Snaking through bush-clad canyons, the Kaituna River is a mystical gorge of fast-moving water, steep drops and turbulence.

The remote stretch, which carries the outflow of Lakes Rotorua and Rotoiti northwards to Maketu, is isolated by its geography and singular in its sense of destiny for the people that run the rapids.

“It’s an epic section of whitewater,” says Ryan Lucas, one of the country’s top extreme kayakers.

“It’s as committing as it possibly gets. You drop in, here’s the lines, stick the moves, don’t go upside down.

The Kaituna River is Ryan’s playground and his ground zero.

It is here that he has spent all his summers since he was a kid.

It is here he finds his ultimate joy — going places physically and spiritually most people will never experience.

It is also here the person he “loved and cared about more than anything in the world” drowned.

Map of the Kaituna River Map of the Kaituna River


About a 15-minute drive east of Rotorua, along a stretch of highway that hugs the shores of Lake Rotoiti, lies the settlement of Okere Falls.

There doesn’t appear to be much to it from the main road. Whangamarino School greets you as you drive in, further down on the left is the general store and seconds later you’ll be hitting the 100km/h zone again, headed towards Tauranga. The only hint that this is the epicentre of whitewater paddling in this country is the haphazardly parked cars that line the highway, some sporting brightly coloured kayaks on their roofs.

Okere Falls is the inlet to the Kaituna. A grassy embankment next to the control gates that feed out of Lake Rotoiti marks the put-in area, where paddlers sit in their kayaks, teetering on the edge before they slide down a steep path into water below. It looks like a theme park ride, but the real fun lies further around the corner, beyond a series of slalom gates, where the river turns from a sedate stream to raging whitewater rapids.

It’s of great curiosity then that Okere means “the place of drifting”. According to the International Scale of River Difficulty, whitewater streams are graded one to six, with one being an easy, gentle passage and six being unrunnable for all but a few experts. The Kaituna is a grade five, which is characterised as “extremely difficult and violent, with life-threatening hazards”. It features powerful rapids, large drops, abrupt turns, weirs, fast boiling eddies, and numerous obstacles in the main current.

Okere Falls marks the beginning of the Kaituna River. It is also where Ryan and Louise’s love story began and the starting point of their fateful trip on March 11, 2015.

Rafts on the upper section of the Kaituna River.
Rafts on the upper section of the Kaituna River. Photo: Nick Reed

The couple and top British kayaker Joe Morley, a regular visitor to New Zealand, decided to go for a paddle after work.

Ryan had just come back from a five-month injury lay-off — the longest of his career — and was eager to spend any spare moment on the water. Louise never needed much encouragement. She was known to get up at 5am and do a couple of laps before work then squeeze in another paddle in the evening.

“Things were starting to get back to normal it felt like, back to those days where we paddled together all the time. We were having a really good summer,” Ryan says.

The couple met in 2009 when Louise, an up-and-coming star on the canoe slalom scene, moved to the area, where the Lucas family have owned a bach for more than 20 years. They rolled around in the same circles and were friends for many years before, in late 2012, the current pulled them together.

“I think we really worked together because we wanted the same things in life, and that was to kayak and travel and live life to the full,” says Hamilton-born Ryan.

“Finding a girl who can relate to me, it’s not easy, and Lou was that one ... I did always remind myself how lucky I was. I was like, ‘my girlfriend, she is pretty kickarse’.”

It was inevitable that their paths would cross here. If it is not the place of drifting, then it is the place of drifters. The area attracts not only top kayakers from around the world, but with numerous rafting companies operating on the river, it is a mecca for seasonal workers looking for an OE beyond the ordinary. Ryan calls them the “river people” and proudly counts himself among their number. “We’re a really tight-knit community. What draws me to this place is not just the river, but the community. Pretty much all my friends are river people — rafters, kayakers, river guides,” he says.

“Some of them don’t use it as much as others, but there’s always some link back to that river. Once you discover this place, it’s hard to get away from it.”

Vavrinec Hradilek, who first met Louise when she bounded up to him on the steps of his home boat club at a canoe slalom event in Prague, has been a regular visitor since 2009. The Olympic silver medalist is sporting royalty back home in the Czech Republic. If you popped into the local supermarket in Ostrava, you’d see Hradilek’s face adorning Red Bull cans and cookie packets. In Okere Falls, however, he’s just a regular guy in a spray skirt.

