by Mike Kord
Westerners traveling in the Middle East have plenty to think about regarding their personal safety, especially a woman who's used to wearing a drytop, not a hijab. So it was for Canadian Becky Bristow, who last year joined an international expedition in Iran to paddle a trio of remote rivers. One day, thieves held Bristow and her partners hostage on the Zez River, finally fleeing with one of the paddlers' cameras.
"I don't think I've ever been so scared in my life," said Bristow, who was wearing long pants and sleeves to conform to the strictly enforced Sharia.
It was yet another harrowing experience for Bristow, whose fervent bent for adventure makes Indiana Jones look like Frasier Crane.
"She's drawn to the wilderness," said expeditioner Dunbar Hardy. "We ran out of food once on Dinkey Creek. There were long, sweaty portages, but Becky was just like, 'Come on! Let's go!'"
Hardy and Bristow were later hired by the Russian government to explore the river-running potential in the tundra, but the language barrier proved more difficult than any rapids.
Bristow filmed the misadventures in A Russian Wave, her award-winning documentary that drew a roomful of laughs from armchair critics at the Banff Mountain Film Festival.
"The Russians weren't excited about the whitewater," said Bristow, "and in the end, it wasn't about the whitewater for us, either."
Where You've Seen Her: Seal-launching in a Nissan TV ad; creekboating in numerous kayak videos; accepting awards (Best Independent Film, Rossland Film Festival; Paddler's Choice and Best Amateur Film, National Paddling Film Festival; Best Adventure Film, Walter Walker Film Festival) for A Russian Wave
First Descents: Alaska, British Columbia, Ecuador, and Russia
Off the Water: Bristow is likely carving powder on a big-mountain fall line.
Favorite River: "Any new, challenging, remote, wilderness multi-day river with excellent fishing!"
Favorite CD: Skip, Hop, & Wobble (bluegrass)
Boat of Choice: "Necky Crux. It is MY size!"
Worst-Smelling River: The Cheakamus (British Columbia)
Favorite Town to Chill In: Revelstoke, B.C., or Girdwood, Alaska, in the winter.
Words to Live By: "Follow your gut. It won't lie."
Bike or Car: "I get even more use out of my 4×4 truck."
Dog or Cat: "Dog. It can join me easier on my adventures in the mountains."
Sponsors: Aquabatics.com, Kavu, Clif Bar, The North Face, Necky, Lotus Designs, Snap Dragon, Werner, Smith
This article first appeared in the July 2005 issue of Canoe & Kayak.