With her black boots, black leggings, black top, black hair; even down to the black gel coat nails she has, Freya makes quite an impression on first appearances! As she walked up to me, I could tell she’s a woman with great presence. And warmth! Quick to hug, and easy to chat to, I had a fascinating time hanging out and finding out more about her as a person, as her reputation as a formidable paddler had somewhat preceded her.
Freya revealed that it was Justine Curgenven, a speaker we have also hosted, who first inspired her endurance kayaking at the first paddling symposium Freya attended. She spoke proudly of the first copy of Justine’s ‘This is the Sea 1’ that she still has on VHS! Since then, Freya has circumnavigated Australia AND South America, and sets off on her latest challenge on March 25th – to paddle around North America, all of which she talked about at our joint event with Capilano University’s Outdoor Recreation Program last night. Not one for small efforts is Freya.
There were so many moments in Freya’s talk about her South America circumnavigation that merit mentioning that it is going to be hard to just stick to the highlights. One of the things that was surprising was just how funny it was! Moments such as having her kayak towed past a reef by some oxen, or how the Chilean Navy seemed to use her as a training exercise by following her GPS pings, really showed how her trip was a fully rounded experience.
However, one of the aspects that wasn’t so funny was Freya’s almost lethal navigation of the notorious Cape Horn. Despite setting off in ‘good’ conditions, they deteriorated to a small storm of 60 knots of wind, that blew her wildly off course and forced a landing on an incredibly rocky promontory of cliff and rock. The landing luckily just caused bruising to her, but damaged her kayak and broke her paddle. Things could have been a lot worse however, as Freya heard that her friend and fellow paddler Alejandro Daniel Carranza died in the same storm, not far from where Freya was at Staten Island.
The other death-defying event that Freya managed to survive was the tidal bore that stems from the Amazon, known as the ‘Pororoca’ which came upon her in the dark. She described it as hearing sounds like tropical rain approaching, but realised just seconds before it hit what it was. She described riding the wave, which can reach up to 4m high, in a high brace for 15-20 minutes, and it carried her 8km, travelling at 30km/hr. Incredibly, she managed only to lose a water bottle and one sandal. Again, testament to her incredible skill and mental strength that she lost such few items. One can only imagine how terrifying that must have been in the dark.
Happily there were many more positive moments, including coming across a superyacht loaded with millionaires that she stayed with for a few days even getting helicoptered to some hot springs (!), the amazing scenery, and the amazing amount of wildlife that she encountered. Through the presentation I noted: seals, dolphins, elephant seals, whales, donkeys, oxen, turtles, jellyfish, butterflies, mosquitoes, and of course, fish of every kind.
It was actually the photos of animals that made the biggest impression on me, but not how you would imagine. She returned again and again to showing images of deceased animals in various states of decay, which served as a poignant reminder of the importance of seizing the moment, and making the most of our experiences, even for those of us who don’t quite reach for the same experiences that Freya pushes for. She is looking for a partner for the Northern sections of her North America journey…if you dare!
Thank you so much to Freya for the talk. It was incredible to hear about her amazing experiences, and those to come. You can see many more pictures from her South American trip here, and follow along with her North American adventure here. GOOD LUCK to Freya!