Who is the Most Well-Known Kayaker?

John Dockendorf
3 min readFeb 10, 2023

Several types of kayakers have made their mark in the world of whitewater. Some are known for leaping off massive waterfalls, while others have completed multi-day solo runs.

But what distinguishes these kayakers from the rest is their willingness to test their physical and mental limits. We’ve compiled a list of the world’s most famous kayakers who have done this.

Rush Sturges is an internationally renowned kayaker, filmmaker, freestyle rap artist, and river guide. He was born and raised on the Salmon River in California, where his parents ran one of North America’s most renowned kayak schools. He honed his whitewater skills on remote and rugged big water rivers worldwide, from Pakistan to China to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He has participated in several first descents and has supported several waterfall world record descents.

He pushed himself to the limit as an expedition kayaker on some of the world’s most remote and rugged rivers, including the Murchison section of the White Nile in Uganda, the Stikine River in Canada, the Indus River in Pakistan, and the Betsibuku River in Madagascar.

Rush relocated to White Salmon, Washington, after spending a decade traveling the world and financing kayak trips with the proceeds from his films. The pristine waters of the Little White Salmon and White Salmon Rivers allow him to hone his technical skills while also exploring new avenues for his creative vision.

If you enjoy kayaking, you’ve heard of Ben Marr. He is one of the world’s most famous kayakers and does some incredible things in his kayak. He’s a pro extreme whitewater kayaker with a long list of accomplishments. From big wave freestyle to first descents, he’s one of the world’s most well-known and recognizable paddlers.

His most memorable trips include a three-week expedition down Canada’s Nachvak River, an exceptionally technical trip through Papua New Guinea, and a recent 66-kilometer descent down Filer Creek in British Columbia. It’s not about how well he performs but how he feels while paddling. He leads a balanced lifestyle that includes cold bathing, yoga instruction, and healthy eating.

If you ask any aspiring South American kayaker about their hero, they will say Rafael Ortiz. He’s the guy to go to for big waterfall descents and a never-ending quest for the world’s most extreme whitewater. Rafa has been working for several years on a dream of kayaking in Niagara Falls, finally making it a reality. Chasing Niagara, a Red Bull Media House and River Roots film follows his quest as he trains and prepares to drop the massive falls.

Ortiz, a big-hearted, gregarious Mexican kayaker, isn’t afraid to take chances. He’s also an experienced expedition paddler, having spent years exploring and discovering routes that are only occasionally visible on maps.

The 189-foot Palouse Falls in Washington state is one of his most breathtaking runs. Only two people have run this monstrous waterfall so far. It’s a run that will undoubtedly stand the test of time.

If you want to push the limits of your sport as a kayaker, you must observe and learn from some of the world’s most famous and talented athletes. Some of these athletes have jumped off 80-foot waterfalls, while others have advanced their skills by completing multi-day solo runs through the world’s wildest rivers.

Evan Garcia is a Substantial Media House founding partner known for delivering big drops with style and grace. He is also well known for creating some of the most visually stunning whitewater films on the market.

He was recently named Canoe and Kayak’s Male Paddler of the Year and was known as one of the world’s most skilled whitewater kayakers. Despite his impressive skill set, he has always maintained a humble demeanor, and his love of kayaking is palpable.