This week has seen international women’s day (IWD). This is a day to celebrate the achievements of women across the globe. I love that on this day in particular my social media is filled with the stories of inspiring women. Many of these stories are shared by others and I appreciate learning about these women, some of whom I may not have come across before. I wanted to take the opportunity to share four more stories via my blog. The stories are of inspirational women, whose achievements everyone in paddling should know about.
Jess Fox – Olympic slalom champion
You could not have paddled slalom without hearing the name Jess Fox before. Indeed I am always surprised when a paddler of any discipline doesn’t know who she is. But in case you don’t – let me tell you. Jess is the reason why an entire generation of girls got into slalom. Jess is the reason why an entire generation of girls stayed in slalom. If you do not know what slalom is – have a look at Jess’ video below to get an idea. It is one of the disciplines within kayaking which has a spot in the Olympics and involves paddlers going through a series of gates on white water as quickly as possible. Jess, by the way, is very good at slalom.
The Australian athlete is in a class of her own when it comes to kayaking. In the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Jess not only got a gold medal in the C1 category, but she also got a bronze medal in the K1. C1 is kayaking which involves just one blade and for the paddler to kneel whilst paddling, as shown in the picture below. K1 involves two blades and has the paddler sat with their legs in front of them. To take home one Olympic medal is incredible. Taking home two even more so.
The only Olympic events I had to watch last summer were Jess’ runs. Not just because I love kayaking but because I love watching Jess paddle in particular. The expectations of Jess prior to the Olympics must have been enormous. Yet she completely met (and smashed) those expectations. Despite the pressure that must have been on her shoulders, she came across as calm and focused. EVERYONE in kayaking should be proud of her and her achievements. She is (in my very humble opinion) the greatest female slalom paddler of all time.
Cover photo of Jess credits: Filip Nagy / Red Bull Content Pool
Nouria Newman – First decent of Pucano waterfall
If you are a fan of white water paddling – then you have probably heard of Nouria Newman. Nouria has a successful background in Slalom, but it is her river running that she is most known for. Nouria is widely considered one of the greatest extreme white water kayakers in the world. The Red Bull helmet might give you a clue about the kind of paddling that Nouria does. She is world-class and is pushing the limits of what can be achieved in paddling. She is also really quite humble and down to Earth. If you get a chance to meet Nouria at an event or on the river – it is hard not to like her.
She has an impressive list of rivers paddled and expeditions she has been involved in across the world. It is one particular waterfall that she paddled a year ago that really stuck with me, however. Pucano waterfall in Ecuador. Nouria got a first descent on this 100ft waterfall which means that she is the first person EVER to have paddled it. The list of kayakers with the skillset, let alone the balls, to paddle something like this is pretty slim.
I would have been impressed with anyone who paddled this waterfall. But the fact it was a woman only a few years older than myself and someone with who I feel I have more in common, made it so much sweeter. She is a force to be reckoned with and we should all be in awe of her achievements.
Darcey Gaechter – Paddling the Amazon from source to sea
Darcy Gaechter describes herself on her website as ‘author, adventurer, bad ass woman’ and I couldn’t agree more! Darcy is the owner of Small World Adventures and thanks to her, paddlers across the world have been able to enjoy the rivers of Ecuador. She is an experienced and well respected kayaker and river leader. But it is her amazing achievement on the Amazon river that I want to share with you.
Darcy is the first (and only) woman to have successfully paddled the Amazon river from source to sea. I just want to add here that that is over 4000 miles of river! The scale of planning and determination involved would have been epic! She has since written a book about this phenomenal achievement – aptly named Amazon Woman. It is definitely one to add to your reading list.
Darcy’s Amazon expedition happened nearly ten years ago and so isn’t quite as recent as the other stories I have shared here. However, her book was published in 2020. As a fellow author (on a much smaller scale) I think it is brilliant that Darcy has been able to write and share her story of her awesome adventures! So go ahead and read her book – promise you will enjoy it!
Veiga Grétarsdóttir – Expedition sea kayaker & promoter of transgender awareness
I was introduced to Veiga this year at Kendal Mountain Festival where she was a guest speaker for the paddle sports session by Palm and Pyranha. She is an incredibly interesting and wonderful human being and by the end of her talk in the paddle sports session, I was completely blown away by her story.
A lot of Veiga‘s talk was about her incredible achievement in being the first person to paddle around Iceland anticlockwise (or against the current). I imagine that paddling around Iceland is hard enough – let alone against the current! She was so open about the challenges of this expedition and it was inspiring to hear how she was able to meet those challenges. Her film against the current documents this amazing achievement.
What really stuck with me was Veiga’s story of her journey as a transgender woman. I felt like I was educated on the challenges that transgender people faced. But it was only after Veiga’s talk, that I realised that I had so much more to learn. Her open and honest account of her life and the struggles that she has faced as she has realised that she needed to correct her gender was inspiring. It was so humbling to listen to her story and I remember when she finished thinking ‘if everyone heard that talk, everyone would truly understand the transgender community’. Veiga is an inspiration and someone we can all learn from.
And there is my list! What is awesome is that I have no doubt that everyone reading this will be thinking of women they know and the achievements of those women they think should be shared. I couldn’t include everyone in this article but if there is something or someone you think more people should know about – please do share their story in the comments! I really would appreciate reading them by the way – that is not an empty suggestion. Looking forward to hearing about more amazing women!