to the waterfalls.
Cascada de Tomata is a waterfall that lies
over the Alseseca which changes it’s name to Rio Tomata, a
common occurrence for rivers in Mexico. Cascada de Tomata has a little
entertaining history to it. It’s without a doubt a big
waterfall, and years ago was first descended by Tao Berman, who claimed
it a new world record at 84’. Several years later Scott
Lindgren was in the area and measured a claimed 61’, a far
cry from 84’. At least this is the story I was told. Tomata
has been run by several groups of people since the first descent, and
is in Burning
Big Names II
, and To Boof or not
We ended up here the day after running the Upper
, because water
was still too high to continue the expedition on the Middle Alseseca.
On arrival at the falls one of the first things we did was measure the
falls, and in the process managed to lose Heather Herbeck's throw-rope.
We measured it around 65’ for the record.
This late in the trip exhaustion was starting to
asleep while scouting/measuring the falls. With my largest all vertical
drop of around 25’, I was having doubts about the waterfall
and had pretty much written it off by the time I fell asleep. Someone
was kind enough to wake me and say that people were gearing up. I ended
up gearing up knowing deep down inside that I would end up running it.
I was also slightly concerned about my boat on this one, as I traded
the much-disliked Burn for a loan on a Huck, a boat I had never paddled
From left to right, Phil Boyer, Eric Seymour, Thayer Wallace
I geared up and grabbed my camera to get some pictures of Ben and Rafa,
who were planning on running it for sure. They quickly got into
position to scout from the other side.
Cascada de Tomata
got on it quickly after scouting,
and ended up with a nice line
paddling all the way to the bottom.
The high level of the river showed as Ben got
surfed for a
in the base of the waterfall, but he worked his way out with no
Ortiz, Cascada de Tomata
Rafa resurfaced downstream of the base, but had
impact and started several hand roll attempts. Eventually Ben was
gracious enough to give him his second or third “hand of
god” on this trip.
Heather Herbeck and I headed for the water and
boats, I got out to scout on the left while Heather lined up for the
drop. On a waterfall of this size there are several key elements to a
nice landing. One is your entry angle, with 85 to 95 degrees optimal
for avoiding a hard hit. On some waterfalls this is easy because the
lip “rolls over” and sets you up automatically.
Cascada de Tomata isn’t one of these drops, and naturally
wants to put you forward and upside down. To counteract this a stroked
is needed just past the lip, just enough to keep the bow up enough to
be vertical at the bottom, but not too much or you’ll get a
back-breaking boof. The classic “Oregon Tuck” is
the preferred entry position, but you have to tuck in nice and slow or
you’ll pitch over vertical from the sudden movement. On top
of this all, speed is another major factor, just fast enough to be
moving faster than the water and have nice control, but slow enough to
get in the falling water of the falls. Needless to say this is a lot to
think about while paddling up to a horizon line this gigantic. Heather
ended up coming in a little hot and separated from the falling water in
the falls, but thankfully had a great entry angle that saved her from a
major hit, although she was pulled out of her boat on impact.
I had honestly never set my angle on a drop like
knew what I wanted to do and felt like I could get all the elements
right. I got into my boat and paddled down to the eddy right above the
lip, knowing this would give me a second to focus and be easy to set my
speed and angle from. I was thinking of Pat’s line off Lower
Heath on Royal Gorge, in The
Seven Rivers Expedition
beautiful shot of good waterfall form.
As I approached the lip my speed felt perfect, and
vertical I gave one nice, long smooth stroke, looked down and thought
“holy shit that’s big”, and slowly got
into my Oregon Tuck position.
to EJ for the picture; Cascada
The impact was amazingly soft, a lot softer than
the day before, so I guess I nailed the line. On impact my paddle was
ripped out of my hands, and I resurfaced in the middle of the falls. I
tried a few hand rolls but was getting nowhere with all the water
crashing down on me, and after about ten to fifteen seconds I flushed
out upside down. Several more hand roll attempts were made, getting
really close on one, but eventually I swam right next to where Rafa was
standing on a rock. I got out quickly and emptied my boat, mentally
kicking my ass for swimming and for leaving my camera up top. Nick
Troutman followed next, ended up over vertical and instantly ejecting
from his boat, but suffering no injury. Glad to have run it and that
the whole group was ok, we moved downstream and up the steep take-out
above the Box Canyon of the Tomata, which only Ben wanted to run but we
all knew was a bit too high, and we were too tired. He is the most
motivated paddler I have ever met.