Bechtel’s Crazy Kayaking Past


SHS math teacher, Josh Bechtel descends the Agua Azul Waterfalls in Chiapas, Mexico.

Lucia Zettler, Staff Reporter

Josh Bechtel is currently a math teacher at Salida High School, but he used to have an exciting and chaotic career in kayaking including countless competitions and rugged adventures. 

“My dad was a rafter, and we would go on river trips with his friends who would kayak. I thought it looked more fun to be in my own boat,” Bechtel said. 

He began kayaking when he was just eight years old on the Salmon River in Idaho. He first kayaked in an inflatable boat, but when he was around 11, he bought his first hardshell which was when he really became involved in the sport. 

“When I got into college, I decided to make an attempt at doing it professionally,” he said. 

Bechtel lived just east of Portland near the White Salmon and Little White Salmon that were tributaries of Mount. Adams and flowed into the Columbia River. They were small and more like creeks with mostly class five rapids. One of the most dangerous things Bechtel has ever kayaked was the Little White Salmon when the water was flooding. 

“The thing that I focused on the most was expedition kayaking,” Bechtel explained. 

Through college, he participated in many extreme races where you race down a hard section of river, and freestyle where you do tricks in a playhole, but his favorite thing was expedition kayaking. Expedition kayaking is when you find rivers that have never been run before in remote areas. This gave him a chance to experience many different types of cultures. He has been expedition kayaking all around the world including many areas in South and Central America, Europe, and even Africa.

“A section that stands out is a section in Chiapas, Mexico called the Rio Santa Domingo,” Bechtel said. 

This is the steepest runnable mile of white water in the world. It is composed of multiple waterfalls, some that are 70 feet tall. The rock creating the waterfalls is called travertine, which is a type of rock that is alive in the same way that coral is. This causes the section of water to look almost like water covered hills with breathtaking drops. 

When asked about specific awards he has won Bechtel said, “I’ve won various different extreme races, boatercross races, and extreme competitions,” 

He taught for a traveling high school of kayakers who won competitions. He also was the Chile National Champion, the Rhino champion, and won the Oregon Cup. 

As far as injuries go Bechtel is pretty lucky, “I was fortunate to never have any major injuries while I was kayaking.” The worst injury he has gotten kayaking is a broken nose. 

Throughout his kayaking career, Bechtel has had many unique experiences including visiting extremely remote areas and pioneering rivers. Kayaking has given him the opportunity to travel to many countries, and meet diverse groups of people. It’s funny that most people don’t know about Mr. Bechtel’s crazy kayaking past.

Bechtel approaches the Moiser falls in Oregon.
Bechtel is pictured kayaking the first decent on the Rio Santo Domingo In Chiapas, Mexico.