Can you kayak over the Niagara Falls and stay alive? Shaun Baker thinks so

Sunday, 01 March 2009
Shaun Baker kayaks over a waterfall. Photo Credit: Times OnlineBack in 1996, Shaun Baker broke the record for the worlds longest kayak freefall when he dropped 65 feet off the Aldeyjarfoss falls in Iceland. Now, he wants to shatter that record by going over the biggest drop of them all; Niagara Falls. How will he avoid the rocks and immense amount of water poring over? His newest invention, a jet powered kayak.

"I'm planning to run some huge, record-breaking waterfalls," says Baker, 44. "The ones I had to walk away from in the past because I simply would not have been able to clear the rocks at the bottom. This time I can stop 10 metres from the edge, fire the engine up and get a ballistic burst of speed and just fly right over the top. Fifty metres downstream - that's where I'm going to land - literally flying."

How does the beast work? Inside the 6.5 feet long kayak is a one-gallon tank of fuel and a 300cc two-stroke engine which powers a jet turbine at the rear of the kayak. Currently it is still a prototype with the long term goal of switching over to compressed air canisters inside the boat.

Naysayers will mention that the jet powered boat is no longer a kayak but according to the International Canoe Federation, it officially is. "You must use standard equipment, and you can't have steering mechanisms, just paddles or leaning." explains Baker.

Jesse Sharp at the brink of the Horseshoe Falls, Old Scow in background. Photo credit: Niagara Falls Public Library Digital CollectionsThe last time that somebody tried to take a kayak over Niagara Falls was in 1990 when Jessie Sharp went over without a helmet or a life vest. His body was never recovered. In 1995 Rober Overacker attempted to go over in a jet ski. His body was recovered by the Maid of the Mist shortly afterwards.

Below is some video footage of the prototype kayak in action that was shot for the TV show, Top Gear back in 2006.

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Photo Credits: Times Online
Niagara Falls Heritage Foundation Collection

David Johnston

David Johnston

David Johnston has been introducing people to the sport of sea kayaking for the past 15 years. He is a senior instructor trainer with Paddle Canada and teaches for several paddling schools in Ontario, Canada. Full Bio.

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