Maria, you have been there in me every day since you died, and I guess really every day since we first met, a lifetime ago and half a world away: When the universe threw us together on my raft on the blue-green waters of Nepal's Karnali River almost 25 years ago, I guided us straight into the biggest hole on the river. You came up laughing, hooked on whitewater, and wanting more. You wrote in your journal all about the river, and learning how to roll, and decided, in the kind of capital letter determination that I would come to know so well, "I WANT TO BE A KAYAKER WHEN I GROW UP." It's hard to recall the exact evolution of a friendship or if there is a moment when you realize you've found a piece of your soul in another. But somewhere along the way, along rivers throughout the East and West, through road trips, and competitions won and lost, costumes bought and worn, trips dreamed and schemed, celebrations and hardships, we came to somehow belong to one another.

As our lives evolved and at times diverged, you'd drop in on my World Class trips, with Dom and Teo in tow, your amazing will and passion for the river blazing a new path, intertwining motherhood and paddling. You showed us all that family did not have to mean the end of our river dreams. Then, when I left that nomadic life, you started bringing me on your trips, keeping us traveling and paddling — your drive and motivation adding fuel when I needed it.

Being partners in adventure meant always squeezing the very most out of each day, each place, each moment: trying to win in both the competition and the party at the Worlds in Sort; paddling the Zambezi with fever and dysentery, because how could we miss a day on the river?!; ocean surfing in Mexico until we couldn't move; skiing powder in Montana until your toenails turned black; laughing until we cried as the rain leaked through our tiny tent on the Apurimac in Peru. One more ride, one more surf, one more lap…

You could never get enough and you wanted to do it all.
But this drive for adventure was not the only thing that defined your spirit; your radiant energy showed in the amazing love that you shared with all of us.
WHITNEY LONSDALE

On Peru’s Apurimac

Read all of the Letters on ‘How to Live like Maria’