“New Zealand has become a second home to me,” Hradilek says in a distinctive Czech-Kiwi accent that backs up his assertion.

“It’s a great place to train, a great place to hang out. It is also a good place to disappear. With the time zone and everything I have a good excuse not to open my laptop.”

For Louise’s parents, Liz and Adrian Jull, the Okere Falls landmarks provide tangible reminders of their youngest child: the general store, where Louise worked before embarking on a teaching career; Taheke Marae, where her funeral took place; the put-in area, where the family released flowers into the stream and said their final goodbyes.

“We visited there not long before she died and I remember standing on the deck [of the Lucas family bach] and thinking it was the perfect place for Louise. I could see why she really loved it,” says Adrian.

“We’ve been back a few times. It’s still hard going through there, I have to admit. Every time we go through there’s a few tears. It’s just a sense of loss really.”


As far as grade five rivers go, the upper section of the Kaituna is considered the forgiving kind. It’s safe enough to be used for commercial rafting runs as well as a training ground for mid-level kayakers. That’s because it is a pool drop river, meaning every section of rapids is followed by a calm stretch allowing paddlers the opportunity to be reunited with their craft should they come to grief.

For paddlers of the skill level of Louise, Ryan and Joe Morley, this stretch of water would have been a nice, gentle way to ease themselves into their evening paddle, before they hit the relentless rapids in the lower gorges.

There are three waterfalls in the upper section of the river, the first of which sits alongside the remains of what was one of the first hydroelectric power stations in New Zealand. Built in 1901, the station powered sewerage pumps and lighting in Rotorua. The demands of the tourist town quickly outstripped the supply from the station, and it was decommissioned in the mid-1930s.

The big drop — at 7 metres the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world — comes further downstream at Tutea Falls, named for the Māori chief whose remains are buried in the cave behind the falls. According to legend, the caves were also a place of refuge. In times of war, women and children would lower themselves down the seemingly impenetrable curtain of water, seeking safe haven behind its frothy skirts.

Ryan has spent most of his life chasing waterfalls.

He remembers the first time he decided whitewater kayaking was for him. He was introduced to the sport by Okere Falls local, Sam Sutton, who was beginning to get recognition on the extreme paddling scene. Hearing about Sutton’s adventures motivated Ryan, then about 15, to get involved.

Ryan at the Powerhouse rapids on the Kaituna River.
Ryan at the Powerhouse rapids on the Kaituna River. Photo: Nick Reed
Ryan approaches the lip of the Trout Pools waterfall on the Kaituna River.
Ryan approaches the lip of the Trout Pools waterfall on the Kaituna River. Photo: Nick Reed
Ryan paddles towards the take out point of the Cheakamus River in Canada's British Columbia.
Ryan paddles the Cheakamus River in Canada's British Columbia in August 2016. Photo: Nick Reed
Ryan paddles alongside elite kayaker Aniol Serrasolses of Spain in the Ashlu Box Canyon.
Ryan paddles alongside elite kayaker Aniol Serrasolses of Spain in the Ashlu Box Canyon in Canada's British Columbia. Photo: Nick Reed

Ryan already had a thirst for testing his limits. For clear evidence, you need only to visit his family bach, where a makeshift ramp connects their deck to the jetty at the edge of the lake some 40m below. It was built for Ryan and his younger brothers Mitch and Cole — both keen mountain bikers — to ride beat-up BMX bikes down the steep ramp and plunge into the lake.

It seems most of his childhood was spent hurling himself off things at speed, but for Ryan, the adrenalin rush he got from whitewater kayaking compared to nothing else.

“I think it was my fourth or fifth time going down the Kaituna. I wasn’t a very good kayaker then, my skills weren’t all there and I pretty much just chopped my way down. I remember sitting below the waterfall after I had made it down pretty well. That feeling was unbeatable. I thought ‘this is what I want to do’.”

There is no world championship or formal circuit for extreme kayaking. Since the very beginning Ryan’s goals have been about the adventure and challenging himself to push his limits.

It’s the same for many of his peers.

A big part of the sport is documenting their adventures. After all, if you’re going to throw yourself off a 20m waterfall in a plastic tub, then you’re going want to have some skite footage. Search “whitewater kayaking” on YouTube and you will fall down a rabbit hole of video content, where, from the vantage point of GoPro cameras fixed to their helmets and kayaks, you can watch thrill-seeking paddlers taking on towering waterfalls and treacherous stretches of water in some of the most remote corners of the world.

