River Runner: How Scout Lindgren, Expeditionary Kayak Maker, Balances a Brain Tumor, His Mental Health, and Tough Water Treatment

Kayaker Scott Lindgren stands looking over the Indus River. Lindgren’s athletic and wellness journey is the main focus of the documentary “The River Runner,” and he would be the keynote speaker at The Longevity Challenge occasion.
Mike Dawson / Picture Courtesy

Scott Lindgren didn’t got down to make a documentary about himself.

Though the worldwide kayak maker is not any stranger to being in entrance of and behind the digicam, having made a number of kayaking films and profitable an Emmy for Cinematography, this time round he wished to make a broader film concerning the historical past of the game.

Like how “Dogtown and Z-Boys” took over the ski sport in Southern California, “The River Runner” was initially supposed to inform the story of kayaking throughout many athletes and characters. Inside years of the enhancing course of, director Rush Sturges centered and made the narration about Lindgren and his journey with a mind tumor.



Lindgren was identified with a pituitary adenoma in February 2015. The scale of a small baseball in the back of his head, the tumor wraps round his proper carotid artery and compresses his optic nerves. The boat has battled rapids everywhere in the world, together with the Yarlung Tsangpo River in Tibet, however is now heading into uncharted territory.

The analysis and subsequent mind surgical procedure that lasted for hours was made earlier than work started on the documentary, and he was reluctant to be within the highlight. Opening up was not pure to him. Lindgren mentioned he initially wished to get out into the water and at last get the Indus off his guidelines with out cameras.



A change of coronary heart occurred when Lindgren was in South America with Brad Lowden, founding father of the Denver-based nonprofit First Descents.. The group gives alternatives for out of doors adventures—resembling kayaking, mountaineering, and browsing—for younger individuals affected by most cancers and different well being situations.

Lindgren skilled an outpouring of help as soon as his analysis was revealed, and he finally got here to the conclusion that maybe there was a larger message price sharing.

“River Runner” was final evening’s closing movie on the fortieth anniversary of the BRIC Movie Pageant final September. It received awards within the Finest Journey, Finest Cinematography, and Selection Director classes on the competition.

The movie facilities on Lindgren’s 20-year quest to be the primary individual to kayak the 4 rivers that originate from Tibet’s sacred Mount Kailash in each main course, together with the Tsangpo and Indus.

One other main theme featured within the film is the hard-core mentality frequent in excessive sports activities. Lindgren mentioned kayak makers usually do not present weak point as a result of it may jeopardize the security of an expedition. This creates a damaging self-isolation sample during which athletes use excessive adrenaline-inducing sports activities for a run after which flip to coping mechanisms resembling alcohol when they’re out of the water.

“It creates a habits, and if you cannot compartmentalize it, you drag that habits into all different points of your life,” Lindgren mentioned.

Luden advised Lindgren that not many males apply for First Descendant packages, and Lindgren instantly understood that it was out of concern of weak point.

“Males, when they’re identified, often do not know the right way to search assist,” Lindgren mentioned. “They often isolate. Genetically, I believe, it is seen as a weak point, and males do not wish to be seen as weak.”

Scott Lindgren is photographed on the Royal Gorge on the North Fork of the American River. The California native has kayaked world wide, navigating a number of the hardest waters and mind tumors suddenly.
Eric Parker / Picture Courtesy

Discovering an outlet

The outside additionally offered a boon to Lindgren. He didn’t have a easy childhood, and he usually received into fights rising up in Southern California. Outlook solely started to enhance after his mom and brother moved him to Rocklin, close to Sacramento. The neighbors launched younger Lindgren to rafting, and he discovered himself having a brand new ardour.

Sports activities naturally gave solution to kayaking, and one of many solely issues he revered as a baby, Lindgren mentioned, was the river and realizing how great nature is.

“Perhaps it is as a result of I’ve misplaced so many individuals near me,” Lindgren mentioned. “Perhaps it was as a result of when you find yourself on a really highly effective river, that energy is so highly effective. … I didn’t notice that there was nothing apart from … stepping into bother.”

Rowing can also be an arrow in Lindgren’s quiver, which has been serving to him deal with a mind tumor. Earlier than touchdown within the Indus River in 2017, Lindgren was advised that the tumor was rising once more. He needed to resolve if the remedy may wait a 12 months as a result of he knew it will take loads of effort to get to the best place each bodily and mentally to do every day kayaking and extra earlier than the expedition.

He selected the river. Lindgren mentioned that medical doctors have been satisfied that working within the exhausting river would overburden his physique, exasperate the tumor and make it develop quicker.

“Because it seems, I did the alternative,” Lindgren mentioned. “It truly appeared to gradual it down a bit.”

Lindgren then took half in a examine that included monitoring blood work, cortisol ranges, coronary heart fee, and extra. He was working in a troublesome river, and the outcomes confirmed that his biometrics have been solely barely elevated.

Because the movie’s launch, Lindgren nonetheless kayaks and travels as a lot as attainable, and he and his girlfriend have been tending to Shopper River Ranch, a tenting and wedding ceremony venue with leisure alternatives in Northern California.

Lindgren can also be engaged on his memoirs with Thayer Walker, a screenwriter for “The River Runner” and a reporter for Outdoors Journal.

It has been practically eight years since Lindgren’s analysis, and though the tumor’s progress has slowed to snail’s tempo, he is taking a look at one other surgical procedure in six months to scale back its dimension once more. Therapies for individuals naturally differ by situation, however Lindgren’s predominant recommendation for different sufferers is to be open.

“Weak point is energy,” mentioned Lindgren.

Scott Lindgren kayak throughout an expedition on the Yarlung Tsangpo River, one of many 4 Nice Rivers on the sacred Mount Kailash in Tibet. Lindgren is the one individual to have accomplished the descent of the 4.
Andrew Shepherd / Picture courtesy