Kayaker sets record running Grand Canyon rapids In this Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016 photo provided by Pamela Wolfson, Arthur Orkin, left, and Craig Wolfson, right, help Ben Orkin, out of his kayak at Pearce Ferry near the Arizona-Nevada border. (Courtesy of Pamela Wolfson via AP)
Kayaker sets record running Grand Canyon rapids
Lexile

A Denver man has logged the fastest Grand Canyon river trip on record. He battled blisters and rapids as he paddled his kayak down a 277-mile stretch of the Colorado River in 34 hours and two minutes.
 
Ben Orkin reached the end of his journey Jan. 24. He was exhausted after navigating the water in the dark. He even swam part of it when a rapid toppled his kayak. Orkin beat a record set the previous week by more than an hour, and one set by three men in a non-motorized boat in 1983. That is according to Tom Martin, secretary of the Grand Canyon Historical Society.
 
"I'm super happy I beat it," Orkin, a 25-year-old certified public accountant, said. "I'm never trying it again."
 
The unofficial records kept among river rafters started with Maj. John Wesley Powell. He rowed the river in 29 days in 1869.
 
Most people take their time on the river, stopping to hike within the canyon and camp. But river rafting enthusiasts say doing the trip as quickly as possible is becoming a personal challenge for some.
 
Orkin and a friend from college, Harrison Rea, attempted an overall speed record in January 2015. They fell an hour short. They lost time after Rea's kayak got stuck and cracked. It forced them to repair it on shore.
 
Orkin launched his latest venture in the dark Jan. 23. He left from Lees Ferry near the Arizona-Utah border. His goal was to beat the 1983 record of 36 hours and 38 minutes that was set when the water was flowing much faster. On his way to the river, he got an email from a fellow kayaker that would make it even harder. It said four men just finished the trip in 35 hours and five minutes.
 
Orkin said he knew within hours that he could beat that time if he kept up his pace of just over 8 miles an hour. He grew up in a family of whitewater river rafters, spent years developing a relationship with the Grand Canyon and trained hundreds of hours for a speed trip.
 
He was confident about a record run until he hit the Lava Falls Rapid. It is one of the most challenging on the river. The rapid rolled his kayak and sent him swimming for about half a mile to shore. He emptied the water in his kayak and kept going.
 
Taking a break is otherwise out of the question, Orkin said. He carried food that was easily accessible and wouldn't upset his stomach. He also had a lighting system and a spreadsheet with the river miles. He launched his kayak based on the time of day he was expected to hit certain rapids.
 
"The planning is huge. It's a very specialized skill set," Orkin said. "Not only running rapids in the dark, but you have to be comfortable doing so alone and exhausted."
 
He got a boost from other river rafters who cheered and clapped as he paddled by. But he said he went the last 22 hours of the trip without seeing anyone. And when the river calms about 30 miles after the last rapid, exhaustion set in.
 
"You have to paddle the hardest you've ever paddled to break the record at that point," he said.
 
Martin, of the Grand Canyon Historical Society, and others tracked Orkin's progress online. That is, until Orkin lost the GPS device in the water with less than an hour to go. A backup GPS gave him the exact coordinate that signaled the end of his trip. He finished at Lake Mead on the Arizona-Nevada border.
 
Veteran river rafter Craig Wolfson greeted Orkin as he finished. He and Orkin's father, Arthur Orkin, helped the record-setter off his kayak.
 
"It's an amazing feat," Wolfson said. "I stood there looking at him and was in awe of what he had accomplished."

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why was Ben Orkin in such a hurry?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (52)
  • paulo-hol
    1/29/2016 - 04:53 p.m.

    I bet it was really hard and boring to keep pumping his arms the whole way.

  • camillem-jon
    2/01/2016 - 10:04 a.m.

    I think it is cool how he did that. He must be really brave because there are lots of things that could go wrong.

  • ben0424-yyca-byo
    2/01/2016 - 09:33 p.m.

    This record would make anyone proud. The Grand Canyon has a very long river and rowing for 34 hours and two minutes would make anyone tired. Also being drenched in rapids would make you cold at night. I am proud of Ben Orkin and what he did.

  • samanthas-1-ste
    2/02/2016 - 11:21 a.m.

    Ben Orkin was determined to beat the record. He knew he was short on time the first time, so for his own pride, he went faster. The determination and focus must have been incredible and hard for him to do, especially for 34 hours.

  • sethg-2-bar
    2/02/2016 - 08:51 p.m.

    Ben Orkin was in a hurry because to beat the record, he had to do it in under thirty-five hours. In paragraph seven, this article states " It said four men just finished the journey in 35 hours and five minutes." This was an incredible feat. I found this article interesting because I've always wanted to go white water rafting.

  • John0724-YYCA
    2/02/2016 - 09:18 p.m.

    I think that it should have been very hard for this man because he said it himself that it was very hard because of the lost gps and how fast it went. I think that if that guy was me I would have just not do it because there is no point of doing this for fame because I would rather be alive then risk my life on a kayak trip.

  • Eric0221-YYCA
    2/02/2016 - 09:20 p.m.

    The kayaker might have been able to set a record running through the Grand Canyon rapids which people might have not been able to beat the older record on the grand canyon rapids that nobody else can be able to beat. The Grand Canyon rapids might have been very challenging for people because the rapids had been very hard for people to be beating because the rapids had made it hard for people to beat the older record. The Grand Canyon rapids had been very hard for kayakers to not be able to be beating the older Grand Canyon rapid record which people had been trying to make a new record from it. People might have been trying hard to be beating the Grand Canyon rapid record because people had been trying hard to be beating the Grand Canyon rapid record which people aren't able to get out a new record.
    Critical Thinking Question: Why was Ben Orkin in such a hurry?
    Answer: Because he wanted to be beating the older record that people had made in the past because people are trying to beat to be put in as a new record.

  • austini-lam
    2/03/2016 - 09:43 a.m.

    This was a really interesting article to read about. This is just crazy to paddle for over 24 hours. Also, that seems impossible to kayak 277 miles. This guy really has some guts to, to fall out of your kayak and keep swimming and not giving up. Overall this was a good read and I would recommend reading it.

  • liama-hol
    2/03/2016 - 11:02 a.m.

    I bet that was hard for him to do that for so long.

  • marcusl-hol
    2/03/2016 - 02:04 p.m.

    It's amazing that a man can go 277 miles in 34 hours and 2 minutes

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