We all know that one guy who rem­i­nisces about the rough rapids he hit that day and the near death expe­ri­ence by a strain­er. Yet every­one knows that in real­i­ty there were mere rip­ples in the riv­er and a float­ing log. We all have a ten­den­cy to think we’re a lit­tle more hard­core than we real­ly are. But after look­ing at these pad­dlers, you may be brought back down to reality.

Hendri CoetzeeHen­dri Coet­zee
Hen­dri Coet­zee was a South African kayak­er and adven­tur­er who was part of the first source-to-sea explo­ration of the Nile Riv­er in 2004. He opened up tons of water­ways for kayak trav­el through­out the African con­ti­nent. Sad­ly, he was killed by a croc­o­dile when he was only 35. His body was nev­er found so we can only hope that he stayed in the rivers of the con­ti­nent he loved so much.

Alek­sander Doba

When one thinks of a 64 year old man with sil­ver hair and an awe­some beard, we think of Gan­dalf or a fic­tion­al char­ac­ter. Some may even think of their grand­fa­ther or the cor­ner store drunk. Alek­sander Doba is none of the above. This Pol­ish native kayaked alone from Dakar, Sene­gal in West Africa to North­east Brazil; a whop­ping 3320 miles in 99 days. He pad­dled a 23 foot cus­tomized sea kayak and lived off of dehy­drat­ed food, can­dy, and fresh fish that he caught along the way. Only three oth­er pad­dlers have com­plet­ed this voy­age, and all were about half his age.

Paul TemplerPaul Tem­pler
Tem­pler was pad­dling down the Zam­bezi Riv­er when a rogue hip­po knocked anoth­er pad­dler out of the canoe. As Tem­pler attempt­ed to haul the thrown pad­dler back into the canoe, the hip­po came up and grabbed Tem­pler out of the canoe by his head. He went three rounds with this rogue hip­po and lived to tell about it. The hip­po sev­ered a main artery in his arm, but it also sealed it, which kept Tem­pler from bleed­ing out. After the maul­ing, Tem­pler walked away with­out an arm, but with his life nonetheless.

Caleb Brousseau
As an 18 year old, with the world at his fin­ger­tips, Caleb Brousseau had every­thing to look for­ward to. His life was rocked when he suf­fered a spinal cord injury due to a bad land­ing off of a 12-meter snow­board jump in 2007. This didn’t deter his pas­sions though. He con­tin­ues to kayak and is a Par­a­lympic Ski­er. Even with­out the use of his legs, he is a remark­able white water kayak­er and doesn’t let his injury define him.

Jason Craig

Being a world cham­pi­on freestyle kayak­er at 17 is enough to puff out your chest and gloat a lit­tle bit, but in 2011 all Jason Craig cared about was pad­dling. Third in a group of sev­en, Jason went to drop the 30-foot water­fall of Dry Creek near Auburn, Cal­i­for­nia and near­ly lost his life. After the drop, all that Jason’s team saw was him come out of his boat and cling to a rock with­out response. He suf­fered a frac­tured pelvis and sacrum and a torn dur­al sac, a bag of nerve end­ings at the base of the spine. After a six hour-long surgery, and two weeks of hos­pi­tal recov­ery, Jason was released with phys­i­cal ther­a­py in sight. Since the acci­dent Jason has con­tin­ued kayak­ing and recent­ly won the sil­ver in the Pro-Men’s divi­sion at the 2012 US Nation­al Freestyle Kayak Cham­pi­onship.