Rafael Ortiz

The Mexican kayaker who seeks the gnarliest whitewater

Rafa Ortiz atop the Big Banana
© Lucas Gilman/Red Bull Content Pool

Hi, my name is Rafael Ortiz. My discipline is kayak expedition. My friends call me Rafa . I was born on 20 June 1987 in Mexico City, Mexico. My special talent is writing. My philosophy of life is die exhausted. My favourite food is any local food when I'm travelling. My favourite music is Cuban, blues & jazz, rock, flamenco.


Ask any up-and-coming South American kayaker who their hero is and the likelihood is that you’ll get the same answer: Rafael Ortiz. The Mexican has garnered a massive legion of fans with his aggressive, all-out approach and he can regularly be seen hurling his boat off 100-foot waterfalls and down the gnarliest of whitewater runs. Ortiz learned to paddle in Veracruz but honed his skills in Canada and in 2005 became the first Mexican ever to compete at the World Freestyle Championships.

It was daredevil Ben Stookesberry who introduced Rafael to the thrills of expedition paddling, a sport that has taken him all over the world. During a expedition in Veracruz in 2010, Rafael conquered the second highest waterfall in the world, The Big Banana Fall (42m).

In 2012, Rafael had one of the busiest years of his life, beginning with a 6 week expedition to New Zealand with Ben Brown, for the Red Bull Flow Hunters project. It was followed with a short adventure in Washington, US, where he managed to land the tallest waterfall ever dropped by a man, The Pallouse Falls with 57.6m.

Now a top international kayaker in waterfall, Rafael has been the star of Red Bull Chasing Waterfalls, a two-year project designed to discover unknown routes, rivers and of course waterfalls.

He also embarked on a Red Bull US project alongside Ian Walsh and other legends, and can usually be found slaying whitewater around the globe.

Rafa's latest project was to follow his dream of kayaking Niagara Falls and it culminated in the movie Chasing Niagara, released in 2016. 

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Career Highlights

  1. 2016
    1. Project: Chasing Niagara (movie)


  2. 2014
    1. Project: Red Bull Chasing Waterfalls


  3. 2013
    1. World Record: Steepest descent

      Santo Domingo River, Chiapas, Mexico

    2. 5th Place: Alseseca Kayak Race


  4. 2012
    1. Freefall: Palouse Falls - 57 metre drop

      Washington State, USA

    2. Organised: AWP World Series final

  5. 2011
    1. Rider of the Year Award – Best drop

  6. 2009
    1. 2nd Place: Alseseca Kayak Race