April 6, 2011

Contact: Shelley Austin, Executive Director

Jackson County Library Foundation


First Descent in the Congo

as seen in Outside Magazine, March 2011

The Southern Oregon Arts & Lectures Series proudly presents the first lecture in the 2011 Series:  Expedition Kayakers Ben Stookesbury and Chris Korbulic on Thursday, April 21 at 7:30PM in the North Medford High School Auditorium. For tickets and event details, see or call the Jackson County Library Foundation at 541.774.6572.

Ben Stookesberry, 32, of Mount Shasta, Calif., and Chris Korbulic, 24, of Rogue River, Ore., are world-class kayakers who have gone where no boat has gone before to navigate the melting snows of the Himalayas in Northern Pakistan and India, towering waterfalls in Brazil, and boulder-stewn creeks in Mexico, Costa Rica, California, British Columbia and much of North America.  Many of their amazing exploits have been turned into full length films produced by Stookesberry’s production company, Clear H2O Films.

Ben was named National Geographic Adventure Hero of the Year in 2007. He’s one of the world’s leading extreme kayakers and was the first kayaker to descend 70+ sections of rivers in 13 countries. “The last unexplored parts of our planet’s surface are hidden in Class V river canyons,” he says.

Chris is now one of the most accomplished expedition kayakers in the world, walking the thin line at the limits of the sport and looking to go even further. Says Korbulic, “There are peaks of achievement along every river, but the finality of committing to an unknown path is what inspires me to travel it.”

In late 2010, they departed for Africa as part of an Eddie Bauer-sponsored “First Ascent” team, described by the clothing and gear company as the first whitewater kayaking expedition from the headwaters of the White Nile and Congo rivers. They partnered with Hendrik Coetzee, a legendary and well-known kayaking guide based in Uganda, to document the rivers, and be the first to boat the whitewater of the Lukuga River.

Coetzee had completed the first descent of the entire length of the Nile River in 2004 and had explored the parts of the Congo, the second largest river by volume, in 2009. “The Congo has the worst reputation in Africa, but I think that’s unjustified. It’s the heart of Africa, but it’s not the heart of darkness,” he wrote.  Coetzee was the only person qualified to lead the expedition. “He had the keys to the Congo,” says Stookesberry. “I approached him with a great deal of respect.”

The mission for the Africa kayak expedition was to run and document the unexplored whitewater of the region, while focusing on the people and clean water crisis in Central Africa. They also hoped to bring attention to the crisis of millions of people dying from poor water quality in a region overflowing with water. The area has abundant water flows, yet waterborne diseases are rampant.

Stookesbury and Korbulic will describe their international adventures and share the tale of the tragedy that ended the life of their guide, Coetzee, in the lecture. They will share their passions for exploration and what motivates them. Unstoppable, they have continued on with expeditions, the latest of which is Kaiak, a reality TV series they are currently filming in Brazil.

For event details and tickets, please see or call 541.774.6572.  Tickets for both 2011 lectures are on sale now at a discounted price.

Ticket outlets for First Descent in the Congo include:

The Northwest Outdoor Store

980 Biddle Road


Kokopelli River Guides

2475 Skiskiyou Blvd.


Indigo Creek Outfitters

130 “A” Street, Ste 2B


The Fifth Season

300 N. Mt Shasta Blvd.

Mt Shasta, CA

Additional information can be found here:

Coetzee obituary in The Economist

Outside Online article and cover article for Outside Magazine, March 2011: Consumed

Outside Online Blog from Chris Korbulic and Ben Stookesbury

Ben Stookesbury on Why I do it, Outside Online, April 2009

Clear H20 Productions


Shelley Austin, Executive Director
Jackson County Library Foundation
205 S. Central Ave
Medford, OR  97501
541.774.6572 The first SOAL lecture of the season is April 21: The First Descent in the Congo — featuring Ben Stookesbury and Chris Korbulic. These amazing expedition kayakers will tell tales of their international adventures, and the story of their recent trip into the heart of Africa. The event is Thursday, April 21 at North Medford High School Auditorium, 7:30PM. Tickets available at and The Northwest Outdoor Store in Medford, Kokopelli River Guides in Ashland, Indigo Creek Outfitters in Ashland and at Fifth Season in Mt Shasta.  See the cover article in the March issue of Outside Magazine – it’s all about Ben, Chris and their legendary guide, Hendrik Coetzee. And please tell your friends! They’ll want to come…