The paddling world has lost one of its most beloved ambassadors, 29-year-old British whitewater kayaker Bren Orton.

Orton went missing on May 16 while paddling with a group on the lower Melezza River in the Ticino Region of Switzerland. Community pages shared that Orton had become trapped in a recirculating feature and had not resurfaced.

Bren Orton died in a river running accident in Switzerland in May of 2024.
Bren Orton. | Feature photo: Palm Equipment

Bren Orton lost in river running accident

Following the event, the British news outlet the Mirror published a statement from a spokesperson from Ticino Police: “Shortly before 2:45 p.m. in the area of Palagnedra, a man who was previously in a kayak was reported missing in the Melezza River. The searches—currently unsuccessful and still ongoing—began immediately and involve agents from the cantonal police and, in support, from the Ascona police as well as rescuers from the Locarnese and Valli Ambulance Service.”

The Daily Mail reported that following Orton’s disappearance, a group of 15 kayakers continuously conducted search efforts within the river corridor.

On May 30, 2024, the Ticino Police stated, “Shortly before 1 p.m. in Locarno, the lifeless body of the man who disappeared on May 16 while kayaking in the Melezza was found in the waters of Lake Maggiore. The alarm was triggered by a sailor who found the body in the water and immediately notified the emergency services.”

Remembering Bren Orton

Orton was one of the most gifted paddlers of his time. He was known for aerial freestyle displays on high-volume river waves and descending demanding sections of river around the world, including one of the tallest waterfalls ever run—128-foot Big Banana Falls.

More so though, Orton will be remembered as an ambassador of the sport, bringing a grinning ear-to-ear stoke both on and off the water. He was a person who provided encouragement to paddlers of all abilities he encountered. And through the authentic and welcoming persona he displayed on his online platforms, including the Senders YouTube channel, he fostered a connection with countless others.

In the weeks since Orton was first reported missing, the evidence of his impact on the sport has continued with outpourings of admiration and tributes from across the whitewater community.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Dane Jackson (@danejacksonkayak)

Dane Jackson: “13 years, 17 countries, and not a single second together was time wasted. I look back on some of the best times of my life and so little of it I didn’t have you with me. As long as we were together, it didn’t matter where or what we were doing, it was going to be the best time. […] You were the best on and off the water, your creativity and motivation inspired me and so many others, and will continue to do so. I am grateful for the joy you brought to my life, and everyone else around you.”


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Shane Simoneaux (@shane_simoneaux)

Shane Simoneaux: “I’ll never forget the feeling I had when I listened to this voice message from Bren. I was still just about a year into kayaking and sending him videos to review and give me tips. He made me feel like I had a chance to be a really good kayaker (even though I was probably still a mega beater). I’m sure I’m not the only person he made feel this way either. To have someone you respect so much speak to you this way propels the human spirit to do more, and to really believe in yourself.”


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Laura Hofberger (@laura.hofberger)

Laura Hofberger: “I hope you knew what a positive effect you had on people. You were not only a good friend but also an idol for me. You always inspired me to try to be my best version, to be more like you. You were an even better person than a kayaker. And that says bloody a lot. You were kind to everyone, did everything with all your heart, celebrated life and chased your dreams. You truly lived.”


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Lord Huw Butterworth (@huwkayak)

Huw Butterworth: “I can’t explain the influence you had on me, and saying that I would not be where I am right now if it wasn’t for you is not an overstatement. You helped me with little things like making sure my camera was set to the right settings, and bigger things like pushing me to make the right moves in my paddling career. I will always aspire to have high levels of stoke and kindness like you!”


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by ZACK MUTTON (@zack_mutton)

Zack Mutton: “I’m grateful for the friendship I shared with Bren. In the last 3 years he was with me for some pivotable life moments on the water and was there for me when I needed it most off the water. It goes without saying he was one of the best well rounded paddlers in the world and invaluable to the kayaking community as a whole. He loved sharing his stoke for kayaking and took time for people that looked up to him. Bren helped me to mature as a paddler both skill wise and mentally. He wasn’t afraid to be harsh and tell me how it was sometimes, and he stood for what he knew was true & right. I came to hold a lot of respect for him and he will continue to influence my life. As life goes on I will try to live my life as Bren did: courageously and bravely approaching life’s adventures head first, one at a time.”


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Emily Jackson (@emilyjacksonkayak)

Emily Jackson: “I remind myself of the difference between Living and Being Alive- and the blessing of being surrounded by individuals that know the difference. If you take time to listen to Bren’s videos, interviews, podcast you’ll notice he was incredibly self aware of this truth and pursued living life to the fullest […] May we use Bren’s energy to prioritize the passions and people that make us feel the most alive.”



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here