Rowan Stuart is the 2013 ICF Junior Women’s Freestyle world champion and took 2nd place in this years competition. A rising star in the sport Rowan is taking the freestyle world by storm. I am stoked that Rowan agreed to take part in the Unsponsored Q&A series.

Photo by - Sarah RuhlenPhoto: S Rulen

Who are you? Tell us a little about Rowan Stuart.

I’m Rowan, I’m 18 years old, and I really enjoy kayaking. I grew up in small-town North Carolina, and it happens to be one of the few things to do here. I would say my list of priorities has kayaking in spot #1, eating in spot #2, and sleeping as #3. Unfortunately I also go to college, so now getting my schoolwork done has to fall in there somewhere.

How did you first get into kayaking? Who introduced you to the sport?

My parents were definitely the first people to get me interested in kayaking, I remember watching some old videos, absolutely never considering that one day I could be running things like that.

When did you realise that kayaking could be a career for you, and not just a hobby?

I still haven’t quite come to that conclusion yet. I would like kayaking to become a career for me, but I’m nowhere close to being able to support myself by only kayaking yet.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a professional kayaker?

I would have a lot more free-time to meet people at my school. I’ve lived here on campus for 3 months and I haven’t spent a weekend at school yet.

What does a regular week look like at this time of year?

School on Mondays-Thursdays, then looking for the easiest ride to bum from to get to any river on the weekend. If I get lucky then I can get in some attainments during the week, and I help teach at our school roll-pool on Wednesday nights.

Photo by - Mitch BeardenPhoto: Mitch Bearden

What did you focus on to become comfortable running big or complex rapids? What allowed you to progress your skills?

Only recently have I started to get more comfortable running what I like to call “the scary rapids,” and I’m still not as comfortable as I would like to be. I like to set a basic goal and just commit to it. Lots of repetition helps when getting comfortable on new rivers as well.

Do you have any pre-paddling rituals to help calm your nerves or get you into the zone?

When I do freestyle competitions in the summer I have a playlist that I like to look like a fool and dance around to when no one is looking. Other than that I like to just accept that the butterflies in my stomach will always be there and move past that.

Where would you go if you could travel anywhere in the world to paddle?

That depends on the time of year. This winter I’m hoping to go somewhere warm to learn how to wave boat before World Championships next year; I think Africa sounds pretty good.

Photo by - IV StuartPhoto: IV Stuart

What paddling kit are you currently using?

Oh you funny Brits and your use of the word kit instead of gear. Pyranha, Werner, Astral, Shred Ready, and Immersion Research all hold a spot in the list of gear that I use.

Has any of your kit/boat been modified to meet your needs? What kind of adjustments have been made?

I used to need to add tonnes more foam under the seat of my playboat, but since Pyranha came out with a more adjustable seat this year I can just raise the entire seat up.

Photo by - IV Stuart (2)Photo: IV Stuart

What do you believe is the best kayak design to date?

Definitely the Jed or the 9R. Mediocre names, incredible kayaks.

What do you think has been the most innovative change introduced into the kayaking world?

Multiple boat sizes! If companies hadn’t started coming out with boats sized for smaller paddlers, then women (like myself) wouldn’t have been able to get into kayaking nearly as easily.

– RS

Many Thanks Rowan