August 18, 2012

Video: Rob McKibbin on Sunset Falls – Plus A Little Something


It was October 2008 when everyone's favorite local paddler and kayaking legend Rob McKibbin, ran the 275-foot Sunset Falls in Index, WA - on his lunch break, for heaven's sake, after which he geared back up for his contracting job and went back to work.

The falls hadn't been run since 1926, when daredevil Al Faussett drew a huge crowd to watch him run it in a 34-foot canoe.  The video of Rob on Sunset Falls was shot by Jake Sanders and is part of the movie Risen Sun, I think, but has only recently been available as its own clip on Vimeo.  Here it is.

I don't think the video gives you a good idea of how big the falls actually are.  Wikipedia says the actual elevation drop is 104 feet, and the chute itself is approximately 275 feet.  There's a sieve hazard in the upper portion river right, and huge roostertail center left near the botttom, and overall just utter chaos.

Rob stuck to his line but his spray skirt blew when he disappeared at the bottom and he was ejected from his boat at the very end.  Since then Sunset Falls has been run in 2010 by Tyler Bradt, and again in 2012 by Sam Grafton at around 6500 cfs, and also twice in one day in 2012 by Rob at around 7500 cfs.

Rob said I should point out that he got ejected at the bottom and swam both times at 7500, and that Sam "crushed it" at 6500.  Which is a typical Rob thing to say.

It's also worth noting that when Rob first ran it he was 43 years old and had only been kayaking for something like ten or eleven years - not a boater since childhood, and not sponsored by any company, unlike so many other extreme paddlers (not that there's anything wrong with being sponsored, obviously... I'm just saying).

Ironically, it was my sister Monique in Germany who emailed me the link to the video of Rob a couple of weeks ago and asked, "Is this the guy?" in relation to an at-the-time upcoming event (see below).

Getting married next to the beautiful Skykomish River. Photo by Garvin Carrell.

OK, I haven't asked Rob, but I'm wondering if after running Sunset Falls maybe the second-scariest thing he's ever done was agree to perform the wedding ceremony between me and Mike Nash last Saturday. :)  I only say this because he insisted many times that he would be a complete train wreck, but in true Rob style he totally crushed it, to the point that I told him maybe he had found his second calling.

Rob making sure the bride doesn't take a header into the Skykomish River on her way to the wedding rock. Photo by Jennifer Jakub.

Rob "crushing it" as a marriage officiant. Photo by Dan Patrinellis.

Yes, the paper means it's official. :) Photo by Philippa Swale.

Could there be any nicer place to get married than on the rocks at Cable Drop put-in along the Skykomish River on a sunny day?  Not to mention the paddle that followed, with at least 30 or so kayakers on the river, and a stellar outdoor reception graciously hosted by Mike and Beth Harms.

Thanks to all who shared the day with us in person and in spirit, and to Rob for making me laugh enough during the ceremony that I forgot to be nervous. :)

Good wishes from Berlin. Thanks Monique and Stephan!


Beth H., Dan P., Garvin C., Jake S., Jennifer J., Mike H., Mike N., Monique, Philippa S., Rob M., Sam G., Sunset Falls, Tyler B.

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  • LOL, good question! Actually the ceremony paled (fearwise) in comparison to most of the major drops I’ve run, even though they have normally turned out OK (swimming a big chunk of Middle Icicle and getting my helmet snagged on a tree underwater on the Foss being the notable exceptions – but I digress). So that includes virtually everything on Tumwater (even the flat parts :)) the Cooper the first time down (when Mike and I did it just ourselves so scouted everything and I happen to suck at clambering around on slippery rocks), and even Boulder Drop, which I’ve run countless times but it still scares me way more than it should most days. I guess you could describe the ceremony as pool-drop in style – I knew that once it was over there would be a leisurely paddle followed by margaritas at the reception instead of some massive run-out. :)

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