In mountaineering circles the Seven Summits refers to the tallest mountains on each of the seven continents and, over the past few decades, climbing those peaks has become quite the badge of honor in the adventure community. Now self-proclaimed extreme kayaker Bob “Gnarly” Goldstein has come up with a similar rite of passage for paddling sport that is equally challenging and dangerous. Goldstein says that he intends to paddle over the biggest waterfalls on each of the continents, an endeavor that he has dubbed “the Seven Plummets.”
Goldstein claims he first came up with the idea while in Base Camp on Mt. Everest last spring. He was there attempting to become the first person to ride a mountain bike to the summit of the world’s tallest peak – an attempt that ultimately ended in failure – when he heard other climbers discussing the Seven Summits. Intrigued with the concept, he never the less soon discovered that mountaineering might not be for him. “Turns out riding a bike up Everest is really hard,” he says without a hint of humor in his voice. “I learned pretty quickly that it is much easier going down than up.”
Defeated on the slopes of Everest, Bob returned home to Topeka, Kansas, where a new idea began to slowly germinate in his head. “I wanted to do something that combined my love for the outdoors with my natural talent for going down something,” he explains. “This seemed like an obvious way to combine those two things and I’m looking forward to having gravity work in my favor this time.”From that simple idea the concept of the Seven Plummets was born and Goldstein immediately began researching the biggest waterfalls on each of the continents. That list includes the massive Niagara Falls in North America, Iguazu Falls in South America and Victoria Falls in Africa. He also plans to take on Europe’s Langfoss Falls, Jog Falls in Asia and Sutherland Falls in Oceania. “For some reason I haven’t found the largest waterfall in Antarctica yet,” Bob says, “I think it’s because it hasn’t been completely explored yet.”
With his research complete, Bob set about gaining the skills that he would need for the successful completion of the Plummets. “I’d never even been in a kayak before,” he says. “So I enrolled in a class down at the YMCA and learned to paddle in the pool.” That led to some weekends out on the duck pond in his backyard where he further honed his abilities. “I’ve come a long way in a short time,” he says. “I’m now quite comfortable paddling Class II waters. Class III if the wind isn’t blowing too hard.”
Bob is quick to point out that he is taking his training much more seriously than he did last year when he was preparing for Everest. Not only has he been spending time in his kayak, he’s also hitting the gym at least two or three times a month and watching a lot of paddling videos on YouTube. “I’ve even switched to light beer!” he declares proudly.
In May, Goldstein will travel to upstate New York for his first challenge, the 165-foot drop over Niagara Falls. That’s just a tuneup for what comes next, however. If he survives Niagara, he plans to go to Africa in June and take on Victoria Falls. That will be a staggering 355-foot drop. More than twice as high as the previous record kayak drop.
“It’s going to be Gnarly!” Bob says confidently. “Now I just need to learn how to swim.”
[Photo credit via Lake Fong/Post-Gazette]