Extreme Kayaking: Dropping Massive Waterfalls in Iceland

Canoeing & Kayaking
iceland kayaking
Aniol Serrasolses drops a waterfall in Aldeyjarfoss, Iceland. Photos: David Nogales and Aleix Salvat/Red Bull

If you’re into extreme kayaking and want to huck over waterfalls in Iceland, you can’t go wrong by taking a good photographer with you to document the insanity. Kayakers Aniol Serrasolses and Mikel Sarasola did just that on a Red Bull expedition to Iceland last summer. Aleix Salvat and David Nogales captured the shenanigans in stunning color.

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Serrassolses, Sarasola and Salvat portage their kayaks overland to Iceland’s Fellsa River.

The resulting images, and a short documentary, assault the senses. The 23-minute filmJötunn, grips the viewer right from the start. Fifteen seconds in, Serrasolses careens over the apex of a waterfall at least 10m high. The outcome? Keep it locked to find out.

Serrasolses on a wild drop, 15 seconds into ‘Jötunn’.

In Norse mythology, Jötunn are pagan mountain deities who challenged the authority of the gods. Though the giant beings ultimately lost the war, their earthly remains still exist as Icelandic rivers and mountains.

It’s unclear whether Serrasolses and Sarasola seek to challenge the Jötunn or whether they are the Jötunn. If you were any so-called “normal” person, you’d probably want to be a giant so you could simply step over the massive waterfalls they throw themselves down.

iceland kayaking

Serrasolses in Fossa.

But according to the filmmakers, it’s not about worshiping themselves or challenging the laws of nature. “[E]xtreme kayakers aren’t crazy people who jump down waterfalls,” they state. Instead, each professional involved in the expedition draws from a lifetime of arduous preparation. Their collective experience keeps them safe and helps them tell their story.

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Serrasolses paddles through a hole in an iceberg.

The Iceland setting gives the film riveting beauty. It also provides the kayakers exacting challenges.

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Serrasolses inverts in Fossa.

Red Bull extreme kayaking in ‘Jötunn’

In June, the team met in Reykjavik and headed south toward Vatnajökull, the island’s most extensive ice field. Though melt season promised big whitewater in several long rivers below the ice, they found nothing but trickles, frigid temperatures (5°C or lower), and dry rock. “Despair was taking over,” they wrote.

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Serrasolses portages to the Studlagil river.

Low spirits, though, did not prevail. They soon found robust flows when they headed north toward classic waterfalls like Godafoss, Aldeyjarfoss, and Ullerfoss. Unexpected Class 4 rapids lay just beyond a popular tourist hangout. Serrasolses took the fast way in.

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Seal entry: Serrassolses drops in at Studlahil.

At Godafoss, they joined a visiting friend from Nepal. In what the team described as a “wake-up call,” he broke his back when he landed flat after a 12m drop.

Jötunn would demand intense concentration — especially at Aldeyjarfoss, where the water was unusually high and forceful. Shrugging off apprehension, Serrasolses committed himself to the drop. In the words of fellow kayaker Sarasola, “The documentary is worth seeing just to witness this impressive jump.”

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Serrasolses in the chute.

That judgment is a little hard to swallow, based on the rest of the photographs and footage. As ever, virtuoso photographers and world-class athletes generate sublime content.

Soon, the team found a groove, dropping 12m waterfalls left and right.

Serrassolses in Studlahil.

Consistent drama set against Iceland’s stark beauty enhances Jötunn’s high-octane kayaking footage. The team navigates it all with massive commitment and skill.

Aniol Serrasolses nails three consecutive waterfalls in the Keldus River, Iceland.

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About the Author

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson takes any writing assignments he can talk his way into while intermittently traveling the American West and Mexico in search of margaritas — er, adventure. He parlayed a decade of roving trade work into a life of fair-weather rock climbing and truck dwelling before (to his parents' evident relief) finding a way to put his BA in English to use. Sam loves animals, sleeping outdoors, campfire refreshments and a good story.

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Grace
Grace
18 days ago

Amazing article!!

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