BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — If you’ve been on social media over the past week, you may have the viral footage of a professional kayaker using waterways as playgrounds.
That now-internationally seen stuntman is Birmingham and Vestavia Hills’ very own Bennett Smith.
“My passion is white water kayaking,” Smith said. “That’s what I do in my free time, it’s how I get my exercise. It’s what I love to do. I’m what’s known as a professional white water kayaker.”
Growing up in Vestavia Hills, Smith would drive along Highway 280. As he drove over the bridge over the Cahaba River, something would catch his attention – something a layman likely wouldn’t pick up on.
“That dam on the Cahaba – I’ve just always had it in my head,” Smith said. “I wanted to try this freestyle kayak maneuver over it. So it’s been a dream of mine since I grew up in Vestavia.”
So there he went – using the dam like a kiddie slope at a ski resort.
“Cahaba is incredible – there aren’t too many big rapids on it,” Smith said about the river’s suitability for beginners. “So it’s perfect for just getting started out. If you want to just get out in the kayak and enjoy nature, there are plenty of places to rent kayaks around Birmingham and get out on the Cahaba and enjoy it. You can do that year-round.”
Features of central Alabama created a perfect environment for this young parkourer to bloom into the hydrodynamic gymnast that he is today. With all those resources, it makes sense that he’s now competing at an international level.
“The International Canoe Federation (ICF) holds the world championship of freestyle kayaking,” Smith said. “So you have to qualify to make the U.S. team. In the past ten years, I’ve qualified three times. I’m looking forward to qualifying for the fourth time and going to the United Kingdom in 2021.”
Which means he has ranked in the top five in the United States three times in the last decade. Depending on if the ICF decides to continue with their 2021 championship, Smith will compete for his fourth qualification in May.
In the meantime, be sure to follow @bennetrsmith on social media for more viral videos and follow him on his path to kayaking greatness.
- Celebrities listen as 5-year-old boy’s beats go viral
- US traffic deaths spike even as pandemic cuts miles traveled
- Smash-and-grab robber targets TikTok’s Fleetwood Mac skateboarder guy
- ‘She was so little:’ Mom delivers premature ‘miracle’ baby in car during Texas storm
- ‘They failed us again’: Teachers hold up racial slur in social media post