Fall and Rise: Jason’s Story

A C&K film detailing Jason Craig's trying and inspiring recovery

On the afternoon of March 20, 2011, two of the world’s most promising young kayakers broke their backs running large waterfalls. Tyler Bradt, then 24, fractured his L1 vertebra on Oregon’s Abiqua Falls, a particularly unforgiving 100-foot drop. Five hundred miles south, 17-year-old Jason Craig struck a rock at the base of an unnamed 30-footer on California’s Dry Creek, shattering his pelvis, smashing his spine and rupturing his dural sac. In lay terms, he separated the lower half of his skeleton from the upper half.

In the year that followed, both paddlers used kayaking as motivation and tool in their recovery. Tyler’s progress was astounding. Just seven months after Abiqua, with a collection of surgical steel screws and pins still in his back, Bradt and three others completed the first descent of the Congo River’s Inga Rapids, the highest-volume whitewater ever run. Craig’s recovery was even more impressive. He learned to walk again.

— Read the rest of this feature story in the June issue of Canoe & Kayak, now available on newsstands. Here’s Jason’s story in his own words:

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  • Michael Gordon

    This is an absolutely moving and inspiring story. I met Jason in Colorado back in 2006 and was amazed by this kid’s charisma, maturity and boating skills. He is an asset to the sport and I am so happy to see that he is recovering from this accident.

  • Chris Gallaway

    What a good story. Jason seems like a solid young man who has taken the best he can out of this experience. Thanks for producing the story Dave and C&K, and for sharing your insights Jason. Blessings on the river this year.

  • Sally Lentz

    My son Max lost his life in a tragic accident kayaking the Gaulley River. The passion he had for the sport comes back to mind watching this video.
    You are a brave and spirited young man Jason.
    I am so happy that your recovery is so remarkable.

    Sally Lentz

  • http://www.malibukayaks.com/ Ocean Kayaker

    That’s pretty intense, I’m glad that he’s able to recover fully and so quickly. Hopefully, he’ll have extra protection whenever he’s out to shore, seeing that his body might be more vulnerable. Best of luck to him.

  • Adrienne

    What a scary accident. I am a nurse, and I know how hard recovery can be. Your youth allowed you to do more than most, and you should be proud of the progress you made. Love your passion and pray God leads your path where you can touch the lives of others.

  • Michael S.

    That was a very serious injury! Good to hear that he’s recovered but I can tell from his expressions that he’s still very moved by this near death accident. I’ve seen my fair share of accidents in various sports and encountered a serious sporting accident myself so I can really relate to him. These intense sort of accidents truly humble you that we’re not so invincible and that we can’t predict every move to avoid injury outdoors while enjoying nature. Hope he gets over the pain and goes on with ensuring that he lives his life to the fullest even if it means taking it easy next time.

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  • http://www.jeremypancras.blogspot.com jeremy pancréas

    Very inspiring man, I’m actually recovering from a knee injury (not that important) but I’m a professional freeskier and this means a lot to me. Thanks and good luck for the following.

  • Jody Voorhees

    Jason is such an inspiration! Jason won the Jr World Championship in Freestyle in 2009 which was a huge accomplishment before the accident. In 2012 1 year after his accident he won the Silver at the USA Freestyle Kayaking Pro Men’s Division and this weekend just won the Bronze medal at the ICF Freestyle Kayaking World Cup Event in probably the most dramatic men’s finals there has been. You can see his final rides here. http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/25304094 So proud of you Jason!!!

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