Freya Hoffmeister portrait by Blake Gordon

Freya Hoffmeister portrait by Blake Gordon

By Joe Glickman

If you ever meet Freya in the flesh you won’t forget. The 5 foot, 10 inch, 160-pound former Miss Germany contestant paddles in head-to-toe black fuzzy rubber and, not infrequently, does headstands in her kayak. Brawny, photogenic, and supremely confident, the former gymnast turned bodybuilder turned skydiver has now reinvented herself as one of the world’s preeminent expedition kayakers.

Last year, she and Greg Stamer kayaked around Iceland in a record 33 days. Three months later, paddling her black kayak emblazoned with Caesar’s timeless boast, “veni, vedi, vici” (“I came, I saw, I conquered”), she became the first woman to circumnavigate New Zealand’s south Island, and only the fourth paddler to do it alone. She faced huge seas, massive surf and long stretches between safe landing spots –conditions made worse because she started the trip months before the ideal season to make certain she would beat the other two women with designs on the record. When she finished the1,482-mile circumnavigation on January 2, 2008, covering the last 102 miles in a 32 hour push, the others were hundreds of miles behind.

Now the 44-year-old divorced mother of one has embarked on one of the most audacious sea kayak expeditions ever: rounding Australia alone. Many have attempted the 9,420-mile route; only Kiwi Paul Caffyn has succeeded. He spent 360 days rounding the island continent in 1981-1982, with a support van shadowing him. Hoffmeister aims to go unsupported, and, you can bet, faster.

This story first appeared in the March 2009 issue of Canoe & Kayak magazine. Read more about Freya Hoffmeister at CanoeKayak.com.

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Richard Bangs // Greg Barton // Tao Berman // Paul Caffyn // Graham Charles // Serge Corbin // Nigel Dennis // Dubside // Steve Fisher // Bob Foote // Dan Gavere // Alan Hamilton // Freya Hoffmeister // Mick Hopkinson // Nikki Kelly // Payson Kennedy // Rob Lesser // Anna Levesque // Martin Litton // Brad Ludden // The LVM/T-Dub Connection // Sean Morely // Nappy Napoleon // Michael Peake // Scott Shipley // Jim Snyder // Rush Sturges //