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

TAO BERMAN STORIES

Who Is Tao Berman?
by Jeffrey Moag


Tao Berman owns the world record for paddling over a 30-meter waterfall last August in Canada, but his newfound celebrity hasn't diminished his appetite for seemingly impossible first descents. The 21-year-old American has made more than 40 first descents, some of which no one else has dared attempt.

"I like to look at drops with an obvious feature that makes it look unrunnable. And when I see that I like to think, 'Okay, how can I make this runnable,'" Berman says. One such drop is Log Choke Falls, named for an enormous log that blocks the 10-meter drop. Berman turned this intimidating feature to his advantage, riding it over the hairiest part of the drop like a skateboarder sliding on a handrail. "I come through the entrance, boofed the first drop and landed with the log right under my butt. It's a big, round log and I slid down it sideways and fell into the pool down below," he says. Berman is the only boater to attempt this drop on the Top Tye Creek in Washington State, and he's done it twice. Berman missed the log slide move in his second attempt, flipping backwards onto a shelf cluttered with smaller logs. To everyone's surprise but Berman's, he escaped unscathed. "I'd seen that drop at low water and knew the logs were all smooth and polished. There was nothing to get hung up in," Berman explains.

Upper Johnstone Falls, the 30-meter behemoth where Berman shattered the world waterfall record, would not forgive even a small error. The waterfall cuts through a gap in the rock barely 3 meters wide, and a nasty flake guards the right side of the waterfall.

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"It was a very narrow slot. I knew I had to be real close to the left wall and I knew that there was a possibility that I could touch it," says Berman, who did graze the wall lightly before striking the water at nearly 100 kilometers per hour. The impact was so powerful it snapped Berman's paddle in half.

Berman also has the only two descents of a 65-meter slide on Washington State's Snoqualamie river that he's christened "My Little Helper." The drop features two long slides interrupted by a small, shallow pool. "It's incredibly difficult because you're going so fast when you hit this little pool that's full of bedrock," Berman says. "And then you're going down this 120 foot (39-meter) slide and you need to be working right to get away from this big piton flake rock." In his first descent, Berman pitoned into the tiny pool, blowing out his spray skirt. "As I came out of this pool, I'm putting my skirt back on one side of my boat. I got it on right as I started to drop over this huge slide, so it was a pretty neat drop, a really neat drop," Berman says.

Berman will make his first visit to Europe this spring to compete on the rodeo circuit. Beyond that, he's playing his cards close to the vest. "I have a bunch of future plans that I'm sure a lot of people would want to know about. Let's just say that my eyes are always open. I'm always looking."

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