Andrews, North Carolinian kayaker Shannon Christy, 23, was recently profiled on Showtime's "60 Minutes Sports," on the Great Falls of the Potomac River, 14 miles upstream from Washington, D.C. Two days later, on July 11th, Christy drowned during a run through the "Five Fingers" of the falls, said to be the one of the steepest drops in the world.
Sadly, Christy had spoken of the joys and dangers of her sport, while filming her first practice run over the Great Falls, and its Class V+ rapids.
“I kayak because I love the sport,” Christy said on July 9. “Kayaking takes you to places that most of society will never see. I love the act of kayaking for what it is.”
Every summer some of the country's best kayakers descend upon the Great Falls for an annual race, and Christy arrived to compete with the men, who typically dominate. Christy had only been kayaking for three years by the time she'd arrived at Great Falls. When asked if she might be overreaching a bit, she'd replied, "I wouldn't say overreaching. It would strike me as confident."
Steve Fisher from South Africa, who is one of kayaking's biggest stars, said of Shannon, "she's a rising star in the kayak scene, and she's just getting to the point where people want to capture what she does."
Before her first run over the falls, Jason Beakes, six-time winner of the race, offered Shannon some pointers. "There's two little ledges right there in the middle -- plop, plop," Beakes said, and warned Christy to stay away from a deadly chute called "subway."
In related news, five U.S. kayakers were just rescued in remote Tajikistan, after one of them broke his leg. Kayaking is clearly a deceptively dangerous sport.
Image via shannonchristy.com.