All of the footage and photos are locked down as the film team edits it for various platforms. I guess that’s why there’s a lot of words in this blog because of the lack of photos. Though to be fair, the one photo that is not from my GoPro that I am cleared to use doesn’t need many words.

I first saw the Santo Domingo in an old Jesse Coombs blog, I forgot all about it until I saw the crisp lines and helicopter cinematography from River Roots in the Chasing Niagra film, and I appreciated how wild a descent it is. Committing to a trip with my crew I geeked out hard about the river, rediscovered and re-read the story of the first descent by Jesse Coombs and Ben Stookesbery. I always found Jesse’s head game inspiring but his commitment to get the first descent of Angel Wings Falls was borderline horrifying as I thought about how paramount safety is to my crew when dropping waterfalls.

The lip at Angel Wings

Just look at this place! Look at how insanely stacked this piece of river is and understand how incredible it is for there to be a clean line down every single waterfall!

Rio Santo Domingo, Chiapas, Mexico. Angel Wings is the first drop you can see in this stack

Dane lead the charge organising our descent and this, I have to say I, was nervous about. I had decided to stay home and chase storms in the UK rather than go to the Zambezi river this winter and so I was firmly out of the loop with plans. I was told I needed to book the same flight as Adrian and be ready to go. When I looked at the price of the ticket, how far I needed to travel and how short our weather window was, I was definitely feeling a bit apprehensive about captain Dane being at the helm. On the water Dane is a genius, the best ever, and I trust him completely but as with most geniuses, his brain is directed in a singular excellent direction and it doesn’t leave much for everyday concerns. When I voiced my concerns about how short a weather window we had, Dane admitted that he had forgotten that February typically has less than thirty days. I laughed and booked my ticket, how could I turn down a chance to kayak down this river with my best friends? No matter how small a chance it felt to me as I hit confirm on the Turkish Airlines website I had to take it.


The build up to our descent was a fifty-plus hour rigmarole sat inside cars and airplanes, all the time hoping that the levels would be in the right range for us to drop into the canyon. Finally, when we scrambled down the trail, the dense jungle gave way to a look-out spot and we got our first view of the legendary Santo Domingo.  

It’s a touch high but I think we can get it done.

Dane Jackson

The two biggest waterfalls of the section fall almost directly one after another and this is the biggest reason you need the water levels to be low. If it’s too high you could risk getting pushed over the second one (The Dome) upside down, out of your kayak or missing the narrow line of and crashing into the rocks. Not to mention dealing with the power of an entire river landing eighty feet on top of you on Angel Wings. 

Getting into position to scout the river requires some solid rope work and I was very grateful that we had David Sodomka with us on a trip again. David is like duct tape, useful in every situation, previously working as a canyoning guide David did a great job of setting up the ropes and getting us into position. 

From almost a one hundred feet up it looked like the water was moving fast from Angel wings to the Dome. When we got down to river level we could see that it was spewing over, I looked at Dane but he didn’t meet my eye. He was lost in thought staring at the river, it was Dane’s dream to ‘flash’ the section, not stopping from top to bottom. It was a lofty goal but I knew he could do it. The problem is that we where a small tight crew and to cover safety properly on every drop for that descent wasn’t possible. I let Dane mull it over but both Adrian and I were ready to step in and make sure he didn’t leave himself exposed in the pursuit of this goal. Thankfully Dane never takes his prodigious skill for granted (that he can simply avoid a bad situation by acing the line) and is very safety conscious. I nodded my head in agreement as he made the right decision.

With these water levels and our crew numbers it’s not possible to do the full descent safely. We are going to need every one of us on safety at Angel Wings. 

We split the crew in half. The ferry glide over to river-left above the waterfalls is fast and with massive consequences. We agreed that we would not send anyone else from the team to that side of the river, it would always be one of us wanting to huck the waterfalls that would go over. 

