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 Undertaking occasion.
Mike Dawson / Picture Courtesy

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

Though the worldwide kayak maker isn’t any stranger to being in entrance of and behind the digicam, having made a number of kayaking motion pictures and successful an Emmy for Cinematography, this time round he wished to make a broader film in regards to the historical past of the game.

Like how “Dogtown and Z-Boys” took over the ski recreation 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 behind his head, the tumor wraps round his proper carotid artery and compresses his optic nerves. The boat has battled rapids all around the world, together with the Yarlung Tsangpo River in Tibet, however is now heading into uncharted territory.

The prognosis 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 stated he initially wished to get out into the water and eventually 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 supplies alternatives for outside adventures—akin to kayaking, mountaineering, and browsing—for younger folks affected by most cancers and different well being situations.

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

“River Runner” was final night time’s closing movie on the fortieth anniversary of the BRIC Movie Competition final September. It gained awards within the Finest Journey, Finest Cinematography, and Alternative Director classes on the pageant.

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 path, 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 stated kayak makers typically do not present weak point as a result of it may jeopardize the protection of an expedition. This creates a damaging self-isolation sample through which athletes use excessive adrenaline-inducing sports activities for a run after which flip to coping mechanisms akin to 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 elements of your life,” Lindgren stated.

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, normally do not know the way to search assist,” Lindgren stated. “They normally isolate. Genetically, I believe, it is seen as a weak point, and males do not prefer 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 around the globe, navigating among the hardest waters and mind tumors abruptly.
Eric Parker / Picture Courtesy

Discovering an outlet

The outside additionally offered a boon to Lindgren. He didn’t have a easy childhood, and he typically bought 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 strategy to kayaking, and one of many solely issues he revered as a baby, Lindgren stated, was the river and realizing how fantastic nature is.

“Perhaps it is as a result of I’ve misplaced so many individuals near me,” Lindgren stated. “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 understand that there was nothing apart from … stepping into hassle.”

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 determine if the therapy may wait a yr as a result of he knew it will take quite a lot of effort to get to the suitable place each bodily and mentally to do every day kayaking and extra earlier than the expedition.

He selected the river. Lindgren stated the docs have been satisfied that working within the onerous river would overburden his physique, irritate the tumor and make it develop sooner.

“Because it seems, I did the alternative,” Lindgren stated. “It really appeared to sluggish it down a bit.”

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

For the reason that 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 marriage 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 Exterior Journal.

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

“Weak spot is power,” stated 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