It’s hard to be down when you’re always looking up
When Rapid caught up with Bren Orton this April, he was just days away from the debut of Unleashed, the new big water competition held in Quebec. The 22-year-old known for his distinct freestyle on huge waves and hucking waterfalls all over the world is part of a collective called Send, the organizers of Unleashed. Bren explains that his goals for the event are similar to those of any amazing day kayaking: to have a great time with great people on amazing whitewater.
ON GETTING STARTED IN WHITEWATER
As a nine-year-old living in Warrington, England, Orton went on a school trip outside of the city where students participated in a range of outdoor activities.
One of those was kayaking. After the trip he begged his parents for a kayak. The sport began taking up most of his free time.
I did all sorts of things to get out of school to kayak.
While he was in school, sitting at his desk he would fidget with his calculator or erasers, sending them down imaginary lines. Today Orton can’t imagine where he would be or what he would be doing if he weren’t a kayaker. “I don’t think there’s any alternative.”
THE MOST INTERESTING PLACE KAYAKING HAS TAKEN HIM
Almost every year Orton spends a few weeks in the village of Nicartu in Uganda, right beside the world-famous Nile Special wave. Orton first went when he was just 16 years old—he borrowed his grandmother’s credit card to book the flight. “But I paid her back immediately,” he says. The warm water and amazing community keep him coming back when the Northern Hemisphere’s rivers are frozen solid.
THE IMPORTANCE OF LEARNING PATIENCE
Orton says the most important thing kayaking has taught him is patience, a quality that pervades all aspects of the sport.
You have to wait for the right water levels and the right conditions.
The patience also extends to his own abilities, especially allowing himself the experience of being humbled by rivers and different conditions. This was highlighted for Orton during a super high water run of the Little White Salmon this past spring. He considers it the biggest challenge of his kayaking career so far.
THE MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT PRO KAYAKERS
Images of professional kayakers travelling to remote and far-flung rivers can lead to misconceptions about their lifestyles.
A lot of people think we have a ton of money to go and travel.
However, this was the first year he didn’t need to work a random job like digging graves or manning call center phones to fund his kayaking plans. He says his life isn’t glamorous and money can be tight. The sacrifices he makes seem small given he gets to paddle amazing rivers with his closest friends.
ON THE FUTURE
Over the next two to three years, Orton wants to focus on running waterfalls. He has a few big projects he’s developing that center around big drops. He also wants to continue working on his racing, freestyle and big water paddling.
My ultimate goal is to be the best all-around kayaker I can be.