The Summer Adventures and road ahead

I did not find much time this summer to update my blog, but as I am sipping a glass of wine on the coast of Spain, there is time. My mum and I are on holidays, the first one together in seven years. Happiness!



The past year has been a whirlwind. I started my final degree in practical pedagogic studies, and finished my master thesis on Queen Margaret I of Denmark. (!)  This winter, as the past one, I have to attend classes in Norway, and can therefor not be on the road like I have grown all too used to! So, I decided I might as well make some money and get some experience teaching while I finish up my degree. What a ride! My students are amazing, challenging (in a few different ways, but all good) and my subjects this year are Norwegian, Spanish and Social sciences. I teach 16-19 year old youths and enjoy it thoroughly. They will have their exams in may, while my last exam is on the 7th of June. (One that will conclude 9 years of being a full-time student.. )


So then what?

I am taking a year off. At least. It will be my first year not studying, and I will simply kayak, enjoy life, travel and write. There are some exiting projects that I want to get going, ones that I have planned for years now. It is time. But first… head down, study and work, study and work. (and kayak)


This past summer my shoulder held up well. After a great week at the Voss Extremesportweek, where I managed to race well and had a good time up there with the men, I headed to Iceland with Katrina van Wijk, Shannon Carroll and Martina Wegman. We only had a short week to spare, and we were filming with Nuit de la Glisse for their upcoming video. You can watch the trailer “Imagine” here:

We had an amazing time driving around the island with the frenchies, using very high-tech camera equipment to make us look good. Mainly we stayed in the Godafoss area as that is where the water was. It was a very cold summer, and the runs we planned on doing on the east coast were snowed in and dry! Crazy. My personal highlight came when Shannon and myself decided to run Ullarfoss, which at that flow had a tricky lip. I saw the line, felt it and nailed it. (Even if I swam at the bottom because the spray skirt blew off..) Shannon followed suit, but chose a slightly different approach, making her land backwards and partially up-side down. Trooper as she is, she shook it off, went back up and nailed it on the second attempt. Thanks to Katrina and Martina for doing safety!

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Mariann running Ullarfoss, with Shannon next to go. Photo: Martina Wegman

After a bad TL-call from my side we left the area without running Aldeyarfoss, and I was kicking myself hard as we realised the east coast was dry. We did not have enough time to make it back to the airport if we backtracked to Aldeyarfoss, and still see the rest of what was to be seen, including Waterfall of Thieves at Burfell. So it got left behind, but hopefully for the last time. Time will come to run the beast.

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Martina Wegman in Jøkulsarlon. Photo: Mariann Sæther


Mariann running Waterfall of Thieves. Photo: Martina Wegman
Mariann running Waterfall of Thieves. Photo: Martina Wegman

Iceland was a great adventure with the girls and the film crew, and I zapped back over to Norway for a 12 hours lay-over before I suddenly was on the plane to Novosibirsk, Russia. No rest for the wicked! Ron Fishcer, Jasper Polak, Matt Basso, Benjamin Hjort, Bobby Frieser and myself were going to spend a glorious month in the Golden Mountains (Altay) running the whitewater and enjoying endless campfires, banyas and vodka. (actually beer..) I am not going to blog too much about this trip, but rather tell you to get your hands on the next Kayaksession, as my article from this amazing adventure will be in there. It includes steaming banyas, swims, car drownings, the rowdiest creek race on the planet and endless good memories from a region that simply blew my mind. Go get it!

After I comfortably won the King of Asia festival (all three comps), I got somewhat of a surprise prize.. 😉 Russian humor!
First day of an 8-day misson. Photo: Benjamin Hjort
Ron on a rapid on the Mazhoy gorge. Now imagine twice the flow and no safety and that is your race course for King of Asia.
Ron on a rapid on the Mazhoy gorge. Now imagine twice the flow and no safety and that is your race course for King of Asia.
Bobby looking into the beginning of the Presidium – crux canyon of the Mazhoy gorge. No wonder we did not feel like scouting it the  the next time with the river twice as high as in this picture! (Scouting = scary)


One of a few river crossings that actually went well!




So what about freestyle? Slalom?


