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
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A Denver man has logged the fastest Grand Canyon river trip on record, battling 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 and swimming 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 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, 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, 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, until he 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 at Lake Mead on the Arizona-Nevada border.
 
Veteran river rafter Craig Wolfson helped greet 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 (14)
  • dianner-2-bar
    1/29/2016 - 07:10 p.m.

    There were two main reasons why Ben Orkin was in a hurry. One of the reasons was that he wanted to set the world record from kayaking and the second reason was because of the curtains were getting really hard and they kept pushing his kayak. This article is fantastic because it shows how you can beat thing and you had to be brave there were many risks on going alone and getting lost and so many reasons but you had to net give up. The people who saw him were making him try harder clapping for him and for me that would want me to actually try to beat the record and this article was just great.

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

    This story is tells me about a guy named Orkin set a record and finished taking a trip on the Grand Canyon. That took time, hard work, and courage.

  • vincentl-ver
    2/01/2016 - 10:10 a.m.

    I think that it takes a lot of work and training to complete such a challenge, let alone with a time limit.

  • jareelj-rob
    2/01/2016 - 01:38 p.m.

    I like this I am going to try this some day.

  • alyssal1-hor
    2/01/2016 - 04:30 p.m.

    The authors purposes of writing this is to inform readers about what Ben Orkin did and how hard it was. I learned how hard it can be to kayak and how much training you have to do to reach a goal so big.

  • kendallb-nar
    2/01/2016 - 06:45 p.m.

    Ben Orkin was in a rush because the curtain things kept moving his kayak and it was hard to be able to move the kayak. I'd be in a hurry too if i were in his position.

  • carsonb-2-bar
    2/02/2016 - 02:17 a.m.

    On January 24th a Denver man named Ben Orkin paddled his kayak down a 277-mile stretch of the Colorado River in just over 34 hours. It's the fastest trip on record. Tom Martin, Secretary of the Grand Canyon Historical Society, said Ben beat a record set the previous week.

    Mr. Orkin was in such a hurry because he got an email on his way to the river from another kayaker saying four other guys just finished the trip in 35 hours and five minutes. Knowing that was motivation for him to try harder to beat their time.

    Ben was very experienced. He grew up in a family of rafters and spent years training on the river. His training and experience paid off. During the trip he rolled his kayak. He was able to get back in and keep going and set a new record. Martin, of the Grand Canyon Historical Society, used GPS to track him. His journey was over when he reached Lake Mead on the Arizona-Nevada border.

    I thought this was a great story. I liked the idea that Ben trained for years before setting the record. He was a very determined athlete.

  • jeremym-
    2/02/2016 - 08:39 a.m.

    He was in such a hurry to beat the time of the world record.

  • Eugene0808-YYCA
    2/03/2016 - 08:45 p.m.

    I think this is cool because Ben Orkin managed to beat the most recent record right after hearing about it. Paddling for 34 hours is very exhausting but people manage to do it. Running rapids in the dark is also difficult because you can barely see anything and you are constantly being tossed around by the water. It's very dangerous because even with lights, you can barely see what is on front of you.
    Why was Ben Orkin in such a hurry?
    Answer: Ben Orkin was in such a hurry because he had to beat the record set the previous week.

  • satvikg-nar
    2/04/2016 - 08:05 p.m.

    Awesome! This guy actually beat the kayaking record! Sure it was tough when he had to cross the rapids and when he flipped over, but he still made it.

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