Mariann Saether is one of the worlds top paddlers. Having numerous big water competition wins, first descents and expedition epics under her belt. It is a great pleasure to have Mariann take part in the Unsponsored Q&A series.
Tell us a little a bit about you accomplishments in the canoeing/kayaking world. – heheh… I am gonna kick this over to my webpage: http://mariannsaether.no/achievements/
In addition I have had a great 2015 season with winning the prestigious Branset extreme race during the Voss extreme sportweek, the Sweet Rumble on the Sjoa (Sjoa festival). I also made it to my first ever semi-finals in canoe slalom in a major competition (World Cup in Pau, France) and placed 24th. Today I also became the Norwegian Champion (beating all the men´s times) in canoe slalom K1, and also in C1.
When and how did you first start paddling?
I tried it first in 1996 – I went on a date with a kayaker from Sjoa (the first date was a roll clinic in an indoor pool) and then quickly got adopted by the Sjoa crew who taught me everything.
What was your first kayak?
Savage Scorpion (mean stern squirts!)
What is your current location?
When did you realise that kayaking could be more than just a hobby?
I think right away – I loved the challenge I found in the water, and I loved the water itself – I think I knew right away that this was something I wanted to do so much that I eventually would get good at it. 🙂
What has kept you in the sport?
The people I have met traveling mainly – our river family is amazing and global. Also because of the diversity in kayaking – you can switch in between disciplines and never get bored.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a professional kayaker?
I would have loved to become a doctor – I just never wanted to sacrifice the time it would take to educate myself to become one. There was also at one point a chance I could have become a professional snowboarder – I was good and keen – already in 1994/1995 – but then I tried kayaking…
What does a regular week look like at this time of year?
I am about to start my job again tomorrow so my schedule is changing a bit… Normally though I would get up at six, drink a lot of good coffee and polish my lectures for the day. Being a lecturer I have gaps in between giving lectures and usually I would manage to either go paragliding, downhill biking or slalom kayaking in between them. Everything is very close in Voss! At night I would normally either get on one of the local runs with the boys or take my dogs on a paddle down my home stretch – 7 kms of class 4. Then of course I would need to either correct essays/tests from my students or prepare new lectures.
What did you focus on to become comfortable running big or complex rapids? What allowed you to progress your skills?
I was always lucky in the way that I went with very good kayakers – I learned a lot from guys like Flemming Schmidt and Morten Eilertsen – both when it came to running harder whitewater, but also when not to. I guess I focused on my gut feeling a lot – if it did not feel right I would not paddle. That is why, for example, I never paddled the infamous Zeta on my favorite river Futaleufu until this year, 15 years after I first got on the river!
Do you have any pre-paddling rituals to help calm your nerves or get you into the zone?
When I close my sprayskirt and sit in the eddy there is no turning back. It is the tipping point for me – up until I am in the kayak with sprayskirt closed I can still pull back, but not after I close the deck. At this point I visualize my line till I know I have it dialed. And yes – there is a little ritual involved, but I find it a bit too personal (and cheesy!) to share.
You’ve just won the 2015 Adidas Sickline. Tell us a little bit about how you prepared for the event and how does it feel to be the champion?
I did not prepare much for it – but I have trained hard for canoe slalom since april which has meant that I am stronger than I have ever been, fit and confident in the boat. I knew I could be fast if I dialed my lines – which I did, even if it was not a perfect finals run either. It felt great to pull out a good run and claim the first spot in the hot-tub, especially after I disappointed myself at the World Championships in canoe slalom just two weeks before. I had trained really hard for it and just could not pull out any good paddling – which pulled me down a lot for a while – then as I got back in my creek boat I was pretty stoked to do some paddling without gates!
Where would you go if you could travel anywhere in the world to paddle?
I would dedicate quite a lot of time in China and BC/Alaska.
When and where was your last swim?
I swam two weeks ago – four days before I won Sickline! I paddled Nosebreaker waterfall in Voss, Norway, lost my paddle upon impact and missed my hand-roll. I also self-rescued, hahaha.
What is your favourite kayak of all time and why?
The Dagger Kingpin 6.1! I had some crazy good times in that little thing – from running Los Alerces waterfall on the Manso (and the entire run itself including the take-out lake!) in Argentina, the Puesco in Pucon, and Throne room on the Futaleufu.
What kit are you currently using, what do you like and not like?
I love both the Tutea from Waka kayaks and the Lettmann Granate L from Lettmann. Both of them are amazing boats – and I tend to use the Tutea on steeper, creepier stuff, and the Lettmann on races and on more volume. I honestly can not really choose in between them – so I have both at home. I also love my Kober Scorpion 197, and my Kober Viper 197. Astral lifejacket and shoes keep me safe and happy, and my Sweet Intergalactic drysuit is amazing to paddle in. I still prefer the Strutter, but once in a while I will also sport the full face helmet or the Rocker and Wanderer. After having taken quite a few swims the last years because of implodes spray skirts I purchased an IR Royale and Lucky Charm, and I have never felt happier nor safer. HF throw bags and rescue kit is also a favorite.
What do you believe is the best kayak design to date?
Dagger Redline (I did my first cartwheels in that boat!).
What do you think has been the most innovative change introduced in to the kayaking world?
A planing hull.
Many thanks Mariann