Tyler Bradt ran it at lower water. Landing a hair too flat, his spine suffered the consequences, pulling apart at the L1 vertebrae. He underwent surgery the next morning and expects 12 weeks of recovery time.
From Paddling Life: Tyler Bradt on Abiqua and his Back
My back is doing great! I'm cleared to get out of my plastic clam shell back brace in the next couple of weeks. I then plan on spending the summer doing a bunch of paddling and getting strong again. I will have an operation this fall to take the four screws and one rod which out were put in my back to demobilize the broken vertebrate while it heals. After this operation I should have full mobility back in my spine and my neurosurgeon assures me it will be as stronger as ever.
There are a couple of things I could have done to prevent this injury. My main mistake was air stroking halfway the waterfall which brought my bow up. If it wasn't for this stroke I would have had a perfect entry angel and most likely have stomped the shit out of it. There is no question that higher water would have padded out the landing better but with a waterfall of that height the margin for error is very low; I?m sure I would have still broken my back even at higher flows landing the way I did. Because of my reaction to try to stomp by bow back down just before entering the pool, by body was upright, not tucked forward in proper position. This combined with the boat flattening out like it did is a recipe for disaster.
This was also right at the beginning of the season and unlike most years I didn't head overseas to spend the winter paddling, I was in good shape but not at peak paddling shape like I usually am, which also contributed to the injury. I feel very fortunate to have gotten away with it and I will be stronger than ever moving forward from this accident. So at the end of the day, this has all been a tremendously positive experience. As far as respect goes, I have always had a huge amount of respect for tall waterfalls, rivers and drops. It's this respect which has kept me safe over the years. When you look at this in retrospect, at everything I have paddled safely and successfully over the years you will see my batting average is about 99 percent successful. The river is a huge part of my life and has my full attention and respect, I will continue to run high waterfalls and in fact one of the first waterfalls I hope to return to when I get strong again is Abiqua.