Ryan’s showreel from his adventures is paradoxically awe-inspiring and unsettling.

There is one particularly striking picture taken just after he has gone over the edge of the 30m high Ram Falls in the Canadian Rockies. He hangs at a vertical angle, with the nose of his kayak pointing directly into the mist that rises from the foot of the falls. His red kayak is a speck against the funnel of water and towering rock formation.

In that moment his life quite literally hangs in the balance.

Ryan kayaks the Ram Falls

“Adrenalin is pumping.

Nothing else matters.”

Ryan kayaks the Ram Falls

Ryan kayaks the Ram Falls

Ryan obtusely refers to the inherent risks of his sport as “consequence”. When he says a drop or a certain stretch of rapids has “consequence”, what he’s saying is, if mistakes are made really bad things can happen. Yet he doesn’t consider taking on such challenges to be an act of recklessness, rather an act of faith in his abilities.

The cult of extreme sports has often been accused of breeding machoism, but there’s no hint of bravado to Ryan’s words. He is thoughtful, earnest and has an emotional intelligence belying his 25 years.

Ryan didn’t just want the “hero” footage – those times when he effortlessly “styles” his way down a treacherous stretch of water – shown in the video feature accompanying this piece. He insisted on supplying footage where things have gone wrong.

“I think people need to see the good stuff and the bad, and know the reality of it,” he says.

“People ask ‘why do I do it?’ For me, the most alive I have ever felt is in my kayak.

“There is no feeling like getting down a big, scary section of whitewater and sitting at the bottom after a successful descent. The adrenalin is pumping … that’s what keeps me coming back.”

That conviction was challenged in the most shocking way when Louise died, and it continues to be challenged.

She wasn’t the first of Ryan’s friends killed in the sport; she hasn’t been the last. In March 2016 — almost a year to the day of Louise’s death — Waikato paddler Sean Curtis died after getting into difficulty on the Whitcombe River, south of Hokitika. He was just 20.

In all, Ryan has lost seven friends, all drowned.

“It is every year now for me that one of my friends leaves me,” he says.

This year it was almost his turn, when a descent of the Tauranga-Taupo Falls near Turangi went horribly wrong. Ryan was knocked unconscious after his head slammed into the front of his kayak on landing. He was trapped under water for more than three minutes before his expedition partner, Canadian paddler Mike Roy, was able to free him. Roy then dragged Ryan from his kayak and revived him.

It’s a story that defies belief. But it is also a story Lucas has been reluctant to tell. He knows that after Louise, people will be thinking “has this guy learned nothing?”

The truth is, his girlfriend’s death — that “horrible, nightmarish event I will never get over” — taught him plenty about life.


Only a few highly skilled paddlers dare to venture beyond Trout Pool Falls, the take-out point for the commercial rafts. This is where the lower gorges begin and the rapids have much more “consequence”. From here on it is continuous whitewater, like a fast-moving hydroslide winding through a boxed-in canyon.

Complex, precise and powerful sequential manoeuvring is non-negotiable.

Before the group dropped into the lower gorges, they came together to go over the plan of attack. Louise and Ryan, who paddled the gorges regularly, filled Morley in on some of the particularly challenging features to look out for.

“We were all really fired up, I remember Lou looking at me and giving me the vibe like ‘let’s do this’,” says Ryan.

The first of the three gorges is known to paddlers as Awesome. What begins as a meandering stream from Trout Pool Falls quickly becomes a lot more committing as the river tightens and the flow of around 27-40 cumecs (cubic metres per second) is forced through a passage just 2m wide in places.

It is not for the faint of heart, nor the faint of mind.

Louise was neither.

“She was a pretty gutsy wee thing for sure,” says Ryan. “She was determined and she always challenged herself to get out of her comfort zone.”

There were tributes to Louise everywhere you looked at last year’s Whitewater XL, the first major canoe slalom event to be held at Auckland’s new whitewater park in Manukau, Helmets, paddles and kayaks of local and international competitors alike were plastered with stickers with the name “Lulu” encased in a stylised heart.

“It’s just a reflection of how many people she touched and the impact she had on the community,” says Olympic silver medallist Luuka Jones, one of Jull’s closest friends.

