Kayakers Come Dangerously Close to Molten Lava Flow

kayaking in active volcano

One would wonder what drives grown men to bring themselves ridiculously close to life-threatening situations. Take for instance Pedro Oliva and his team, Ben Stookesberry and Chris Korbulic, kayakers hell-bent for intense action on their narrow boats. They decide to brave the violent waters around Kilauea, an active Hawaiian volcano on the southeast slope of Mauna Loa on the south-central side. But the group decides to crank the adventure just a few notches up, carving a route that will have them kayaking at the side of fresh flows of molten lava, spewing out of the volcano. Extreme sports photographer Alexandre Socci happens to be there to document the perilous ride.

steam billowing from active volcano kayaker

kayaker in active volcano

The group, however, originally had other plans. They were in Hawaii to film the latest episodes of the TV program, Kaiak for Channel OFF which airs in Brazil. The photographer, Socci, relates that the group had not counted on such a dangerous idea, and did not know what the outcome would be.

He relates how the day unfolded,

 “We got out of bed at 3:30 AM to be in the harbor at 4 AM and get there at 5:45 AM, before sunrise, to get the best light to see the lava and the kayaks on water. We got there and for the first 20 minutes we were just looking at everything and trying to figure out what to do… then Pedro decided to get on his kayak and go for it…. We didn’t expect that.” Socci continued to describe the bizarre morning,  “As a water photographer myself I was trying to get into the water but it was impossible, the water was about 90 degrees Celsius and there were lots of lava particles floating that could burn anything in seconds… even the kayaks came out of the water with some ‘scars’ from the floating lava!!!”

molten lava of active volcano with kayaker

man paddling close to molten lava

man holding flaming kayak paddle

Luckily, the group came out largely unscathed and we are lucky to see the fruits of their daring escapade. What we have is a photo series that is beautiful, awesome, and terrifying all at the same time. Some images look almost unreal, part of some CGI movie sequence straight out of a Hollywood adventure movie.  Socci, however, is quick to counsel warning “I hope people don’t see these images and think that it is safe to paddle so close to the lava because really it’s not safe at all.” Don’t worry Mr. Socci, we believe you.

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Patricia Ramos

Patricia Ramos

I am a freelance photographer who is no stranger to smudged lenses, long hours in front of the computer, heavy camera bags (and the back aches that ensued) and missing lens caps. If you know what I'm talking about, you probably have as much love and passion for photography as I do.