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Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam

- Maha Upanishad


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Athletes

Oct 06, 2017

Friedi Kühne Free Solos 110 Meter Highline

Watching video of Friedi Kühne walk a highline hundreds of meters above the ground, without any safety gear, is both terrifying and beautiful.

WRITTEN BY

Michael Levy

He might be out of his mind, but he’s also the best free solo highliner on the scene today, and just proved it once again.

2017 has been quite the year for free soloing. On September 19, just a few months after Alex Honnold completed the first free solo climb of El Capitan, German slackliner Friedi Kühne set a new record for the longest free solo highline ever recorded, walking a 110-meter long line suspended roughly 200 meters above the ground in the Verdon Gorge, in the South of France. To set the new benchmark, Kühne had to best the previous world record—a 72 meter highline over Hunlen Falls, in British Columbia, Canada—of which he was also the holder.

Kühne free soloing the 110 meter highline in the Verdon Gorge. Photo: Louisa Avenas.

While walking a 100+ meter highline leashless has been on his mind for a while, Kühne says, “Free solo highlining is still something that is kind of spontaneous and in the moment for me. I don’t usually travel somewhere specially to do it, it’s just something that happens when the line is perfect and you’re in a good spot. The line we were at on in Verdon, the people I was with—it was just kind of perfect, it just kind of led up to the moment.”

That being said, he prepared meticulously in his own way. “I basically told myself if I could walk the line back and forth ten times without falling or losing control, that’s when I would be ready. So I did that over the several days before.”

Stepping onto the line without a leash, any trace of fear disappeared. “The mindset is like a trust fall,” he explains. “Except you play it with yourself: you’re the other person catching you. The better you know yourself, your own limits and your own skills, the more ready you are for free soloing.” In video of his prior world 72-meter free solo over Hunlen Falls, his calmness and mastery are on full display:

For the ten minutes or so that Kühne was on the line for his new 110-meter record, it was magic. He could see at least 700 meters of exposure to the valley on one side, with a sheer wall of rock out of the corner of his eye on the other. “It felt very good and I felt in control, but I had to give it more [than other free solos I’ve done in the past],” Kühne says.

That Kühne broke his own free solo record speaks to how few individuals there are pushing this most dangerous of games. “There are millions of other things you can do on a highline with a leash that are lots of fun,” he says. “But some people, like me, want to free solo; that’s why I do it: because I enjoy it. But I’m not encouraging anyone to do the same thing. You have to find out for yourself what’s right.”

And even though he enjoys free solo highlining, he knows that continuing to push the envelope is risky business. It’s not something he plans to do all the time: “100 meters is a very magical mark in slackening. With the free solo record, I honestly think this one will stand for quite a while. I’m not actively intending to push it anytime soon. I’m not saying I definitely won’t, but for now I feel quite satisfied and don’t think I’ll do a big solo again anytime soon.”

To follow all of Kühne’s highlining shenanigans, with a leash and without, check out and Friedi Kühne – Slackliner and @friedikuehne.

While we don’t advocate free soloing, we hope this inspires you to go on other safe and no less rad adventures, like this mountain biking trip at The Outdoor Voyage. Check it out!

Friedi Kühne walking a highline (not from the record free solo). Photo: Niklas Winter.

Feature Image: Kühne crossing the highline on which he set his previous 72-meter long free solo world record. Photo: Valentin Rapp.

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Events

Jul 10, 2018

The 2018 Whitewater Awards: Nouria Newman and Benny Marr take the spoils.

The Whitewater Awards is a gathering of the world’s best kayakers to show off the biggest and best things that have happened in the sport over the past year.

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WRITTEN BY

Brooke Hess

 To be considered for an award, athletes, photographers, and filmmakers submit media taken over the past year that they believe showcases the best progression in the sport.  

There are sixteen different categories for submission, including separate male and female categories within the “Best of” kayaking categories. Categories include Photographer of the Year, Film of the Year, Expedition of the Year, Best Trick, Best Line, River Stewardship, Grom of the Year, Rider of the Year, along with several others.  Awards are decided upon by a voting process done by the Association of Whitewater Professionals.

This year’s Whitewater Awards was held in the Egyptian Theater in downtown Boise, Idaho. It was hosted on June 14th, the same weekend as the North Fork Championships, which takes place on the North Fork of the Payette River just outside of Boise.  The North Fork Championship is regarded as one of the hardest kayaking races in the world.

The race takes place on Jacob’s Ladder rapid, which is a rapid so difficult and consequential that most kayakers feel accomplished simply by surviving the rapid, much less racing the rapid. Nouria Newman, a 3-time NFC racer and winner of this year’s Whitewater Awards Female Rider of the Year describes it well,

“The NFC is the hardest race in whitewater kayaking. [Jacob’s Ladder] is a scary, consequential rapid. Running it is challenging, and it only gets harder to race it and make the gates.”

In order to minimize the risk involved in the race, event organizers have developed a strict qualification process for racers. 30 racers will qualify to race Jacob’s Ladder. Ten of them are pre-qualified from placing top ten at the event the year before. Those ten then read numerous athlete applications and vote on the next ten racers who will join them.  The last ten racers are decided through a qualification race on S-Turn rapid, another one of the North Fork’s infamous class V rapids.

Every year on this same weekend in June, kayakers, photographers, and filmmakers from around the world flock to Idaho to celebrate quality whitewater, progression of the sport, and the community that surrounds it. Both the North Fork Championship and the Whitewater Awards had great turnouts of athletes and spectators this year.

John Webster

The finalists of each category in the Whitewater Awards were presented in film format at the Egyptian Theater for the entire audience to view, with the winner being announced live. Winners were presented with an award and expected to give a short speech at the event. The big winners of the night were Nouria Newman and Benny Marr, who were awarded with Line of the Year and Rider of the Year in the female and male categories. Nouria says that voting for the “best” in each category is a challenging process, “…voting is always tricky, (look at both French and U.S. presidents, not too sure if they are really the best available option). And it is also very hard to compare lines and rapids. What’s bigger? What’s harder? I got voted Best Line of the Year with a good line down Parque Jurassic, a long technical rapid, but Rata’s line down Graceland, which is a huge slide, was equally as good, if not better.”

No matter how tricky the voting process can be, Nouria agrees that the Whitewater Awards plays a large role in the progression of the sport, “I think it’s super cool to see what people can do in their kayak, how they push the limit of the sport and how they open new possibilities.”

For more information about the Whitewater Awards, you can visit whitewaterawards.com, you can also follow them on Facebook and on Instagram.

You can follow Nouria on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

You can follow Benny on Facebook and Instagram.

Cover photo courtesy of Ari Walker

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