We split the descent down, on the first day Dane would go and we would set safety for him at Angel Wings before working our way down to cover the other waterfalls. Everything was perfect, a 06:00 start would put us in position for Dane to drop Angel Wings with the light the film crew wanted at 10:00. Everything was perfect until my kayak got stuck as it was being lowered down through the jungle and below the waterfall. I quickly scrambled maybe eight metres up to set it free, it was like something out of a cartoon. 

I pushed on the kayak and it didn’t budge.

Hmmm, little bit more effort needed I thought to myself.

I pushed on the kayak harder and it didn’t budge.

Huh, even a little bit more effort needed I thought to myself.

I pushed even harder on the kayak and it shot free.

Hmm, that was too much effort I thought to myself as I began to fall off the cliff after the kayak, I managed to do a rolly polly over my kayak as we fell through the air together, getting my feet back under me I was sure I was going to stick the landing but alas I am not a cat and I landed on my left ankle with a crack. 

Sometimes when you get hurt you don’t know how bad it is and sometimes you know exactly bad it is. This one was the latter. Adrian stressed over if I could still be the live bait without being able to put weight on my left foot. ‘I’ll make it happen if it has to happen’ I grimaced as I limped into position on the edge of The Dome waterfall. 

Dane stuck the line perfectly and thankfully I didn’t need to buckle up for safety. He had a successful descent down the rest of the river and we kayaked out of the canyon. There where four portages for me in there and I was very proud and grateful of my crew as they found creative ways to get me and my peg leg down the river. 

The crew was tired and beat up from three back to back days of scouting, setting safety and canyoning or in Dane’s case kayaking down the river but a bad weather system was rolling in and we had no wiggle room for a rest day. We woke up at 05:30 the next day and went back again for mine and Adrian’s descent. Adrian wasn’t feeling up to committing to Angel Wings and rapped down to set safety for me, but not before carrying my kayak to the put in spot above the falls for me. My ankle was so swollen and painful, I almost puked as I crammed it into my Palm Gradient boots at the start of the day. Dane looked apprehensive as I leashed my GoPro to my head, my hands shaking from the pain of standing. The boys helped me out all the time they where around me but up at the top of Angel Wings I was alone. I crawled into position to scout the lip one more time and sat there for over an hour while they got into position. Getting the confirmation over the walkie talkies I told them I was about to get into my kayak but it would take me a while. 

As I crawled along the rocks back up to my kayak unable to stand I remembered how angry it would make me when people call me crazy, I laughed – perhaps, at times, they have a point. But despite the pain there was no way I was backing out, this is what I live for, these moments where you get to process your dreams into reality, where time stands still, where nothing else matters except for having a good line. I love it and I knew I would likely never be in a position to kayak this waterfall again. 

I slid into my kayak, the FPV drone orbited around my signalling that all the cameras where ready and I could drop in. I took a deep breath and floated out of the eddy into the main flow, backwards. This was the only way to set up nicely for the drop and I waited as long as I dared before swinging the kayak around to forwards and looking for my window between the ‘wings’ to jump through. 

It’s a tight line off a rock slab through the massive spray of water off the travertine rock. When you go through the wings you’re completely whited out, you can’t spot your landing and you are just feeling your way down the waterfall before tucking hard and holding onto your paddle for dear life.


I knew I had landed at the angle I wanted but I wasn’t prepared for how powerful it was at the base of the falls and I got sent deep, struggling to unstick myself and roll up it felt like I was underwater forever. In reality on the video footage it was only a few seconds,  I snapped a roll and eyes still full of water I paddled blindly to the safety of the left eddy with the sound of the crew cheering. 

It was a beautiful moment but still only the first waterfall of this section. Waiting just down stream for me was The Dome …

We had an all time film crew including Lucas Gilman, Brandon Reik and David Sodomka. I wish I could share all of it with you but we are going to have to wait while they edit it all and piece it together, look out for the content dropping from this mission in a few weeks time.