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The mountains are calling and I must go, and I will work on while I can, studying incessantly.

- John Muir


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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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Adventure Travel

Jul 31, 2018

Kayaking’s Elite Return to India at the Malabar River Festival

During the week of July 18th to 22nd, the Malabar River Festival returned to Kerala, India with one of the biggest cash prizes in whitewater kayaking in the world.

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WRITTEN BY

Brooke Hess

A $20,000 purse attracted some of the world’s best kayakers to the region for an epic week battling it out on some of India’s best whitewater.

The kayaking events at Malabar River Festival were held on the Kuttiyadi River, Chalippuzha River, and the Iruvajippuzha River, in South India on the Malabar Coast. The festival was founded and organized by Manik Taneja and Jacopo Nordera of GoodWave Adventures, the first whitewater kayaking school in South India.

Photo: Akash Sharma

“Look out for these guys in the future because there are some future stars there”

One of the goals of the festival is to promote whitewater kayaking in the state of Kerala and encourage locals to get into the sport. One of the event organizers, Vaijayanthi Bhat, feels that the festival plays a large part in promoting the sport within the community.  “The kayak community is building up through the Malabar Festival. Quite a few people are picking up kayaking… It starts with people watching the event and getting curious.  GoodWave Adventures are teaching the locals.”

Photo: Akash Sharma

Vaijayanthi is not lying when she says the kayak community is starting to build up.  In addition to the pro category, this year’s Malabar Festival hosted an intermediate competition specifically designed for local kayakers. The intermediate competition saw a huge turnout of 22 competitors in the men’s category and 9 competitors in the women’s category. Even the professional kayakers who traveled across the world to compete at the festival were impressed with the talent shown by the local kayakers. Mike Dawson of New Zealand, and the winner of the men’s pro competition had nothing but good things to say about the local kayakers. “I have so much respect for the local kayakers. I was stoked to see huge improvements from these guys since I met them in 2015. It was cool to see them ripping up the rivers and also just trying to hang out and ask as many questions about how to improve their paddling. It was awesome to watch them racing and making it through the rounds. Look out for these guys in the future because there are some future stars there.”

Photo: Akash Sharma

 

“It was awesome because you had such a great field of racers so you had to push it and be on your game without making a mistake”

Vaijayanthi says the festival has future goals of being named a world championship.  In order to do this, they have to attract world class kayakers to the event.  With names like Dane Jackson, Nouria Newman, Nicole Mansfield, Mike Dawson, and Gerd Serrasolses coming out for the pro competition, it already seems like they are doing a good job of working toward that goal! The pro competition was composed of four different kayaking events- boatercross, freestyle, slalom, and a superfinal race down a technical rapid. “The Finals of the extreme racing held on the Malabar Express was the favourite event for me. It was an epic rapid to race down. 90 seconds of continuous whitewater with a decent flow. It was awesome because you had such a great field of racers so you had to push it and be on your game without making a mistake.” says Dawson.

Photo: Akash Sharma

The impressive amount of prize money wasn’t the only thing that lured these big name kayakers to Kerala for the festival. Many of the kayakers have stayed in South India after the event ended to explore the rivers in the region. With numerous unexplored jungle rivers, the possibilities for exploratory kayaking are seemingly endless. Dawson knows the exploratory nature of the region well.  “I’ve been to the Malabar River Fest in 2015. I loved it then, and that’s why I’ve been so keen to come back. Kerala is an amazing region for kayaking. In the rainy season there is so much water, and because the state has tons of mountains close to the sea it means that there’s a lot of exploring and sections that are around. It’s a unique kind of paddling, with the rivers taking you through some really jungly inaccessible terrain. Looking forward to coming back to Kerala and also exploring the other regions of India in the future.”

 

For more information on the festival, visit: http://www.malabarfest.com/

Subscribe here: https://www.outdoorjournal.com/in/subscribe/

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