Video: Five Blind Veterans Paddle The Grand Canyon | Rapid Magazine | Rapid Media
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Visually impaired veterans paddle the Grand Canyon Courtesy of Google Maps

A world record paddle down the Grand Canyon

In September 2018, a team of five blind veterans kayaked the Grand Canyon. The expedition was a partnership between Google and Team River Runner, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing veterans and their families an opportunity to find health, healing and community purpose. Google used its Street View technology to document the incredible world record and film the 226-mile descent, which includes class V whitewater.

"Kayaking a river like this as a blind person is a really different experience. You're running down through the canyons and you just hear the roar and the rage of the rapids as you're getting close to ‘em, and it's like well I can't see it, but okay that one's clearly big" said Lonnie Bedwell, veteran and blind kayaker.

"I stare into a still dark world and that can make you want to be stagnant and it's not what I want to be. I want to move" said Steve Baskis, another veteran on the trip.

The guides who led this unique trip are also veterans, so there was an additional sense of comradery. Together, the team developed a system for kayaking the river where the lead guide created a verbal reference point for the blind kayakers to follow.

"Whatever noise I make, they try to follow me. Essentially, I am a humming beacon," said guide Rachael Ward.

Watch the video highlighting this epic trip.

Video courtesy of Google Maps

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