"Tao is recognized as the world's premier
radical hair-boater (extreme kayaker)" -
Men's Journal


Two Seconds to Glory
by Christian Knight

When he was just 10 years old, little Tao Berman walked through his mom's door in Washington State with a rock imbedded in his head, and a chunk of flesh ripped from his side. "That's the price to pay for falling off a bike while careening down a mountainside," Berman said.

That mountain bike accident is one of the first memories Berman recounts when he first realized he was different from a lot of people. "For awhile," Berman said, "I just thought everyone was like me, and then I realized maybe I was different. I'm still trying to figure out whether that's good or bad."

Tao Berman doesn't ride down mountain sides anymore, but that same mentality that pushed him when he was 10 is pushing him to push the envelope in the extreme kayaking world now.

Within the last two years, Berman has emerged into the extreme kayaking circle as one of the premier extremists through an exhausting succession of remarkable feats; including two world record claims to the highest vertical waterfall ever kayaked adding to his several first descents and only descents of what is usually considered "unrunnable whitewater."

In 1997, Berman added to the increasing debate as to who out of three possible contenders really owned the world record for the highest vertical waterfall ever kayaked by kayaking an 83-foot Mexican waterfall on the hurricane swollen El Tomata River near Vera Cruz, Mexico.

The waterfall was nestled deep in a treacherous canyon farther away from civilization than most people would prefer to go. The only measurement consisted of a seventy-five foot throw rope dangling about ten feet from the bottom. As a result, Guinness scoffed at the claim, which failed nearly all of their stringent technicalities for documentation.

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The video footage did appear on Erik Link's debut film, "Twitch," but exposure was ultimately overwhelmed by Shannon Carroll's less credible, yet more exposed world record claim on Oregon's 78 foot Sahalie Falls in the heavily trafficked Sahalie State Park.

While Berman was never officially crowned as the world record holder, his run on that Mexican waterfall hatched him into notoriety of the most extreme kayakers.

His most recent and perhaps most significant feat took place August 23, 1999 amidst the signs, observation decks and trails of Upper Johnston Falls in Banff National Forest. There stood the 98 foot and four inch waterfall that could shatter the festering question about who really owned the world record for the highest vertical waterfall ever kayaked. The waterfall thundered through a seven foot wide limestone chasm into a boiling, white cauldron. Tourists, expressing various forms of emotion, from a somber panic to eager curiosity squeezed into protective observation decks. On top of it all stood 5'5 Tao Berman.

Two hours of intense calculation and two seconds of breathless falling later, Tao Berman became the undisputed world record holder for the highest vertical waterfall ever kayaked for the second time in two years.

As of August 23, 1999, there has been no question about who holds the world record, where it was and how high it stands. And no, this time, Guinness isn't laughing. They have already begun documenting.

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