It started as a contest and ended up as the realisation of a handful of dream projects for seven athletes around the world... and even more than that for the big winner of the adidas Outdoor Claim Freedom competition, Germany's Adrian Mattern.
At the end of March 2016, Adrian, a few friends and a film crew headed to one of the meccas of kayaking: the USA's Pacific Northwest, home of the Columbia River Gorge and the land of endless waterfalls. Their goal was to scout as many waterfalls as they could and to descend as many as possible.
We caught up wih him to find out about the whole experience.
What was the most difficult part of your challenge?
Physically, the hardest part was for sure the last waterfall I paddled, on the last day, the biggest one, Hamma Hamma Falls. But mentally I think the hardest part was when my friend injured himself on day one and I needed to get back on the horse and find my mental strength again, to be able to go out again and paddle hard white water, because it makes you think for sure. That was probably the hardest part.
How many waterfalls did you find on this trip?
Six, maybe. The problem is, in that area, you have a pretty small time window through which you can go. The snow needs to melt, and the best case is when it rains on top of it, so that the river is really, really high. This way there's enough water flowing over these waterfalls, so we can paddle down.
That was the goal, but we didn’t have the perfect water level, it was a little bit too low, so we had to really look around and see what could be done.
That was the hard bit, because in my mind, I was thinking, 'OK, we just get here, everything will be perfect, we’ll be good to go.' We got there and were like 'damn, this is too low, this is too low, this is too low… Where do we go?'
And then because of that we went out and looked for the more 'unknown' ones,and the ones not so many people go to, just because it’s not their first option. And then we found some really, really cool ones, just because we had to look deeper.
What have you achieved?
I would say I ran really awesome drops, I could push myself , push the sport eventually a little bit and I could fulfil my childhood dreams. I have been wanting to go to that place since I was a small kid. It was my dream and it eventually happened.
Why is it a place you wanted to go to since you were a kid?
That’s the most famous drop in the area, so I saw it when I was really young, I was just saying 'I want to go there, I want to go there'. All my idols lived there and grew up there. Then I got there and checked it out, and I wanted to do the basic runs, but also the hidden ones, the unknown gems. That was really cool, that I got the chance and opportunity to go there and do it!
If you had to rank all the waterfalls you have done, where would you place this adventure?
It’s really high up on my list, that’s for sure. Probably the coolest one so far, just because it was a childhood dream. I saw these waterfalls so many times in pictures, then I just got there and it was even cooler than I had imagined. So that was probably my favourite adventure so far.
Do you think there are still a lot of places to discover in the world?
Yes, for sure. The second you go to Russia, to China, to South East Asia, it’s going to be a good place to do first descents. If you go out of the western culture, you can do it pretty easily, just because kayaking isn’t so known there.
Even in Norway I did a first descent just a couple weeks ago. Even though people have been going to Norway for kayaking for the last 20 years, there is just so much out there if you’re willing to take missions. We walked 25km with our kayaks to get to the river, you know, and if you are willing to take that mission, you can for sure do first descents.
Interested in seeing what other passion projects won the adidas Outdoor Claim Freedom activation?
Featuring expeditions that ranged from bouldering on the frozen Lake Baikal and big wall climbing on the granite dome in São Tomé and Príncipe, to exploring one of the deepest caves in China, the full-length movie promises goosebumps for all adventure lovers.
You can watch the movie for 24 hours on the adidas Outdoor YouTube channel starting on September 17, 2016, 2pm CEST (12pm UTC).
The film will also be shown at several movie festivals worldwide (please check the adidas Outdoor website for more details)