Current whitewater kayaking world champion Nouria Newman on heading to India
Until last year, this 26-year-old, who hails from a sleepy Alpine town in southeast France called Chambéry, used to compete in categories like canoe, freestyle, and extreme kayaking. In fact, Nouria excelled in them. The Red Bull Athlete has podium finishes for world titles at Steep Creek (2017), Sickline (2016); the list goes on.
We interact with the four-time French National winner and current world numero, prior to her escapades in Kerala. Read on.
Hi Nouria. What were you upto right before packing your bags for Kerala?
I’ve been paddling hard in North America for the last 2-3 months and I haven’t really checked the sections of whitewater that we’re going to race on for the Malabar River Festival. I am pretty happy that I managed to finalize my visa application in between US river trips and I am just looking forward to discovering India and its river when I get there. After the race, I will stay in India a few more weeks to explore new rivers and I’m also very excited about this.
Commonly misunderstood thing about whitewater paddling?
One of the most common misconceptions about whitewater kayaking is that it’s easy because of that one time that you went canoeing on a lake and did well.
Could you briefly take us through your training regimen prior to events like the World Kayaking Championship?
Last year, I officially retired from canoe slalom. I left my training routine aside to focus more on extreme kayaking trips. My physical preparation isn’t so strict anymore. I’ve been enjoying my retirement and eating way too much ice cream, but mostly I’ve focused on my creeking technique and how to transfer what I’ve learnt from slalom into a harsher environment.
In the past years my preparation would mostly combine technical training in the slalom boat, intervals, running and gym, but this year, I have been all over the place and pretty much just kayaking.
At the moment, I feel great in my boat. I just came out from two savage first descents in Wyoming with Ben Stookesberry and Erik Boomer. It was very hard and I know that I’m physically strong but it will be interesting to see if I can actually go fast.
As hard as it is, what three moments (or milestones), would you say have defined or redefined you as an extreme sports athlete so far?
- Becoming Slalom Vice World Champion in 2013. After three difficult seasons, I didn’t have much faith in my abilities to perform but my coach Yves Narduzzi believed in me and helped me gained confidence.
- Running The Stikine river and travelling in British Columbia in 2014. I rediscovered extreme kayaking after focusing a lot on slalom and slowly realized that there was no other place I would rather be than in these deep canyons running big rapids.
- 2015 was a very hard year. I lost friends, got scared, had surgery. It was super tough but it forced me to take a few steps back and find out what was the most important thing in my life.
Tell us about your sporting philosophy?
Outside of athleticism I really like to spend time with my friends in the outdoors, and as a French person, I like good food. If you combine all three it makes a great picnic. On our last expedition, Ben Stookesberry said that a lot of athletes didn't last long in expedition kayaking because they were not good enough at the picnic. Picnics are very important, beyond good food it’s about taking the time to appreciate a place and make the most of every moment and every experience.
This is what I’m trying to do with my kayaking. I want to run the hardest rivers, run big rapids and waterfalls but I also want to make the most of every single travel expedition
What event are you most excited about in 2018?
I still don’t know what I will do after India. It will depend on the water levels and project opportunities. Maybe I will end up staying even longer in India! So far 2018 was amazing.
I got to surf big waves in Eastern Canada this spring. I just got off two successful first descents in Wyoming with two legends of expedition kayaking, I’m sure that the Malabar Fest and the few expeditions we are planning in India after that festival will be a great experience and who knows what else. I’m excited about all the great kayaking I will get to do in 2018.