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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 didn’t 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 don’t 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 that’s 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.
 

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Crazy Ed

Thank you for posting a great tribute to Ed. I knew Ed personally on and off the water. He started his paddling career in our whitewater club and everyone knew he was going to be an amazing paddler from his first pool session learning how to roll. He was a great teacher and a mentor. Like you said he was always watching out for others on the water. My dad paddled with Ed and so did I as a kid and adult. He will be missed but will always be remembered. I have no doubt that we will ever run out of stories of Crazy Ed around the river camp fires.
 

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I listen to Rock Creek from my bedroom window and I can see and hear it right now as I type this.

We are a small community and these types of tragedies affect everyone at some level. I didn't know Ed personally but I know the S&R folks who responded and that it affected some of them very deeply.

He will continue to support the whitewater community here. I'll use this as a teaching opportunity for my kids who are growing up next to the creek and take it for granted. I like to think that Ed would approve.
 

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I had the pleasure of meeting Ed in West Virginia a few years ago. We were prepping for a marathon day on the gauley and I was extremely surprised to see another car with wyoming plates so far away from home. I remember watching him style the living shit out of his playboat (I have never seen a dude in his 60's with so much energy and skill). On the way home we rode in the back of my tacoma on top of itleast 8-9 boats stacked to the brim...it was quite the sight! His enthusiasm and support will always be remembered.
 

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I can't imagine anyone would have met Ed and not remember it. The guy was an absolute force of nature. Those who approached him with due humility would be blessed with an avalanche of knowledge.

I had the opportunity to kayak with Ed in Ecuador, and it was a blast. But I dont actually remember the kayaking that well. I do remember Ed's passion for dancing, his not stop energy, incredibly positive attitude and self righteous political views.

Ed seemed equally at ease with coaxing young Ecuadorian ladies to dance the Salsa as he did crushing monster big water in a playboat.

A huge loss for the Cody boating community. Were all better people for knowing Ed.
 
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