My preferred freestyle arena these days


I decided not to go to the freestyle Worlds at the NOC because I am still feeling a bit tired of small features. The Worlds in Plattling killed my drive, at least for now. On a different note, I am going to Uganda with Nouria Newman and Katrina van Wijk in December, to surf our brains out on Nile Special. Woop-woop!

When it comes to slalom.. Well, there were some issues with the federation, and my anticipated participation in the World Cup Finals in Bratislava fell through. I trained all spring, early summer, still trained after Russia, and will enjoy doing it a lot more this fall. I do have my eyes on some slalom goals for next year, as I have to say it is a sport I really enjoy. My technique is slowly getting better, my strokes better (also when it comes to creeking as a benefit from pulling on the slalom blade!) and timing is getting there. The issue is how to organize training… No coaches in Norway to help, no money to go to training camps and very few to train with. However, there IS a small community in Norway now, that is slowly growing. It is amazing to see, and I think we will within a few years again have a slalom base of young paddlers. Until then.. I try my best, to become the best I can be, also in slalom. (I did win the Norwegian Championships, but that wasn´t too hard with a minimum amount of girls competing.. I was 3rd in the Men´s though.)

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Flatwater training DOES make me better… (I hope!)


I think I am going to race a lot next year. It might be time to not do the Oktoberfest and then race Sickline, along with Green Race. I am hungry for competitions and want to go fast. Due to my exams in June I can not race the North Fork of the Payette, but I am trying really hard to clear my schedule for the Grand Prix in May. Fingers crossed.  Then we talk about moving to Chile for half a year… ski in Switzerland, go back to Peru, find time to return to Russia, multiday adventures (and Aldeyarfoss) in Iceland,  run all rivers flowing of Norway´s second biggest glaciar in the north, do the Stikine, explore BC, China, Colombia… Live where? Have no idea. Norway, Switzerland, Chile or somewhere in between. Ron might continue his company in Voss, I might just hibernate then in Raundalen and finally write my book. (And paddle full time!) Soo…. Life is exciting!


Happy after getting off the Lower Bashkaus in Altay
Happy after getting off the Lower Bashkaus in Altay


So, that is it. There were some amazing adventures this past summer, there were some disappointments, some tough life-choices to be made (not easy to step into 100 percent job, even if only temporarily, when I have been a kayaker since the age of 18..), but… Life is grand, I am enjoying it to the fullest, and I fell extremely blessed to have a man that I can share the river adventures with. Also stoked to live in a place where I have world class whitewater just outside my house to enjoy whenever I am finished with work. Nothing beats the Train Station section on the Raundalselva and the other sections. (Only Futaleufu) Pluss paragliding. Pluss hiking. Pluss skiing. Pluss.. Pluss…


Homerun Raundalen, Voss
Homerun Raundalen, Voss


Another homerun on the Raundalen.. Me running Nosebreaker this fall:






Saludos de Epsaña,


Canadia, eyh?

The interesting part is that in each and every whitwater kayak discipline you need elements from the other disciplines. That is a truth that a pure freestyler, a slalom kayaker or a creek boater can never escape. Then I again wonder: Why do so many focus on only one of them?

There was a time when big waves were constantly in my life; playing on the Ottawa in spring and fall, and surfing Nile Special for weeks on end in Uganda. This spring I felt the itch again and I booked my ticket to Canada within days. Stepping into Katrina van Wijk´s huge truck at the Montreal Trudeau Airport reality suddenly snapped back in place.


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The air-screw to faceplant. Feels great.


My next reality check appeared at the Ruins, a fast, challenging and tricky wave in the middle of Ottawa city. The locals and imported locals were talking non-sense like “too foamy”, but luckily we didn´t believe them! It really is hard when you have the best waves in the world at your door-step. Not good enough for the locals is very often amazing for others, and I rediscovered my passion for big waves as Katrina was discovering a surprising passion for freestyle. The days were good to say the least..

Upon picking up Nouria Newman the energy level in the group rose even more. We were on our own program, who cared about the boys and what they were doing, if they were lucky they showed up and joined the show. Actually, Devyn and Kent did quite regulary, which was great. It was really cool to see Devyn styling the Ruins with 12 minutes long surfs, and there is nobody more stoked than Kent on surfing Gladiator. You guys rock!

Katrina on Gladiator
Katrina has not done a lot of playboating, but picked up big wave surfing with style and stoke, both her trademarks by now.


