We guess paddling all the way around South America and notching a source-to-sea first descent in Papua New Guinea is a big deal after all. At least that’s what National Geographic feels, as it recently once again awarded several paddlers with its Adventurers of the Year title.
This year, no less than three separate paddling parties and individuals received the honor, for everything from paddling around South America (Freya Hoffmeister) to a wacko whitewater first descent in Papua New Guinea (Ben Stookesberry and company, seen above). Joining them on the list is South African wildlife biologist Steve Boyes, who used a canoe to explore the Okavango Delta.
National Geographic doles out the awards every year to adventurers whose achievements in exploration, adventure sports, conservation or humanitarianism have distinguished them in the past year. “This is the 11th year that we’ve searched around the world for individuals who personify the adventurous spirit in unique ways,” says Mary Anne Potts, National Geographic Adventure editorial director. “This year’s honorees are extraordinary and inspiring adventurers who push the boundaries of exploration.”
Among the 2016 winners are the following paddlers:
>> Steve Boyes, a South African wildlife biologist and National Geographic Emerging Explorer, who led a team on a 1,500-mile, 120-day expedition by dugout canoe to collect data to help protect Africa’s wildest place, the Okavango Delta;
>> German long-distance kayaker Freya Hoffmeister, who finished her four-year solo journey in April to complete the first circumnavigation of South America in a sea kayak, a 16,700-mile voyage;
>> Ben Stookesberry, Chris Korbulic, Ben Marr and Pedro Olivia, a team of kayakers who made a source-to-sea first descent of one of the most remote and treacherous rivers on the planet, tucked away in the jungles of Papua New Guinea’s New Britain Island;
The organization also opened up online voting for the People’s Choice Adventurer of the Year, which will run through Jan. 31, 2016. This cream-of-the-crop recognition has gone to a paddler in two of the last four years, with Polish kayaker Aleksander Doba earning the honor last year after, at age 67, spending six months paddling 7,716 miles across the Atlantic Ocean in the longest open-water kayak crossing in history. Lakpa Tsheri Sherpa and Sano Babu Sunuwar took home the 2012 honor for paragliding off the summit of Mount Everest and then kayaking out to the Indian Ocean. Other recent honorees have included blind kayakers Erik Weihenmayer and Lonnie Bedwell (2015), Dave and Amy Freeman (2014), Steve Fisher (2013) and John Turk and Erik Boomer (2012).
Fans can go to Nat Geo’s page HERE to vote every day for their favorite honoree every day through Jan. 31. The adventurer with the most votes at the end of the voting period will be announced in February.
Check out past winners and well as the other 2016 Adventurers of the Year.