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Benny Marr

Benny Marr surfs his kayak on a tubular wave with a waterfall in the background

Whitewater Kayaker

Benny Marr is one of whitewater kayaking’s most innovative characters. He also happens to be a certified yoga instructor and holistic coach. We caught up with Benny to learn more.
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How many nights a year do you sleep under the stars?
A lot. Never enough though. Sometimes you get on a roll and sometimes you end up inside a lot. However, I am typically away from bigger cities and in more rural settings…so maybe I have a roof over my head at night but I spend a lot of time outside during the day and night. All of my outerwear is peppered with burn holes from all the fires. I like to go for walks at night before bed as well. I love time outside.
Benny Marr launches into the air in a white kayak
When did you stop using shampoo?
I would guess 5 years ago, My bestie, Regan Byrd, told me she stopped using shampoo or “poo” and was about one year into it. I was intrigued because she has dope hair and I have a lot of hair on my head. Further, I would always buy expensive shampoo and conditioner which I would forget in people’s houses and it was a waste of money. The extra time in the shower was a lot of water so it’s been a win win. Probably won’t work for everybody, but it works for me, and Regan. Every once in a while I use a tablespoon of baking soda to two tablespoons of water and one tbsp of apple cider vinegar to 2 tbsp water in an effort to clean the hair.

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Benny Marr

Favorite constellation?
My favourite is the Big Dipper. It is an easy one to pick out and when I do stare up on a clear night. It jumps out at me. Orion and Cassiopeia jump out at me as well but it’s the Big Dip for me. I like to find Lil’ Dip as well. Having a constellation to look for is so cool, especially when you see it from a different place on the planet than you are used to.
Benny Marr doing an aerial maneuver in a white kayak
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Worst swim?
I swam on a waterfall called Chutes Ursule in Quebec. It was an attempt at a third descent. It is a long, steep and tall cascade. I was excited to move through this drop and it was on my list for a long long time. I made multiple mistakes in preparation and execution. Also, the water dropped a lot when I went to suit up and none of us noticed. I got sideways, flipped in the air and pinned halfway through. I swam and got stuck into a little underwater pocket for some time where I focused on staying calm and not moving my body or wasting oxygen. It let me out and then I swam a short slide and then off the bottom waterfall. Which was pretty big. Sometimes I think about the swims and situations from the past that were avoided or the scenarios where a swim would be very critical and I shudder. My worst swims sucked. But I do know I have wiggled out of situations that could have been worse.
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“I am not the perfect picture of health in any way. But I know from experience that dabbling into different diets and structured off-water movement and exercise are hugely beneficial to my kayaking practice.”

– Benny Marr

Scariest portage?
On an expedition in Papua New Guinea we made some hard technical portage routes and at one point were away from the river for 6 or 7 days. Some of it was grinding, some of it was technical, some of it was pretty exposed. We never knew what we were in for.
Benny Marr carries a yellow kayak through a dense forest
Benny Marr gets air while surfing a wave
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Describe a holistic approach to whitewater kayaking.

Holistic by definition: a comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.

Kayaking is a sport practiced in a dynamic environment. It is so damn fun that a lot of the time is spent overwhelmed by the pure joy of moving around a river. I never used to use my time off the river to work at getting better on the river until a few years ago. I never chose to pursue competitions at a high level to keep things in the always fun zone. And I never dedicated a huge amount of time to practice and progression. I got better at kayaking by kayaking a lot and not overthinking it. Now, I like to spend time thinking about how to improve my kayaking, my performance, power, efficiency, and consistency. A lot of this is done on the water, and now a lot is done off the water. By geeking out on technique and trying to distill information down to the most basic and repeatable mantras has been very helpful for me. When I am not kayaking I’m practicing yoga, exercising and doing other sports like downhill mountain biking. I try to get better at these things, but I am obsessively trying to use them to improve my kayaking. I try to understand how they could benefit me on the water or I tweak them into benefiting me on the water.

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Point of view image of the front of a kayak and a crashing wave

Most consistently I kayak a lot. I choose to. I choose where I am to be close to my favorite rivers at the best times. I watch everybody around me closely. I learn from them.

Whether I am working on my own progression or trying to assist someone else in theirs I like the practice of breaking things down into smaller pieces.

I am not the perfect picture of health in any way. But I know from experience that dabbling into different diets and structured off-water movement and exercise are hugely beneficial to my kayaking practice. Stretching, mobility, breathing, biking, thinking, reading, listening, eating a certain way, endurance efforts… These can all become tools for progression, whether you are trying to feel great, increase health or get better at any sport.

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A holistic approach to whitewater kayaking can start at the put in and finish at the takeout. Or it can include how you get to and from these places, how you run your shuttle, who you paddle with, the other sports you do, yoga and nutrition, prehab and rehab. Or it can simply be working to better understand the fundamentals of boat control, edging, strokes and how each of these aspects of kayaking can help you to execute the line on a piece of delicious whitewater. It really depends on the individual and what aspects they identify as needing work in the big picture of having a fun and safe kayaking career.

Are you a vegetarian?
I am not a vegetarian. I have gone for many unplanned months without eating meat. I don’t know what my meat to plants ratio would be, but when I eat meat it is typically hunted, from a nearby farm or just because I am a guest where meat is being served. I choose not to buy meat from grocery stores.
Astral Archetype, Benny Marr paddles
Benny Marr looking at the camera while surfing a barreling wave
Who inspires you?
James and Regan Byrd are pretty high on my list. I watched Regan become an E.R. nurse and an incredible kayaker at the same time. James is naturally gifted at a huge variety of sports. He performs at a high level in so many shreds. I love spending time with them on and off the river. They are a wicked team, disciplined, dedicated to each other and living life the way they want. Skip Armstrong is a filmmaker I have worked with many times and someone whose time I value so much when I get some of it. He is like an older bro to me. We have great conversations and I am wiser for them. Rush Sturges has an insane work ethic and dedication to craft and perfection that I benefit from seeing and being close to. Patrick Camblin was my original benchmark to beat for freestyle kayaking. Along with Marlow Long, they were at the sharp end of big wave freestyle and combos. I don’t know Marlow as well as I know Patrick, who is also like a brother to me. I have learned a lot from him over the years. I have a lot of brothers because I am lucky as shit and they have all helped me get older. David Nieuwenhuis is a freestyle kayaker from closer to where I grew up and I always looked up to him. He has definitely influenced how I kayak and who I am off the water. Max Kniewasser was my original paddling partner and helped me realize risks and safety importance at a young age. I stuck to freestyle while he went into exploration and expeditions. Chris Gragtmans showed me a lot about a certain way to approach our sport, which I never took on myself, but part of that was hard work and discipline, I grew a lot kayaking with him. Bruce Lee and Roald Dahl have always inspired me. Portal Ido. Many of my yoga instructors, and many endurance athletes as well. Lauren Fleshman and Jesse Thomas who are Picky Bars co-founders I find very inspirational. They are incredible athletes, partners, business owners, and parents. Entrepreneurial as fuck. I am going to stop now. Wait, Erik Boomer Boomer and Sarah McNair-Landry. I have known Boomer for a long time and absolutely love getting into a multiple hour phone call with him. He is such a beast in so many sports. Sarah is incredible. I love hearing about the trips they dream up and execute together and apart. They are so impressive on their own and together.
Spirit animal?
Brown Bear
What temperature should Poutine be served at to have the best consistency?
You want to get that poutine in front of you and start eating immediately. Minimal time should pass from the plating to the consumptions. Leftover poutine is not great. The fries lose their crisp fast, so you wanna give ‘er pretty quickly.
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