There is something else that makes these two women special. They enjoy all aspects of kayaking. This is something I have been advocating for a looong time. I remember back at the World Championships in Graz,  in 2003 or so, I was defending myself to various people for not just focusing on either playboating or creekboating. I had come straight down to compete from a great roadtrip in Norway with my friends and filming for TGR and “Valhalla”, easily opting out of training freestyle in Europe that spring.

My words back in Graz were the same as I have used also in Canada for the Worlds in 2007, and that I remember repeating to Nouria in Thun in 2009. She was deep into slalom and faced problems when wanting to also do a bit of playboating at the World Championships. I told her to not care about what the coaches said and do it all: “They say we can´t do it all, I say at least we can try!” I then watched her go on to becoming Junior World Champion in freestyle, and to excel to greatness in slalom and creeking.



The french Gladiator domination a.k.a Nouria!
The french domination a.k.a Nouria!


The Ottawa XL was well organized and amazingly fun. Yes, surfing Gladiator is terrifying. However, I have never wanted to surf a wave as much as that Saturday during the XL. I kept missing the ferry out to the beast. Thinking I was in the right spot, I would relax for a second, then realise that I missed it again. Poof, goooone, another half an hour wait in the eddy before a new chance would come. Rush kindly explained to me in the eddy what to do after looking at my sulking face halfway through the competition: “Dude, just before it hits you, try and do a boof stroke upstream!” The amazing thing is that it worked..

The ride I did get felt amazing, and there was no choice but to flash the peace-sign to the crowd while screaming my lungs out with joy on every bounce. Lukicly I did in the end remember to try a trick as well. I was supposed to be competing after all… The move I threw felt big, I landed it, spun around a bit too quickly and spent the next 10 seconds trying to roll up before the infamous Ledge.

Upon rolling up I did see Matt Hamilton racing to my aid in case of swimming in his Superman jet-boat… C´mon, Matt, it was only four roll attempts! I can not wait for next year and another chance at playing with this BEAST, as I earned myself a spot at the Whitewater Grand Prix with an overall 3rd in the XL. Bring it on!


Highlight of my Gladiator-ride


The Boater-X  on Sunday was way cool, though I wish the flatwater had been a bit shorter…. Nouria had a greenish color in the eddy before starting, due to the overtake of her new breakdancing Alter-Ego the night before, and Katrina was surprisingly quiet with the odd “yeaheeee” to sort of wake herself up… 🙂 Nevertheless these slalom girls are FAST in the flatwater! I stayed on their tail and as I dropped into Coliseum I saw Nouria flying backwards toward me as she got nailed in a braking wave. The phrase “Flying Frenchie” was re-defined!

The surfing was amazing, but really what was the most amazing, was to be back together with people that love it just as much as I do. In the parking lots, on the waves, at comps and at parties I met so many old friends I haven´t seen for years, smiles all around, and it was as if it was only a few months back that I had been in Canada last.

Thanks to the van Wijk family for amazing hospitality, to Joel and Patrick for another sweet event and to Katrina and Nouria for general awesomeness!



Aerial view of Coliseum, as a pack of racers are heading down the meat..


Oh… I have missed my clean!



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The sprayskirt popped, I swear!




The potential negatives

– Why don’t you walk out?

The question came from my Swiss better half as I was shaking the ice-cream headache away in the eddy. I had just self-rescued out of an unpleasant scenario that was inflicted by a missed line ending in a bad boof. With a good grab of ice, upside down, I had managed to push myself back up and away from the icy undercut I was stuck in.


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 Photo: Marcio Franco

The Myrkdalen was flowing at 20 cumecs and surrounded by deep snow and ice, but still flowing. We were the first group of the season, and by the looks of it we were a couple of weeks too early. It was a scenario that was not allowing many mistakes. I had just made one. Yes, why didn’t I get out? The question snapped me back into reality.

I shook my head and acknowledged feeling unfocused and “off”, for whatever reason. Strangely enough, the question also made me smile in a flash of self-insight. What the heck was I doing? It wasn’t like I didn’t know the river, or that the team was weak. I had been down it many times and even once ran it solo looking for a lost kayak. I had never encountered the river under these conditions though, and I found myself overly focusing on the potential negatives: the consequences of “ifs” and “maybes.”


