KOKATAT Pro TEAM MEMBER | Expedition Whitewater

Rafa Ortiz

Age: 32 years old website
HOMETOWN: White Salmon WA

“I have a great ambition, of dying exhausted rather than bored.” - Sir Angus Grossart

Rafa Ortiz is known for his huge personality, big waterfall descents, and chasing the most extreme whitewater all over the world. Rafa stared in the 2016 release of Chasing Niagara, a documentary film that followed Rafa’s dream of kayaking Niagara Falls.

Rafa Ortiz - Veracruz Mexico
Rafa Ortiz - Veracruz Mexico

Growing up in Mexico, Rafa learned to paddle in Veracruz, and his kayaking career began in 2005 when he became the first Mexican to compete at the World Freestyle Championships held on the Ottawa River, Canada. But he soon developed a passion for expedition kayaking and running waterfalls.

Veracruz Mexico
Veracruz Mexico

Once a new mecca for waterfall descending was discovered in his backyard, in Veracruz Mexico, a new focus came upon Rafa’s paddling career. “My first waterfall was 40ft high, and when I came out at the bottom my hands were bleeding from breaking my paddle and all I could see was stars.” says Rafa. He then pushed through, and after a few more successful waterfall experiences he found his calling.

Rafa Ortiz descent of Pallouse Falls - phopto Lucas Gilman
Rafa Ortiz drops the 189 foot Palouse Falls on June 24, 2012

Today Rafa holds the record for the steepest kayak section of river in the world, along with Evan Garcia and Rush Sturges, on the 1’200 ft/mile stretch of the Rio Santo Domingo in Chiapas, Mexico.

Chiapas Mexico
Chiapas Mexico

He has also descended the 2 highest waterfalls in history: 189ft Palouse Falls in Washington State and 128ft Big Banana Falls in Veracruz, Mexico.

Rafa Ortiz drops the 128.6 foot tall Big Banana Waterfall on the Rio Alseseca in the Sierra Madre Mountains in Veracruz, Mexico. This was the first descent of the monster waterfall. Ortiz ran the waterfall cleanly and came away unhurt except a badly blackened eye and 3 stitches. The waterfall is called Big Banana due to the numerous banana plantations in the region.
Rafa Ortiz drops the 128 foot Big Banana Waterfall on the Rio Alseseca in the Sierra Madre Mountains in Veracruz, Mexico. This was the first descent of the monster waterfall. Ortiz ran the waterfall cleanly and came away unhurt except a badly blackened eye and 3 stitches. The waterfall is called Big Banana due to the numerous banana plantations in the region.

But neither of these kayak descents really top his inflatable pool toy world record on 70ft Outlet Falls on his inflatable lobster.

Rafa Ortiz rides an inflatable lobster over an 70’ waterfall at Outlet Falls, WA, USA on April 16, 2017
Rafa Ortiz rides an inflatable lobster over an 70’ waterfall at Outlet Falls, WA, USA on April 16, 2017

With a new found love for the Pacific Northwest, Rafa lives today in the town of White Salmon WA, just 5 minutes from the river. He is starting the next chapter in his life, along with his beautiful wife Fernanda and their soon to arrive daughter.

Fun Fact about Rafa:

“My biggest weakness is gummies. In fact, I’ve sacrificed taking important stuff to kayak expeditions, in order to fit a large bag of gummy bears in the past.”

Rafa Ortiz'S FAVORITE GEAR