Although none of their four children compete in slalom any more, Louise’s parents volunteered to be judges. They couldn’t walk more than 10m without being swamped by competitors, many of whom have stayed at their Otaki home over the years.

“Now with no one paddling, you sort of lose track. But there are all these people who connect us with Louise as well, and it’s kind of like a big family,” says Adrian.

Against a soundtrack of poppy summer tunes blasting over the loudspeaker at the park, the Julls sat down to talk about their daughter’s extraordinary life. The upbeat refrains seemed incongruous but were also fitting: It was the type of music that accompanied Louise’s many online videos of her epic adventures.

“Louise didn’t have dreams, she had plans,” says Adrian.

“If she wanted to do something, she would always just go and make it happen.”

One thing she couldn’t make happen was the Olympics. Louise, who came through the canoe slalom ranks with Jones, had been gunning for selection for the London Games in 2012 but was unable to make the mark on the international stage she’d hoped.

It led her to reassess what she wanted from the sport. She decided artificial slalom courses were not for her and switched her focus to whitewater kayaking.

“She became really wrapped in the adventure aspect — exploring wild rivers, which is something you can’t really do in the slalom world,” her father explains.

At 26, she had kayaked nearly every continent, paddling remote rivers in Canada, Chile, Argentina, Austria, Norway, the United States and Zambia. Her parents would often only later hear what she had been up to. They knew their daughter’s chosen pursuit came with unthinkable risks, but it never made them overly anxious.

“It’s interesting, we worry about our kids when they are at home — when they’re under your roof you’re always conscious of what they’re up to — but when they’re away we kind of decided that we couldn’t worry or we’d drive ourselves mad,” says Liz.

Louise didn't have dreams, she had plans.

“Louise didn't have dreams,

she had plans.”

Adrian Jull on his daughter's adventures

Adrian Jull on his daughter's adventures

“With Louise, we always had the confidence in her that she knew what she was doing.”

It wasn’t always easy to watch. Adrian recalls getting a phone call from his daughter, then 19, suggesting they meet her in Taupo. As they neared the town, they got in touch to arrange a place to meet. When Louise responded she was at the Huka Falls, he knew that could only mean one thing.

“We arrive at Huka Falls and here’s Luuka [Jones] on the bridge with a throw rope [a line thrown into the water if a paddler gets into trouble]. And I said ‘well that’s going to be a fat lot of use’ and she said ‘yeah I’m not sure what I’m really standing here for’,” he chuckles.

“There was a guy who wanted to paddle the Huka Falls, so the kayak shop put him in touch with Louise and they did it. That was her, she would always just go ahead and do it.”

While she had big plans, Jull wasn’t so much hung up on the details. All her friends have a story to tell of her madcap adventures around Europe, where going with the flow landed her in some unlikely situations.

Like the time she caught the train to a small French town and ended up sleeping on the floor of a hat shop. It must have been quite the scene for the local milliner to have been confronted with: this tiny, whippet-like Kiwi barely out of her teens loaded up with a giant pack and a kayak. Five minutes later, Louise had talked the woman into allowing her to camp out in the store for the night.

“She had this knack to get herself into situations, but to get herself out of them as well. She’s just a crack-up, she has so many amazing stories from her adventures,” Jones says, skipping between past and present tense, as if she still can’t get her head around the fact her best mate is gone.

Louise had plans off the water as well. At the time of her death she was only two months into her first fulltime teaching gig at Western Heights High School, a move she undertook with far more trepidation than any waterfall she’d paddled, for it meant being tied to one place.

Working in Rotorua had its benefits, however, with Louise able to take up residence with Lucas at Okere Falls.

“She loved living in Okere with Ryan. It was where she felt really good. It was close to all the things she loved doing,” Liz says.

Ryan and Louise paddling the Kaituna River.
Ryan and Louise paddling the Kaituna River. Photo: Supplied
Louise, a top slalom kayaker who later converted to extreme whitewater kayaking, stands in a waterfall.
Louise, a top slalom kayaker who later converted to extreme whitewater kayaking, stands in a waterfall. Photo: Supplied
Louise and Ryan at Otaki Beach on her graduation day. She graduated with a bachelor of arts from Massey University.
Louise and Ryan at Otaki Beach on her graduation day. She graduated with a bachelor of arts from Massey University. Photo: Supplied


Gnarly gorge is where things get particularly, well, gnarly. It’s a continuation of the Awesome gorge style of paddling but much narrower – becoming tunnel-like in places – and faster, due to the steeper gradient. With the gorge framed by native bush, fallen logs also pose a major hazard for kayakers.

