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Indiana’s White Water Maverick: Sam Garthwaite conquers the Falls of Bruar on a stand-up paddleboard

Since our first chat in 2023, Sam Garthwaite, Indiana Paddle & Surf  Team Rider, white water pro and SUP Coach based in Scotland, has been an unstoppable force in the realm of extreme SUP, continuously pushing the boundaries and defying the nearly impossible in our sport.

He kicked off this year with an unprecedented endeavour – the first stand-up paddleboard descent of the Falls of Bruar in the Scottish Highlands. TotalSUP caught up with Sam to find out more about his trailblazing descent of Falls of Bruar and his advice to aspiring and thrill-seeking white water adepts.

The WHY is always at the core of extreme SUP endeavours. When they asked why people climb Mount Everest, the answer was – ‘Because it’s there!’ What made you attempt this descent? What’s driving you to push these limits in our sport?

I can boil down the “why” of this project to a hunger for pushing the limits and continuing on with challenging the range a SUP has. That’s the fancy answer, the simple answer is, because I knew it would be an awesome day!

Photo by Kirsten Kronie

What was your Indiana board set up?

My set up for the day was the 9 foot Indiana River SUP, because it’s super manoeuvrable and we knew there was going to be a lot of tight sections. I was running the board with four of the 1-inch long tail river fins, the gorge has a lot of shallow rock slides that these fins are perfect for.

Photo by Kirsten Kronie

The whole thing required some complicated logistics – could you tell us about your preps and getting the squad + the climbing pros involved?

In terms of preparation and logistics, I knew what kind of team I needed and what needed to be done, but as all adults are aware, one of the biggest challenges was getting all of these people together on the same day! These are busy outdoorsy people! I knew for sure I wanted a team that were comfortable in the area, and that could provide safety as well as handling all of the rope-based sections…

But I also needed people that were comfortable in that environment and good with a camera, which is a pretty specific skill set!*

Photo by Kirsten Kronie

As a white water pro, what’s your advice for those who may want to follow your steps and start doing drops etc.?

My advice would be to try your hardest not to jump straight into the “cool” stuff (I think it’s all cool, but you know what I mean) and build a solid foundation on more straightforward rapids, it will pay off massively when you start to challenge yourself and climb up the river grades.

Photo by Kirsten Kronie

What’s next?

I have a tonne of projects in my mind, I will share them when the time is right. I can say that I have started working on right angle (20 foot waterfall) again, I’m still not sure if it’s possible…but I’m keen to try my hardest to find out!

Photo by Kirsten Kronie

Again, we can’t wait to see your next move. Keep shredding and stay safe!

*Special mention about Sam’s Team: Cameron Hopkin – Paddler; Jack Robertshaw- Lead Guide;  Carrie Blair – Guide; Kirsty Pearson – Guide; Kirsten Kronie – Photographer and Jake Garthwaite – Filming/Editing

To find out more about Indiana Paddle & Surf, visit:  Indiana Paddle & Surf

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Follow Sam Garthwaite on Instagram 

*Images courtesy of Sam Garthwaite

About the Author

Anna Nadolna

Anna is the Founder of SUPer Whale, a Cambridge(UK!)-based emerging watersports brand and a stand-up paddleboarding community. She is a certified SUP Flat Water Instructor accredited by International Surfing Association (ISA). Anna is also a digital marketing, storytelling aficionado and a growth hacking enthusiast.

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