The paddling world lost one of its up and coming stars in late June when Connecticut’s Stephen Forster, 19, died while paddling Idaho’s North Fork Payette River.
According to reports, Forster, an expert paddler and graduate of New River Academy, was paddling with friend and Boise local Brian Ward on June 28 when the river was running at more than 4,000 cfs. Putting in at the top of the Disneyland rapid south of Smith’s Ferry, near the top of a series of Class V rapids, he reportedly got caught in a hole near a rapid called Nowhere to Run. After swimming, he was swept downstream, where Ward tried to reach him to no avail.
“I caught up with him just before Chaos rapid and tried to get him on the stern of my boat, but the water was too swift,” the 28-year-old Ward said in a blog in tribute, as reported by the Idaho Statesman. The paper reported that Ward eventually lost sight of Forster in the water.
On Saturday, July 16, more than two weeks after Forster went missing, his body was found by a kayaker about 7 miles downstream from where he disappeared. The Statesman reports that the day his body was found Ward — who had met Forster at Oregon’s Eagle Creek earlier this year — joined Forster’s family and friends at a funeral service in his hometown of Wilton, Conn.
The paper reports that Forster’s father, Bob Forster, told The Wilton Bulletin in Connecticut that Forster planned to spend the summer kayaking in Colorado, Idaho, Oregon and California and that kayaking wasn’t just his son’s passion, “It was his life.” Forster had paddled rivers throughout the country and South America.
Earlier in the summer Forster swung through Paddling Life’s hometown of Steamboat Springs, Colo., to compete in this year’s Paddling Life Invitational event. “He was a great guy and a great addition to the event,” says event organizer Eugene Buchanan, adding that he finished in 10th place overall in the creek and freestyle combination event. “It’s sad to lose someone you had just gotten to know.”