Louise had written about these risks in a blog posted less than a month before her death.

“The biggest danger in this run is the risk of logs and wood,” she wrote. “This can be particularly an issue for the Gnarly section as it is very tight and continuous and there is not any easy option for scouting.”

Her words proved tragically prescient.

She had navigated this section of the river without incident numerous times that summer, including just four days earlier. There was nothing to suggest that Wednesday evening was going to be any different, until Ryan saw a paddle whisk past him in the rapids.

Sitting in the kitchen of the home he and Louise shared over her final months, he shifts in his seat to try to find a comfortable position to confront the memories of that day.

“I wish we never went paddling that day. It’s been [two years] but it’s still a struggle to think about, it just gives me nightmares.”

The group had only just entered into Gnarly gorge — Morley went through first, followed by Ryan, with Louise trailing the pack — a decision Ryan still beats himself up over.

He routinely looked back to check on Louise’s progress. He remembers getting a glimpse of her after completing the first difficult move. When he looked back for a second time, she wasn’t there. Her paddle came downstream straight away, followed closely by her upturned yellow and lime kayak.

Don’t go upside down.

He immediately yelled ahead to Morley “swimmer”, a word that carries weighty connotations to whitewater kayakers. With the raw power of the rapids carrying the pair further away from the spot where Louise had got into difficulty, it took a huge amount of effort for them to reach the side of the gorge where they could stop and assess the situation.

“We just kind of sat there helplessly, the water was moving so fast and it was impossible to get back to where we knew Lou was,” Ryan explains.

They decided to go further downstream. Morley would wait in a slow-moving eddy, where he would be able to rescue — they still were not considering the possibility of retrieving a body — Louise if she tried to swim her way out of it. Ryan would try to climb to higher ground and walk back to the spot he had last seen her.

Fuelled by a cocktail of desperation and adrenalin, Ryan clambered up the side of the steep rock wall and along the rim of the canyon, all the while using the whistle on his life jacket to let his girlfriend know he was coming for her.

“I expected to hear her whistle back straight away,” he says, gnashing his teeth as he clenches his jaw to prevent himself from breaking down.

Hope was being chipped away with every second that ticked by. He finally reached the point in the river where he thought Louise had been ejected. There was no trace of her. After 20 minutes of increasingly frantic searching, Ryan made his way back downstream to Morley, who, with a shake of his head, heaped terror upon the dread.

Moments later, he spotted his girlfriend’s lifejacket floating in the water.

That’s when he knew.

“I just started screaming at Joe, ‘that’s her lifejacket, that’s her f****** lifejacket’.”

The force of the rapids had pushed Louise’s lifejacket over her head.

By the time police and a rescue team reached the area and were properly briefed, it was too dark to launch a search. There were fears Louise’s friends in the kayaking and rafting fraternity, who had descended on the scene en masse when they heard one of their own was missing, would go back in by themselves to try to look for her.

Those fears were founded. Morley had already taken another pass through the gorge looking for her. They knew there was no hope of finding her alive, but the thought of leaving her behind in the rapids was too much to bear.

Ryan describes returning home that night without his girlfriend as the most gut-wrenching moment of his life.

“I got back in the car to get a ride home and her clothes were still in the car. Clothes I really liked. That’s all I had left of her,” he says, crying.

“She was right behind me and then I never saw her again.”

A GoPro camera fitted to the bow of Ryan’s kayak facing back towards him was the only witness to Louise’s final moments. About a week after the accident, one of Ryan’s friends with knowledge of the river looked through the footage for him, searching for clues as to what happened.

What they know is Louise got her line slightly wrong and was sucked towards a partially submerged log, flipping awkwardly on to the debris. The positioning of the log in the middle of the flow would have made it impossible for her to right herself, forcing her to exit her kayak. As she exited, her spray skirt - what paddlers wear to clip them into their kayak - got caught on a branch protruding from the log. Unable to free herself, she was pushed under, the rapids exerting forces on her body she could not possibly extract herself from.

Her body was still ensnared on the log when a rescue team was deployed the next morning, after the river level had lowered.

