Nouria Newman is known throughout the paddling world for her amazing accomplishments and skills that make her one of the most accomplished athletes in the whitewater kayaking community. A two time recipient of Canoe & Kayak Award’s ‘Paddler of the Year’ and the Whitewater Award’s ‘Rider of the Year’, and most recently named “Female Paddler of the Year’ at the 2018 Paddler’s Award. Her accolades are numerous and her track record speaks volumes. No doubt a fierce competitor, Nouria excels in extreme racing, canoe slalom and freestyle. But she’s an explorer at heart with descents of some of the hardest rapids in the world and a recent solo expedition in India that was the ultimate voyage of self-discovery.
But how did she get to this place…
Born and raised in the French Alps, Nouria was first introduced to kayaking at age 4 when a family friend stopped by the house with a blue and yellow Eskimo plastic kayak, which looked just like a giant toy in the eyes of a 4 years old kid. When she asked her parents if she could start kayaking the answer was no; she needed to learn how to swim first. A few month later Nouria came home with the ‘blue duck’ swimming certificate and got permission to join the local kayak club.
At first kayaking was just about playing on the lake with a small gang of midgets. But eventually they left the lake and went to the river, and the great adventure began. Loading kayaks on the trailer, going camping without the parents, cooking pasta all by yourself (ish), not having to shower or brush you hair, and eating as much candy as you want…the dream life of a 5 year old.
Following the French club traditions she started competing in a fiber glass old school kayak. Winning slalom races was like Christmas; she loved the ugly trophies, bank branded fanny packs and candies that were awarded, and she quickly developed a very competitive mindset.
Over the years fanny packs became lame, but it was too late, she was deep into slalom racing. At age 15 Nouria started training full time and made the French National team. Kayaking became serious but luckily she was able to escape this super competitive environment and go paddle rivers just for fun. Nouria would join her dad and his friends on their creeking kayak trips. They would not let her run any of the cool rapids, but her small stature and amazing spider jump skill would get her to be the designated life bay diver (another French tradition).
Luckily Jules Domine showed up on one of these creeking trips. Jules was allowed to run the cool rapids, so in an act of teenage rebellion, Nouria fought to be able to run the harder rapids. Her dad gave in but his friends were harder to convince; but after rescuing one of them from a gnarly swim Nouria got to make her own decisions. Bad ones too. At age 16 she crashed really hard on her first big waterfall. She got away with a broken nose and ‘scarface’ as her nickname throughout that high school year. Not ideal.
As slalom became more and more important, Nouria kept practicing freestyle and went creeking when she had time off. Eventually training paid off with a silver medal at the World Championships in 2013 and a team World Champion title in 2014. As she reached some of her biggest goals she realized that nothing changed. She was still doing the same thing over and over, turning around on artificial courses.
Feeling the urge to do something different, she went to the Stikine River in northwestern British Columbia, during the middle of the slalom season. After that things changed; in between shoulder surgery, university and slalom training, Nouria started spending more and more time in a plastic boat. Slalom results were bad, creeking results were good, and travelling from one river to another was amazing. Too old and too slow, mixed with a lack of motivation, Nouria retired from slalom in 2018 at age 26, which meant she now had more time to play in these huge plastic toys called creek boats. And a new adventure of expedition kayaking began…
Nouria continues to inspire the entire paddling community with her impressive skill set, charging attitude, dedication to her own paddling and mentoring others.