Perched on the brink of a 186ft drop, this was the moment when Tyler Bradt probably felt the urge to start frantically paddling backwards.
Less than four seconds later, he was celebrating a world record for kayak descents.
The 22-year-old American touched 100mph as he plummeted over Palouse Falls in eastern Washington.
‘Then an acceleration, speed, and impact unlike anything I’ve ever felt before. I wasn’t sure if I was hurt or not. My body was just in shock.’
Bradt, from Montana, had prepared for the attempt by plunging over 70-80ft high waterfalls in Oregon.
His previous best attempt was 107ft down Alexandra Falls along the Hay River in Canada’s Northwest Territories in 2007.
He was spurred on to conquer Palouse Falls by Olivia’s 127ft fall in the Amazon.
In preparation Bradt visited Palouse Falls several times to observe the water and to see if it was humanly possible to survive the descent.
The first time I saw the Palouse, I knew it was runnable,’ he said.
‘There’s a smooth green tongue of water that carries about a third of the way down the falls. That was my route.’
As rescue teams waited at the base of the falls Bradt calmly steered his fiberglass kayak into the raging water.
After disappearing under the water he emerged within six seconds with his broken paddle and sprained wrist.
‘Considering the waterfall, the injuries were pretty minor,’ he said.
Bradt said he wanted to attempt the plunge not to set a record but to show what humans are capable of achieving.
The motivating factor for all this was just that I thought it was possible. I wanted to do it, I guess, because I can.
‘It was a calculated risk, no doubt dangerous but also one of the most amazing days of my life.
‘It’s a personal thing and nothing exterior, especially negativity, affects that.’
Bradt has faced criticism that his stunt will encourage others to try the extreme sport of kayak free-falling.
But he dismissed the suggestions, saying: ‘I hope it encourages people not to run huge waterfalls but to understand that the only limits that exist are the ones you create, no matter what you are doing.’