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Grand Canyon Float #3 – Erik Boomer Remembers Paddling the Colorado With Jeff West

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Red wall Cavern mile 33; Photograph by Erik Boomer
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Stantons cave mile 32, the group at an overlook; Photograph by Erik Boomer

A week has passed as we continue to meander our way deeper into the Grand Canyon of the Colorado. Our river life has now become routine. Strapping gear down, boiling the dishwater, and diving into the cold Colorado River to cool down consume our days. Our team has collective experiences spanning the corners of the globe; yet, we can all agree there is nowhere else we would rather be.

Today we have taken the day to relax, hike and to surf the small wave in front of camp. As I sit on the beach, I think back to the first time I paddled the Grand Canyon of the Colorado. I was 16 years old; the opportunity to kayak the Grand Canyon with my friend Jeff West was a life changing experience. Jeff had a plan to paddle the whole 280-miles of the Grand Canyon in five days, requiring 50+ miles of kayaking a day! For me this unorthodox, alpine-style paddling trip set a clear precedent that I continually try to emulate. Interwoven in that experience is Jeff’s’ spirit, his love for rivers, respect for others and a drive to push himself to paddle farther and faster.

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Red Wall Cavern, the group racing into the cave mile 33; Photograph by Erik Boomer

Before setting out for on this trip, I was overwhelmed by a flood of feelings and memories. Last week the whitewater community lost one of the sports best ambassadors and my friend, Jeff West, 42 of Ocoee, Tennessee. Jeff passed away while attempting a solo run of the grand canyon of Stikine River, the K2 of whitewater expeditions. To lose a friend in a sacred place you also love has been difficult to process, creating a guilt mixed with pain. Somehow being here on the Colorado is a way for me to deal with what happened and say good-bye to a great man. I would like to dedicate this post to the memory of my good friend and mentor, Jeff West.