KOKATAT Ambassador TEAM MEMBER | Expedition Whitewater
Age: 26 years old
HOMETOWN: Index, Washington
In loving memory of Sam Grafton 4/13/1991 - 2/10/2018
The kayaking community lost a shining star and gifted athlete on Saturday, February 10, 2018, when Sam Grafton passed away during a kayaking accident on the Ernie’s Canyon section of the Snoqualmie River, near North Bend, WA.
The protégé of whitewater kayak legend Rob Mckibbin, Sam has spent the last 10 years mastering the art of big water kayaking in the Central Cascades of Washington. He began kayaking when he was sixteen years old and it quickly became his passion and main focus in life. The 26 year old kayaker from Index Washington lived on the banks of the Skykomish River, which runs year round and sees more paddlers than any other run in the greater Seattle area.
“For the last several years my focus in kayaking has been running big water and pushing myself to run harder and bigger drops.”
Sam’s accomplishments include running some of the hardest whitewater in Washington, British Columbia, Norway, New Zealand, Patagonia, Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan.
2017 started in Patagonia on the Rio Baker, Rio Mayer and Rio Bravo, but unfortunately while on this trip Sam sustained a minor shoulder injury which he struggled with for several months.
The first week in April saw him recovered and back in “charge” mode, lapping the North Fork of the Payette at 5,500 CFS.
In early May, Sam, Aniol Serrasolses and Darren Albright took the all time high water descent of Tumwater Canyon at 17,000 CFS.
In mid-august Sam logged his 8th lap on the Grand Canyon of the Stikine and 5th complete descent.
In late August, Sam was ready for his next big adventure, an expedition to Kyrgyzstan with fellow Kokatat team members Jordy Searle, Ari Walker, Adrian Kiernan, Evan Moore, Jakub Sedivy, and Kristof Stursa.
The team would paddle the Kekemeren, Naryn, Small Naryn and Big Naryn, with the ultimate goal of descending the elusive Saryjaz River.
This expedition would combine two of Sam’s passions, kayaking and mountaineering. The Saryjaz expedition would involve more than 60 miles of big water class V down to the Chinese border, followed by a 3 to 4 day hike out involving a Tyrolean - that the team would self-set, and hiking more than 26 miles over two 12,000 ft passes.
Following a successful expedition of the Saryjaz River, Sam met up with Kristof Stursa to realize his longtime dream of paddling the Indus River In Pakistan.
Along with his passion for adventure, Sam also has a passion for helping people. He was a longtime volunteer Firefighter/EMT and rescue technician. He also had a passion for protecting the rivers he kayaks, working as a volunteer for American Whitewater to help protect these rivers.
Sam was a positive, kind and giving person, who touched the lives of many. He will be deeply missed by all who knew him.