Video: Rafa Ortiz, five waterfalls, one result

Few paddlers have the verve and style of Rafa Ortiz. See why as he drops five falls in a row.
By Tarquin Cooper

They say that the smallest things can shape our destiny. For Rafa Ortiz, it was the moment his parents gave him his first kayak.

“I've always had a taste for water and adventure,” he says. “Every weekend I used to go out paddling with my dad. When I was 14 my parents gave me my first river kayak and so I shipped out…”

Since then, it's been one long adrenaline-charged ride for the 26 year old Mexican, who has built up a legion of fans for his all-out aggressive style and cojones on water. 

In this latest video, that style can be seen in full as he drops a series of five waterfalls on the Agua Azul in Mexico's Chiapas province.

Rafa Ortiz at Veracruz River, in Mexico.
1... 2... 3... drop. © Alfredo Martinez/Red Bull Content Pool

Just getting there was an adventure for the team and involved dealing with a few local dangers – but not of the natural kind.

“When you get to Agua Azul, you have the tourist site with a couple of waterfalls, but if you go down you find a maze of channels. After rowing them for one hour, they will guide you to the waterfalls of Bolon Ajaw. It was there that we had to stop to negotiate our entry with an armed group known as supporters of the Zapatista movement,” said Rafa.

Rafa Ortiz at Veracruz River, in Mexico.
Before the drop – an imposing scene. © Alfredo Martinez/Red Bull Content Pool

Three hours were spent with the kayaker and his expedition group negotiating their access into the lower viewpoints of the waterfalls, as this group of people is dedicated to defend their territory in case of any land dispossession by the government.

“People get scared when you tell them you stood against Zapatistas, holding machetes, but fortunately it is was a peaceful negotiation and we needed just to pay a small fee to enter,” Ortiz added.

Rafa Ortiz at Veracruz River, in Mexico.
Front row seats © Alfredo Martinez/Red Bull Content Pool

Was it worth it? Absolutely. For Ortiz, the five waterfalls in a row are like a big amusement park. Each one has different degrees of difficulty and different heights, and they go between 10 and 15 meters. At the end of the fifth waterfall is the confluence of the river Chumulja, where Rafa still needed to paddle an extra hour to reach the community of Agua Clara where a team was waiting to pick up him up.

The trip included the exploration of another river in Chiapas, the river Lacanja. Although it doesn’t have a high degree of difficulty – only some rapids up to three meters high –  it is worth rowing it for its scenery and the nature surrounding it. “As we walked the trail with our kayak, we could see jaguar foot prints in the mud. The scenery is stunning, you start rowing and you suddenly see small springs gushing from the rocks”, Rafa said. “The best part of all this is the journey!”

Check out the video and enjoy the ride…

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