EpicTV posted an interesting story today that has me a bit conflicted. The article talks about the first descent of Marmore Falls in Italy by kayaker Dario Vanacore and even features some impressive photos from the stunt. The falls, which stand 165 meters (540 ft) in height, are amongst the tallest in all of Europe and are a popular tourist attraction as well. They feature a three-stepped drop and were partially carved by the Romans to help facilitate the flow of water into Rome, which gives them both a natural beauty and historical significance.
The problem is, paddling the falls is illegal and Vanacore had to take some clandestine maneuvers in order to go over the spectacular 25 meter (81 foot) section of the falls that he was able to successfully ran. According to EpicTV, Dario snuck onto the premises after dark and stashed his boat and paddling gear in an out of the way area. The next day he strolled into the area in his street clothes, slipped into the area where his kayak was hidden, changed into his paddling gear and went over the falls. Once at the bottom, he simply paddled away without any contact with the authorities.
Apparently Vanacore took the plunge six months ago, but because he didn't document his drop, he decided to go back and do it again. This time with photographers, and presumably a helmet cam, to capture the moment. The image shown here and on EpicTV's website are from that second run down the Marmore.
So here is my conundrum. While I applaud these bold kayakers who make these impressive drops over these massive falls, I am a bit dismayed that Dario did this knowing full well that it is illegal. I think the paddlers who take these plunges must have nerves of steel and more guts than I would have, but I have a hard time condoning their actions when they are running a river (or falls) illegally. It is these kinds of actions that give outdoor athletes a bad name and cause others to be met with suspicion even when they aren't doing anything wrong. There is already enough opposition toward riding mountain bikes on certain trails, climbing on certain walls or paddling some rivers. We don't need to be giving fuel to any argument that prevents us from enjoying the outdoors because certain athletes want to climb, ride or paddle where they aren't suppose to be. See Dean Potter's climb of Delicate Arch from a few years back as an example.
I suspect that Vanacore may still receive a visit from the long arm of the law now that it is known that he is the one who made the illegal drop. If not, he should count himself lucky and move on. I salute him for his adventurous spirit but kindly request he keep future first descents on rivers and water falls that we are allowed to paddle.