in folklore about the Saltstraumen. But all that didn’t stop Norway’s Kjetil Borch and Nils Jakob Hoff from achieving the near impossible by rowing the infamous strait.

Yes, that’s right – they rowed it, using a 30cm wide, 13m long, carbon boat. Right next to soul sucking whirlpools, they navigated the treacherous strait using strength, know-how, and adrenaline. 

“In theory, it should work, but theory and reality are not always the same things,” said Hoff. “It's a notorious location that we all know from when we were young. We sat down and did lots of research and calculations, and the numbers add up – it's doable.”

 In order to successfully row through the current, Hoff and Borch had to not only row faster than the current but also stay straight in the narrow path, despite whirlpools popping up left and right. And as the two oarsmen battled their way through, the Saltstraumen did everything it could to suck the duo below the water’s surface.

“It’s quite hectic. When your oar is 2.5 metres away from something that potentially can suck you down till the bottom of the ocean, you find yourself in a rush,” said Hoff. “Your heart rate sky-rockets and you row with all you've got.” 

All in all, these men have conquered the rough waters of Norway and achieved something amazing. But when you’re young, strong, and rowing off adrenaline, why not try and prove folklore wrong?

In the mood for seeing other impossible feats made possible? Check out David Lama attempt this impossible wall, and these unbelieveable (and wacky) world records.

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