Community Blind Challenge

We Forgot A Few

When we shared our “The New River Rules” feature from the Early Summer 2016 issue of Rapid (, Facebook readers had a few more points to add on how running rivers has changed over the decades.

“It was the middle ‘60s for me. Back then there were some big water paddlers but not as many. Because of glass boats there was much more emphasis on skills to avoid rocks (and repairs) and river reading. Plastic boats changed all that and then the introduction of small boats made it much easier to learn to play the rapids without the penalties of repairs.” —Jeff McColl

“It was all in black and white.” —Barney Willis

When Lonnie Bedwell ran into Eric Jackson at a whitewater festival in West Virginia last September, he made a passing remark that months later led to a groundbreaking adventure. The blind extreme sports athlete and veteran told Jackson that he would like to run the Zambezi River, the fourth larg- est river in Africa and home to some of the world’s most challenging whitewater.

A few months later Jackson and kayaking legend Steve Fisher reached out to Bedwell from the Zambezi, where they were filming the instructional feature Dreamline. They told Bedwell his run of the Zambezi was on.

The Answer To All Life’s Questions

Sometimes we need a little guidance to remind us that paddling should come first. Luckily, American Canoe Association staffer Kelsey Bracewell made this helpful graphic.

Although Bedwell has paddled many tough rivers, including the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, the Zambezi was next level. Filmed by Fisher and guided by Jackson and Timmy O’Neill, Bedwell was led by posi- tive and clear verbal commands.

There were some tricky moments. At one rapid Bedwell was pinned against a wall, couldn’t roll, and after pushing his paddle against the wall got recycled. “It was a pretty intense moment,” he says. Another time his spray skirt imploded and he briefly ended up in a hole.


Read Rapid on your device or at www.rapidmedia. com/0592 to catch this bonus content.

Watch a teaser trailer for Locked In, a film about the ambitious first descent of Papua New Guinea’s Beriman Gorge (Slide, page 30).

Get a preview of the Ace of Spades (Boat Insider, page 51).

Watch for this icon throughout this issue of Rapid for digital extras. KEEP IN TOUCH | | |

12 | RAPID

Go to to see clips from the film created about the adventure.

While the crashing rapids made it hard to hear commands, Bedwell says having such top-notch guides on the massive river made all the difference. Bedwell had paddled previ- ously with O’Neill, and that relationship as well as the new one with Jackson allowed for a great deal of trust—a crucial factor on this unique river run.

He hopes others who see his feats in the outdoors are motivated. “You just really, truly hope it inspires others to think outside the box people put them in,” he says.


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