Adrian Jull finds himself obsessing over the smaller details — the seemingly inconsequential elements that conspired against his daughter.

“Accidents happen because of a series of small factors, and one of those becomes important. Did a wasp go past and she flicked it and that put her off course? You know? The sequence of events we will never fully know.”

The coronial inquest, held before Dr Wallace Bain, didn’t just focus on the hows, but the whys.

Many who testified grappled with the issue of the risks associated with the sport, and at what point those risks become unacceptable.

Thomas Lynch, who owns an eco-tourism business in the area, felt the culture in the extreme sports fraternity “glamorises risk-taking”.

He wouldn’t be the first to question the psychology. The explosion of extreme sports like big wave surfing, snowboarding, rock climbing and base jumping has led to a growing body of international research that sets out to examine the motivations of the participants. A common thread of the research is athletes seem to hold the romantic view that doing something inherently dangerous puts you on a higher spiritual plane. This has fostered a need to take bigger risks, make bolder decisions, and ride narrower margins of safety.

Bain could find no easy answer. He acknowledged risk-taking in sport was “a big societal question”, but was difficult to legislate against without taking away the free will of the athletes.

One potential legislative measure considered was closing the lower gorges of the Kaituna to kayakers.

The Julls' response is unequivocal.

“I was very strong when I spoke at the coroner’s court to say that we didn’t want that section of river closed off. It would have been the last thing that Louise wanted,” says Adrian.

Liz: “We don’t want what happened to Louise to discourage young people from chasing their dreams. Kayaking gave her so much confidence, it made her the person she was.”


The final of the trio of gorges is known as Smokey. This is a long, deep gorge in a changing landscape that sees the tight, winding canyon widen out to boulder gardens.

Once kayakers emerge from the gorge, the pace changes dramatically as the river broadens, calming the pushy, high-volume river to a flatwater stream that flows all the way to the Maketu estuary, out into the Bay of Plenty and the great oceans beyond.

Louise and Ryan had talked about the end. Dying. They had been confronted by death in their network of friends all too often.

“I always try to think over her exact words. But we pretty much made a deal that if one of us died on the river that we wouldn’t let it stop us doing what we love. Keep kayaking, keep charging.”

Those conversations were only ever supposed to be philosophical, rather than instructional. Never did Ryan expect he would be looking skyward at Louise’s funeral and making a promise to honour her wishes.

Just a few days after Louise’s accident, once local iwi had lifted the rahui, he returned to the Kaituna. It took several more weeks before he could face going down into the lower gorges again, but he did, finding unexpected solace in the seeing the spot where Jull came to rest.

Still, dropping into Gnarly gorge is never easy. Approaching that section of river always intensifies the heaviness in his chest that has never really left him since that early autumn evening in 2015.

Ryan paddles the Ashlu Box Canyon

“We made a deal.

Keep kayaking, keep charging.”

Ryan paddles the Ashlu Box Canyon

Ryan paddles the Ashlu Box Canyon

Others have returned in their own time. Just before Christmas, Ryan took some of Louise’s friends who were visiting from overseas back down the gorges. That group included Vavrinec Hradilek.

“When I was here for her funeral I was 100 per cent sure I would never go back to the lower gorges again, because it just felt impossible for me,” says Hradilek. “But [late last year], I woke up and I knew the others were going down there ... I kind of felt it was the right time to do it.”

Like the others, Luuka Jones carries the memories of her best mate around the globe. It is not a stretch to say she felt her presence in Rio de Janeiro last year, when she pulled off the run of her life to claim the silver medal.

Going into the Olympics, Jones had a world ranking of 28. She had never even been on the podium in a major international championship. She can’t help but wonder if “the other LJ” may have had a little something to do with the delightfully unexpected result.

“I kind of felt like she had my back out there,” says Jones.

As for Ryan, he continues to travel too, last year taking on the Squamish River zone in British Columbia.

While he clings tightly to those conversations he had with Louise and the knowledge she would have wanted him to keep going, he would most likely still be paddling even if they hadn’t spoken about it.

The river, and its people, would have called him back.

The person he becomes on the river would have called him back.

He knows some will find it hard to understand how he can still be passionate about a sport that has taken away so much. He too has had his moments when he has struggled to reconcile this, but each time his mind arrives back at Okere Falls and the same wonderful truism: “I wouldn’t have even known Lou if I didn’t paddle.”