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Nouria Newman

Astral Archetype, Nouria Newman smiling in her Red Bull helmet

Whitewater Kayaker

Astral Archetype, Nouria Newman, is the first woman to run Site Zed, the first female to run a 100 foot waterfall and has been voted Female Rider of the Year for a record five consecutive years.
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Describe the correlation between balance in a kayak and balance in life.
I live a very unbalanced life! Kayaking is my passion, my sport, my job, what I spend most of my time doing, and when not, what I spend way too much time thinking about. But for me kayaking is not just an outdoor activity. It is an excuse to go places I would not go otherwise, meet people I would not otherwise get to cross paths with. It’s a social and cultural experience. And sometimes a psychological one too, because it forces me to dig deep inside myself. The river has taught me that there is way more to life than just kayaking, so I try to always prioritize the most important things. And there is nothing like a nice big boof!
Astral Archetype, Nouria Newman sits by a river alone
Astral Archetype, Nouria Newman scouts Site Zed
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What is harder, class V or graduate school?

Class V for sure. Going into my university finals I was always impressed with the level of stress that some students would go through. If you mess up school exams, you either retake it or redo the full year, it’s not the end of the world. When you mess up class V you might not get a second chance, or you should definitely not count on it.

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Print is dead. Is quality journalism also dead?

Print is not dead, and quality journalism isn’t either. There are a lot of terrible publications but also so many good ones. Newspapers that maintain their quality, mooks, some amazing multimedia scrolls on the web… Check out Véronique De Viguérie’s latest work on Afghanistan. Quality journalism is not dead!
Astral Archetype, Nouria Newman takes a photo of some ice
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What has been your worst swim?

Either going through a siphon in Ladakh or one time I got stuck in a big hole for a while on the Clearwater, in BC. My helmet got ripped of, the boat started bending with the pressure of the current, I got body resurfed and I no longer knew which way was up or down. It was bad, but I was relaxed and remember thinking ‘the quebec boys will get me’. They did.
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“I have no shame in portaging, turning around, or giving up. Some days you have it in you, some days you don’t.”

– Nouria Newman

Most intense portage?

Any portage in the deep jungle or anytime it takes some exposed free climbing moves with slim margins. Hiking out the Ula Canyon with Mariann Seather was an intense one, getting into the Pascua with Ben, or when we walked for days in the Upper Atuel Valley without quite enough food. But in the end, any portage with a heavy boat or tricky terrain gets intense. Often the only thing that gets me through is the hope of good whitewater down below or a big meal once we get out!
Astral Archetype, Nouria Newman portages around an unrunnable rapid
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Is soloing Class V spiritual?

It depends. Sometimes it is. I like it because it is just me and the river. It forces me to focus more, to paddle well and to fully be in the present moment. It’s a way to fully be aware of where you are at on the river, in your paddling, and in your headspace. Other times I don’t want to put someone else in a bad spot just because I selfishly want to paddle a particular section of river. In these cases, if I really want to go, I feel like I have to take my own responsibilities. But for the most part I would much rather paddle class V with friends.

How do you justify the dangers of whitewater to your loved ones?

It is something that I struggle with. I accept the objective risks of whitewater because I love kayaking so much. They don’t. Therefore I cannot expect them to accept the unacceptable. I know they do their best to understand, and I do my best to calculate risks and make the right decisions. I have no shame in portaging, turning around, or giving up. Some days you have it in you, some days you don’t. If you try to push yourself, you will reach your limits and get out of your comfort zone. If I feel like that’s too much for me, my goals change. It’s no longer about running a hard rapid or completing a complex first descent, it’s about making it back home to the ones I love. There is no rapid, river or project worth dying for.
Nouria Newman and crew look over a map in a hut
A view out of Astral Archetype, Nouria Newman's tent flap door
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Where is the most remote river in the world?
It’s in your dream. It’s the one you keep searching on GoogleEarth. Eventually you find it, but then there is always another river somewhere else.
What type of animals live there?
There are all sorts of animals out there. It’s where all the wild things are just like in Maurice Sendak’s kids book.
Describe the haute couture outfit of your dreams.
Something light, dry, warm, super comfy and with a lot of good pockets!
Do you have a dream river trip?
Scott sure made me dream about the Tsangpo, but there are many places I would like to paddle. And the trip on the Blanco River we just did with Aniol was pretty much like a dream.
An Astral brewer with large spider on it with a trailer full of kayaks in the background
Nouria Newman runs a waterfall in a yellow kayak
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What happens when you run out of food on a multi-day?

On the Upper Atuel we didn’t take enough food. We ended up sharing and eating everything we had. The Tuna can’s oil, the banana skin and eventually we found a bag of rice and mayonnaise that the Arrieros had left at camp. That was one of the best and worst meals I’ve ever had! But I usually bring extra days of food.

Who inspires you?

So many people inspire me. Pretty much everyone who is good at what they do and do it with passion whether they are kayakers, mountaineers, cheese makers, doctors, lawyers or plumbers. The people I love inspire me; my mum, my dad, Tiph, my friends. They all have something I truly admire, and I look up to them in many ways.
Nouria Newman and a local cut into some meat

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