By Scott Willoughby
It’s a brave new world for Tao Berman.
It has been about five years now since the three-time winner of the Coors Light Steep Creek Championships and former waterfall world record holder (98.4 feet) retired from professional kayaking. Now the real adventure begins.
Now a father of two — Cole, 4, and Violet, 5 — with his partner Jaime Carbone, Berman made his return to the GoPro Mountain Games in 2017 in a very different role. But it didn’t stop him from pushing what some might consider the “extreme” envelope: Entering the TUDOR Down River R2 Raft Sprint race on Saturday with teammate Josh Bechtel by his side and Cole and Violet riding in the bow.
“It’s the first time either one of my kids have ever been in a raft,” Berman said from the takeout in Vail Village. “For me, life is about adventures, and doing this sort of thing with my kids — although they were crying every time a wave hit them — often make the best memories. And I’m sure by this time tomorrow my kids are going to be asking to be back in a raft.”
There won’t be much time for another raft run, as — in true Berman fashion — the family has a full schedule of about half a dozen events to participate in over the weekend, everything from bike races and rock climbing competition to the family mud run — even the dog run with Violet’s stuffed puppy.
“Coming back to the GoPro Mountain Games is a real treat for me. The one reoccurring theme through all the years in my life as a professional athlete, was coming to the GoPro Mountain Games. I always came with one goal: To win everything that I entered. So it’s very different coming back now with my family,” Berman said. “Now the GoPro Mountain Games are really fun because I’m able to introduce them to a lot of adventures and experiences that they wouldn’t otherwise get. As an athlete, I’ve competed all over the world and I’ve been to a lot of events, and I can honestly say that the GoPro Mountain Games are my favorite event of the year. There’s just so much for everyone to see and do and participate in and spectate.”
As a multisport athlete himself, Berman can appreciate the opportunity to take in all the action as a spectator, ranging from World Cup climbing competition to elite level trail running and enduro mountain biking. And, of course, he and Bechtel still managed to finish among the top 10 in their raft race — even with a pair of animated hood ornaments.
“I’m having a good time competing, but also watching world-class athletes compete in their own respective sports, and I was never able to do that as an athlete. So it’s just a real treat to come back with the family in that respect,” Berman said. “Ultimately, kayaking was a vehicle that allowed me to experience a lot of tremendous opportunities all around the world, and I’ll always look back on it as a very special time in my life. But it’s really fun to have a new chapter and teach two little kids how to go out and have fun and enjoy new adventures. That’s what my life is for the moment.”
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