Tao Berman photo by Jock Bradley.

Tao Berman photo by Jock Bradley.

Berman's paradigm-shifting huck of 98-foot Johnston Falls in 1999. Photo bt Brandon Knapp.

Berman’s paradigm-shifting huck of 98-foot Johnston Falls in 1999. Photo bt Brandon Knapp.

By Jeff Moag

Plenty of paddlers won't be happy to see Tao Berman on this list. He has done as much as any single person to pull whitewater paddling from the fringe to the mainstream, which gets right to the heart of it: single person. In a sport where cooperation is paramount, Tao is a brand unto himself. Even his name stands alone—(TAY-oh), no surname required. His extraordinary talent for paddling and self-promotion is on display in the Twitch paddling video series, television appearances, a Body by Jake infomercial, even the recently commissioned biography, Going Vertical: Life of an Extreme Kayaker. For all of that, many of his peers shun him as a sellout. But none of them squared up on a 98-foot waterfall a decade ago when no one had yet landed an 80-footer. They didn't pursue the business of paddling with Tao's persistence. They didn't land in the pages of Sports Illustrated and Rolling Stone, or launch from a helicopter into a two-tiered 100-foot waterfall on primetime television. Tao did all those things, and like it or not, that makes him a hero.

This story first appeared in the March 2009 issue of Canoe & Kayak magazine.


Richard Bangs // Greg Barton // Tao Berman // Paul Caffyn // Graham Charles // Serge Corbin // Nigel Dennis // Dubside // Steve Fisher // Bob Foote // Dan Gavere // Alan Hamilton // Freya Hoffmeister // Mick Hopkinson // Nikki Kelly // Payson Kennedy // Rob Lesser // Anna Levesque // Martin Litton // Brad Ludden // The LVM/T-Dub Connection // Sean Morely // Nappy Napoleon // Michael Peake // Scott Shipley // Jim Snyder // Rush Sturges //