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 Photo: Marcio Franco

Well, the mind I can force. Fifteen years of running whitewater has taught me this much. Upon getting rid of my ice cream headache I answered the question:

– I will continue, and there will be no problem.

So I did. My lines cleaned up. The rest of the run was great despite the eerie conditions. Sounds easy to switch the mindset, right? It isn’t. But again, it is totally doable. You can draw on your own experience and self-confidence in situations like this, and most importantly: You can, and have every right to, trust yourself.


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I continued because I know my abilities quite well. This knowledge gives me confidence to force my mind in the right direction at the right time. (At least most times) This is also a confidence that ties together with knowing my personal limit of pushing myself. And I was nowhere close to that limit.

But I definitely needed a reality check.

If you know that you can: Then you do. This is the simple rule you have to remember. This trust in one’s own abilities even on bad days takes time to build, but you will get there. I promise.


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Photo: Marcio Franco

I later thanked the man for not pampering me with “Darling, you will be fine, just relax…” A cup of “pull your shit together or get out of here” was the most efficient medicine and ensured that I got my head back on my shoulders ASAP. Honesty on the river is severely underrated.

After all, isn’t this what it is all about? To maintain the right kind of focus. To not get caught up in the potential negatives. In whitewater, there is very little room for doubting yourself and your line. In whitewater surrounded by ice there certainly is no room for self-doubt.



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Not crazy, just pigtales.

I just got asked again if I am crazy. I am not crazy. I was not born with big balls, I was born with no balls! I do not believe that anybody was born with a “tough”- gene. Everybody that run class five have all worked hard to gain confidence and to build courage. The truth is that nothing comes for free in this world. Not even big balls.

What I have found in kayaking is an element in which I can play to such an extent that the fuzz of the world around me goes quiet. What you find in kayaking I do not know. Nevertheless there is something we kayakers share: A profound sense of belonging in the current of a flowing river. The reasons why this is so, are individual, private and intricate. They can not be put in a category and labelled. Except from one. FLOW. I think it was Evan Garcia that once posted this in his blog, in regard to Bomb-Flow. For Love Of Water. Simple. As. That.

I once in a while hear the following: “Technique can be learned, guts can not”. I call bullshit. This supposed truth blocks a major part of women from becoming their best. And a significant amount of guys. On the river, just like most other times in life, you need to be able to break it all down. Sometimes we need to analyze what went wrong. Then you need to get back on that horse. It sounds simple. It isn´t. But it is doable. If your mistake is due to lack of skills, then step back. Was it just a mistake, well then do not beat yourself up over it. Shake it off, and maybe even walk back up and try again. But never ever ever believe that you will not get better, because you “have no guts”!

Courage is not something we are born with. It is something we achieve. And damn, it is hard work! To build courage you need to put yourself into situations where it is in play. Start with small drops, rapids, slightly more technical rapids and waterfalls. If you find yourself stuck in your comfort zone then it does take an effort to pull yourself out of there. The first step is to find a goal just outside of it, yet not too far away. It doesnt have to be a 10 meter waterfall. It can be simply chosing a different line down a rapid you have run 100 times. But most imporantly: YOU have to actively change your path.

Yes, ladies, the men are born with more testosterone. But we are born with more brains (fact) and finesse (fact).  I am not saying it is easy to build courage. But to blow off your potential with ” I have no guts, so I will never get better anyways” is just not good enough. It all starts with small steps. They are the most important ones. In addition, when you run something smoothly and how you wanted to run it, step back and analyse. Why did you manage to pull it off? Recognise how well you have done, and be proud of yourself.

Eventually you will find that by building courage in one discipline, it can transfer into other disciplines. I just tried my first backflip on skis. Not because I am crazy. I am not even a good skier. But it was a resonable step outside of my comfort zone that I was ready to take. More important though than having it transfer to skiing, is that building courage on the water can transfer into your life off the water. The potential gain is immense: Improved self-esteem, an alerted ability to cease chances when they arise, standing up in difficult situations and not at least: To fulfill your potentials.

In my opinion, we do not need to paddle like the guys. We need to paddle like girls. Embedded in this statement is a profound belief that we can do exactly the same as the guys, but we need to figure out our own ways to do so. In other words, we can not just follow in the footsteps (paddlestrokes) of men.

No more excuses, ladies. Time to get to work.



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