Adriene Levknecht Age: 27 | Greenville, SC Known For:Throwing down in the hole, and consistently crushing the competition at the Green Race. This Year:With another win in 2014, the six-time Green Race Champion proved, yet again, that she is the fastest woman on the Green. She is definitely not, however, a one-trick pony. Adriene consistently impresses us with her freestyle chops as well. Perhaps most impressive, however, is Adriene’s work as an ambassador for First Descents.
Emily Jackson Age: 24 | Rock Island, TN
Known For:Standing on the podium in every freestyle event she enters. This Year:It’s never a surprise when Emily Jackson wins a freestyle competition, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive that she won the Payette River Games Freestyle title two years in a row. She also won the Canada Cup on the Ottawa River. Emily demonstrated her versatility last fall when, on a whim, she raced at the Adidas Sickline in Austria and qualified as one of five women to compete on the Class V-plus final course.
Katrina Van Wijk Age: 25 | Ottawa, ON Known For:Extreme racing, duo-descents with Nicole Mansfield, and the TiTs Deep Web series. This Year:Keeping up with the boys? How about “putting them in their place?” After an amazing performance in the Expert Division of the North Fork Championship, Katrina became the first and only woman ever to qualify for the main event: the Elite Division.
Kim Russell Age: 25 | Hood River, OR Known For:Winning paddling AND mountain biking competitions in equally large numbers. This Year:Kim has focused much of her attention on mountain biking for the past several years, but she clearly hasn’t let her paddling skills get rusty. The PNW native paddled faster than any other woman on the course at this year’s Little White Salmon race. Racing down one of the hardest runs in the USA is tough-winning that race is even tougher.
Laura Farrell Age: 30 | Bryson City, NC Known For:Expedition creekboating around the globe, grassroots racing, women’s takeover events. This Year:Male faces usually dominate the eddyline, but Laura Farrell’s Women’s Takeover events are building community and proving just how many women are also out there charging these days. Takeover events on the Green River, N.C., and the Arkansas River, Colo., have brought women together in record numbers on classic runs. Ever the globetrotter, she placed second in the inaugural race at the conservation-focused Jondachi Fest in Ecuador. After moving to Washington, D.C., this year, Laura made a strong showing in grassroots East Coast races-she placed first at the Top Yough Race, and second in the Cheat Race.
Mariann Saether Age: 34 | Voss, Norway Known For:First descents throughout her native Norway and the world, and competitive excellence across the whitewater spectrum, from freestyle to slalom. This Year:Although we didn’t see Mariann at too many competitions this year, we all know that competing isn’t what kayaking is all about. Last summer Mariann led an all-women’s expedition to run some of the most rugged and challenging wilderness rivers of Northern Norway. She spent the winter in Patagonia on the notorious big water of the Rio Baker. Wherever she travels in the world, Mariann is always elevating the definition of whitewater style and ease.
Martina Wegman Age: 25 | New Zealand/ The Netherlands Known For:Consistently performing under pressure in races around the world. This Year:Always a force at extreme races, Martina took the win at the 2014 Steep Creek Championships on Homestake Creek in Colorado. She also took third place at Sickline in Austria, proving that she can paddle fast in challenging races on multiple continents.
Nouria Newman Age: 23 | Pau, France Known For:Taking her slalom background into the extreme race scene This Year: Whether it’s slalom, freestyle, or creeking, Newman is a dominant force. Last August Nouria became the first woman to paddle Site Zed, a monstrous rapid that had previously only been paddled by few of whitewater’s craziest male athletes. The best part? She probably had the cleanest line out of anyone who has stepped up so far. After the Stikine, Nouria flew to Austria, where she took home the title of Sickline Queen, with the fastest time of any woman on the course.
Sage Donnelly Age: 14 | Carson City, NV Known For:Dominating the junior women category in all disciplines. Competing with the pros as a pre-teen in both freestyle and downriver extreme races. This Year: Sage Donnelly is a bright star in the future of women’s whitewater. The 14-year-old dominates the junior women’s class, but she doesn’t stop there. The teenage phenomenon is already a serious contender among pro women who are 10 years older. When the 2014 GoPro mountain games didn’t include a category for junior competitors, Sage, who also competes in spite of suffering from Type 1 Diabetes, stepped up and placed on the podium in both the Steep Creek Championship and the Freestyle, placing second and third respectively.