Rafael Ortiz

The Mexican kayaker who seeks the gnarliest whitewater

Sequence of shots to show Rafael Ortiz's descent as he kayaks down a gushing waterfall in San Luis Potosi and Chiapas, Mexico.
© Mauricio Ramos/Red Bull Content Pool

Hi, my name is Rafael Ortiz. My discipline is kayak expedition. My friends call me Rafa . I was born on 19 June 1987 in Mexico City. My special talent is free-falling down massive waterfalls. My favourite food is tacos. My favourite music is Rusko, Siriusmo and K’naan.


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 Veracurz in 2010, Rafael conquered the second highest waterfall in the world, The Big Banana Fall (42mts).

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 finished the year in Mexico´s homeland called Red Bull Chasing Waterfalls, a two-year project for 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.

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Career Highlights

  1. 2013
    1. 5th Place: Alseseca Kayak Race


  2. 2012
    1. Freefall: Palouse Falls – 57 metre drop

      Washington State, US

    2. Organised: AWP World Series final

  3. 2005
    1. World Freestyle Championships

      The first Mexican ever to compete in the championships