Ed Conning from Cody Wyoming, died Sunday afternoon on Rock Creek south of Red Lodge Montana. He was 66 years old. Ed and his group scouted the S turns before the run, but didnít see that a tree had fallen across the creek just above that around the corner. Ed got snagged in the tree, his partner managed to get over it. By the time Ed was freed from the tree, he had drowned. His body floated down stream when he was freed, and was recovered that afternoon by local search and rescue.
It was my great privilege to have boated with Ed on his home river, the Shoshone, near Cody, and on several of the other rivers that drain the Beartooth Mountains of Montana. Ed had more passion for kayaking than any one I have ever met. It is quite possible that he had more days kayaking than almost anyone else on the planet. He was absolutely unique, and I donít know that our sport will see another boater quite like him.
To see him in action on his home river was to have a master class in kayaking. Always in control, superbly smooth, every paddle stroke with a purpose. Ed could observe you for a short bit and he would understand your weaknesses and strengths better than you did. His information on how to handle an upcoming rapid was always flawless. If you boated with Ed, you could not help but to become a better paddler. If you watched Ed in action, you would notice that when he boated with inexperienced boaters he would always position himself exactly where he needed to be if they got in trouble. He would never point out he was doing it, but thatís the kind of man he was.
He was every bit as good of a person as he was a paddler. Sometimes we forget that all boaters have a life outside of boating. Ed had a wonderful wife and family. He had a career. A long time ago, he was an army ranger. We used to talk about experiences we had in the army, even though they were at different times, and lots of other things besides boating.
Ed was heavily involved in search and rescue. A few weeks earlier he had conducted training for the guys that recovered his body. Ed understood the risks of the sport. He would not want anyone to stop boating because of this death. He would want us all to boat as safely as we can.
If you are a boater, then you know the joys that boating can bring us. In some ways boating is like a beautiful, enchanting, alluring, irresistible mistress. But boating is also a cruel, fickle, and uncaring mistress. Boating gave Ed a huge amount of joy in his life. In the end, it took more than it gave.
We are all still in shock here, trying to process the news, but I know I am a better man for having known Ed. I will miss him, and I will remember him. Please be safe out there.