Rafa Ortiz embarks on a new type of first decent

Kayaker Goes Over Waterfall on Inflatable Lobster

Rafa Ortiz goes lobster diving with a pool toy in this one-of-a-kind waterfall send.

Most people would consider running a perfectly good kayak off a 70-foot waterfall somewhat extreme. But for Rafa Ortiz, that’s just another day at the office. In fact, Ortiz has practically perfected the art of the waterfall send to where he’s now seeking out different variations of the same display of bravado.

Case in point, Ortiz’s recent ode to summer: Hopping on the back of an inflatable lobster-shaped pool toy and hucking himself headfirst off a 70-foot waterfall in Washington State. Yes, this is as wild and wacky as it sounds! So we had to get the scoop right from the horse’s … err, lobster’s mouth.

Rafa Ortiz gives new meaning to lobster diving
Rafa Ortiz gives new meaning to lobster diving© Aaron Rogosin

RedBull.com: First off, where did this idea come from?

Rafa Ortiz: A few years ago, Rush Sturges and I were talking about doing a funny skit like this. There’s something about kayakers and inflatable pool toys. Our knowledge of waterfalls and whitewater translates well. So recently, I brought the idea back to light and there’s always plenty of room for comedy nowadays.

Where did it take place and what made you choose the location?

I was really lucky that we had crazy-high water levels. It gave me a bigger window to scout it out and pull it off. We did it at Outlet Falls in Washington, which I’ve run a few times in a kayak before. It’s actually one of my favorite local waterfalls. But it wasn’t the most ideal waterfall for a lobster. [Laughs] It has a rapid coming into it and that was the hardest thing — figuring out how to run the waterfall and the rapid. So I just found a rock and jumped really close to the lip.

Eyes on the prize
Eyes on the prize© Aaron Rogosin

Wait … first describe your watercraft.

Last summer, I was at the Guggenheim Museum in Spain and one of the art displays had an inflatable lobster in it. I was in awe that people considered it art. A few months later, I was on a beach in Mexico and I saw a giant inflatable lobster for sale at a beach stand, so I bought it.

With a kayak you have some control to your approach. Did you have any control of the inflatable lobster?

The lobster is actually very stable but it doesn’t have speed. The week before I spent some time training at a 40-foot waterfall where I felt really comfortable. I practiced there a few times and figured out how to approach the lip. I knew I needed to go over the handlebars forward instead of leaning back cowboy style. If I were to land really hard on the lobster I would hurt myself, so I went over the bars. I realized when I got to the lip that it was similar to being on a kayak and I translated those skills to this free fall.

What was the point of impact like?

I knew I wanted to go in front of it, but I didn’t know if I should dive because I’d have a lot of forward momentum. I was considering a front flip but then committed to the dive and I’m glad I did because the tether could’ve looped around my leg and I could’ve got really injured. When I hit, I pushed the lobster in and back. The impact was pretty soft, actually softer than a kayak.

How was it different than hucking on a kayak?

The kayak is a whole craft that holds your weight and almost stops you. The lobster had less impact.

Mission completed, lobster and all
Mission completed, lobster and all© Aaron Rogosin

Any damage to your lobster friend?

My tether ended up breaking and popping the lobster. The middle compartment of air was completely destroyed. But it fulfilled its purpose and kept me safe.

It’s all about finding a new challenge and scouting a new waterfall for the lobster. Sky’s the limit.Rafa Ortiz

Did you eat lobster for dinner that night?

No, we don’t have many lobsters here. But I wore my lobster shirt. And we released the clip on National Lobster Day.

What other craft do you think you can send a waterfall on?

A crocodile would work well. A whale would too but you wouldn’t have much stability. But I’m pretty attached to my lobster. It’s all about finding a new challenge and scouting a new waterfall for the lobster. Sky’s the limit.

By Mike Cianciulli