Sam Grafton goes big

Washington paddler reclaims Northwest high-water classic on Tumwater Canyon

You might remember Sam Grafton for his 2012 run of the Pacific Northwest’s legendary Sunset Falls at 7,500 cfs. The last time we heard from the 23-year-old Index, Wash., local he was lapping Eagle Falls on the South Fork Skykomish at the ungodly level of 26,000 cfs.

The ER tech and volunteer firefighter had a huge runoff season with a return to Washington’s Tumwater Canyon of the Wenatchee, where last May a high-water collision with a paddling partner at 15,000 cfs left Grafton with a jaw fractured in two places, sidelining him with reconstructive surgery. “I was in and out consciousness,” Grafton says. “I swam about half a mile, glad I have very little memory of the event.”

This year, Icicle TV was on hand to capture the action from one of Grafton’s 37 runs of the canyon’s chaotic section this year, all between 4,000-14,000 cfs. A first for Grafton happened during the filming–that is, having to brace off a massive log barreling down the canyon (seen at the 3-minute mark).
“It was the exact place that I broke my jaw at almost the exact flow,” says Grafton, who’s now planning an expedition north to the Grand Canyon of the Stikine. “Pretty nerve wracking.”

Here’s some POV footage of Grafton’s solo run last year the day before the jaw-breaking collision.

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