Extreme kayaker Nouria Newman had to overcome a severe lack of water and violent winds when she travelled to Iceland for the first time to tackle its scenic rivers and stunning waterfalls. Newman started out her career with a European junior team title before she became 2013 Extreme Kayaking World Champion and won a K1 team gold at the 2014 ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships.
The 29-year-old has also carved out time for other amazing projects such as a spiritual solo Indian trip in 2018, along with a thrilling Devil’s Slide drone project with TomZ in Italy and wild Patagonia trip in 2019.
This time around in October 2020, Newman visited Iceland for the first time with her kayak, her paddle and her skis, alongside her friends Anup Gurung and compatriot Tiphaine Duperier.
Discovering the stunning Nordic country, during the low season, meant not running the risk of encountering crowds of paddlers on rivers. With its strong concentration of dramatic waterfalls, favoured by its volcanic ground, the destination is well known by kayakers worldwide.
She revealed: “All the outdoor specialists go to Iceland to shoot images with a lot of technicians and equipment, because the landscapes are breathtaking. We wanted to go the opposite way and show the majesty of this place with a very small committee and the means at hand.”
The idea was to kayak along the rivers and waterfalls and then go on a ski & packraft (a small inflatable kayak in a backpack) expedition across the second largest glacier in Europe before exiting by the river, after 300 metres of steep skiing down the highest Icelandic mountain.
A key early moment was the Aldeyjarfoss waterfall, “a monster” according to Gurung. Newman added: “I wanted to face it for so long. It’s not just the fall, it’s the scenery! You go down in the middle of basalt columns. And there are water springs that gush out of the rock. It’s crazy!”
With a lack of water and violent winds to contend with, they had to turn back many times but the Vatnajökull glacier ascent was a big highlight even if their cameras often ran out of battery due to cold.
After battling on to finish, Newman revealed: “This is where the real adventure began. At times I was amazed by the incredible light on the glacier. And at other times, I couldn’t put one foot in front of the other. We couldn’t see 15 metres away, we had to do everything with a GPS. On the packraft in the river, everything was frozen. Reading the current under the ice was impossible. It was 10 days of colossal efforts. I can say today that I have never been so cold in my life, but I learned to overcome all these obstacles by enjoying what I was given to live.”