In 1901, Annie Edson Taylor, a 63-year-old schoolteacher, became the first person to go over Niagara Falls in New York in a barrel, a stunt she had hoped would solve her financial problems (it didn’t). The explanations for why one might want to throw oneself off a waterfall range from the allure of glory and the promise of wealth, to an escape from desperation.
Sometimes this kind of extreme risk-taking is attributed to a simpler, purer explanation: passion. That is how Dane Jackson, a 26-year-old national kayaking champion from Tennessee, explains his obsession with kayaking Salto del Maule, a 134-foot waterfall located in Valle de Los Condores, a volcanic region of central Chile.
“It’s been a dream of mine for five years,” Jackson said. “I think it’s just one of the most photogenic waterfalls I’ve ever seen. And it’s also quite tall.”
The record for the tallest waterfall ever run in a kayak is held by Tyler Bradt for Palouse Falls, a 189-foot waterfall in Washington. Only a handful of kayakers have ever tried their luck at running anything over 100 feet. With Salto del Maule, Jackson has now completed six waterfalls that are at least 100 feet.