Sam Grafton

Twenty-three-year-old Washington kayaker Sam Grafton is not your usual extreme athlete. Balancing working as an ER tech, volunteering as a firefighter and paddling the biggest water around, this quiet young man lets his kayaking do the talking. Since suffering a devastating injury to his jaw and extensive reconstructive surgery last year, Sam has worked hard to return to the site of his accident — Washington State’s Tumwater Canyon.

The Wenatchee River carves a 6,000 foot deep gorge through a mountain of granite, forcing this big river into a very small space — creating some of the most violent and scary whitewater around. The Railroad and a state highway give kayakers from all over the world a front row seat to watch a river very few will paddle at the peak of high water. So far, Sam has run this class V-VI section 37 times this year — mostly solo.