"Kayaking has expanded my horizons; it has changed my life. It could change theirs," says Rafa Ortiz on his recent trip to rural Chiapas, Mexico. Ortiz, a native to Mexico, has been traveling to Chiapas for years to run its legendary whitewater and picturesque travertine waterfalls; this time he’s going to teach. Noting the local community’s natural ability on the water, Ortiz headed down with a quiver of boats and gear, and with the help of Isidro Soberanes and Joel Kowalski, he taught basic kayaking techniques and safety procedures to give local youth foundational paddling skills. Ortiz left the donated boats and gear in the community, and plans to keep coming back to this newly created group of paddlers. He also hopes to find more students elsewhere. "I believe that with kayaking, we can make people’s lives better,” he says.

–Check out our DIGITAL PHOTO ESSAY on the Rey Del Rio World Waterfall Championships in Chiapas, which Ortiz helped organize.

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