When the rapids began, they began fast.
By November 5, 2021– Published on
When I was 21 years old, whitewater kayaking dominated my life. One day in early June, I strapped myself into my boat and pushed off the shore onto a remote river in the Canadian Rockies.
I had been scouting this river for close to a year - it was just beyond my skill level. It was a steep, technical, continuous Class IV run with lots of Class V rapids mixed in. High consequence, very little room for error.
With the support of a more experienced friend, I mustered up the courage to go for it.
The first kilometer was a slow scenic float, before the river tumbled down the mountain.
When the rapids began, they began fast.
We’d had a unique weather pattern for the previous week - scorching hot sun in early June, causing a massive rush of snow melt to flood the river over the banks. It was thick, brown, chalky flood water.
As soon as we dropped into the first rapid, it was nonstop - white knuckle paddling through violent and continuous whitewater.
I was holding my own, getting pushed around, but managing.
It was reaction based paddling - the water was too fast to pull over and scout the lines, so we were reading and running the rapids on sight. A dangerous style of kayaking.
I pushed over the lip of an explosive drop, and as I slid down the green tongue that spat out the bottom, I saw half submerged logs jammed between two boulders, dead in front of me.
There was no time to react.
Submerged trees are the most dangerous hazard in a river. They act as a sieve, the water can flow through, objects cannot. In a fast moving river, the force is unimaginable and logs, or people, become pinned.
As I crashed into the timber, my boat flipped. I was underwater, tangled and pressed against a mess of branches and trees. The power of the river was overwhelming, thousands of pounds of force. Movement was impossible.
People can hold their breath for minutes at a time with training and focus. But with adrenaline pumping, and the impact of the crash forcing the air out of my lungs, the runway was much shorter.
My legs were still trapped in my boat, I knew my one chance of escape was to kick it off. I was wildly thrashing and kicking and in a stroke of luck, I felt the skirt of my kayak split. The boat filled with water and the current tore it off my body.
I don’t know how I twisted out of the logs, but suddenly I was swept down the river, bouncing off boulders and reaching for the surface.
I was free from the log jam, but now I was tumbling down explosive whitewater, without a boat, without a paddle. I am not sure how long I was in the water. It was the worst beating I’ve ever experienced. I was rag-dolled through rapids, over drops, forced down and pushed back up at the mercy of the river.
I recall so vividly the thought in my mind, “I’m not f*cking dying here.”
I went crazy. I remember kicking and thrashing as I cartwheeled down the rapids. I was choking on the water in my lungs, but fighting for my life to stay near the surface.
In a lucky break, the river hit a bend. I was pushed towards the shore on the outside of the turn. The water had flooded over the bank and was rushing through the trees - this is what saved my life - I got tangled in the branches at the water's edge. Grasping at anything I could, I managed to cling and scramble out of the current. I pulled myself onto the forest floor, and vomited. I was bruised, banged up and my nose was gushing with blood. I was dizzy. But I was alive.
Kayaking the river that day was a crazy thing to do. It was in full flood. It was destined to be a disaster. It was a reckless, foolish decision, fueled by ego. But I was 21, and I don’t regret it for a minute. It became pivotal moment.
In last weeks letter I talked about values - what we hold on to when everything else fades away. I value My People and Adventure. I need both.
These days I don’t risk death to get my adventure. I still need adrenaline, but at 37 years old with three kids I hope to be more creative than risking my life.
So in a few months I will square off live on stage, with the most powerful collection of people I could gather leveraging my network and all of those around me.
It's going to be a rush, and I want you to come join me.
On stage I will be joined by Former Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, whom I met last January over a virtual interview. His candid nature shocked me, his authenticity and honesty a stark contrast in this new age of performance politics. We will discuss the future of censorship, surveillance and geopolitical power balances.
I will be joined by Former President of Mexico, Felipe Calderón, a G20 World Leader who led his country through the 2008 Great Financial Crisis while battling escalating cartel violence. The complexities of his Presidency cannot be overstated. This is guaranteed to be a show stopping conversation.
I will be joined by Danielle DiMartino Booth, an insider from the United Stated Federal Reserve, and Robert Kiyosaki, Author of Rich Dad Poor Dad, the number 1 best selling finance book of all time.
And dozens more.
There is no education like conversation. There is no rush like doing it live on stage.
This will be the event I have always wanted to attend.
It's going to be a party. You are invited.