Like all sports, canoeing and kayaking produces stars. Some canoeists become famous for books they have read, others for excelling in their chosen discipline while others are revered for their adventuring using one of the world’s oldest methods of transportation. Freya Hoffmeister is one of the world’s most famous canoeists. Born in May 1964, the no 53 year old German holds several sea kayaking endurance records. In 2009, Hoffmeister became the first woman to circumnavigate Australia solo; she is only the second human in history to achieve this feat. Six years later, in May 2015, Hoffmeister became the first person in history to solo circumnavigate the continent of South America.
Hoffmeister has always been athletic and was a good gymnast, although she gave up that sport aged 16 because she had grown too tall. She also loved skydiving and complete 1,500 jumps, including the first-ever tandem jump onto the North Pole. Some of Hoffmeister’s records include circumnavigating Iceland in 33 days, she set the fastest solo time for circumnavigating the South Island of New Zealand doing so in 70 days, six day faster than Paul Caffyn’s record. Hoffmeister’s South America circumnavigation saw he paddle 8,000 kilometres and it took almost a full year.
Jessica Fox is an accomplished canoeist despite only being 23 years old. Fox’s father, Richard, and mother, Myriam, both competed in Olympic Games for Great Britain and France respectively. You could say that canoeing is in her blood. Fox races in both C-1 and K-1 events and has been a keen canoeist since 2005 when she was only 11 years old. Representing Australia, Fox has managed to amass an impressive medal collection in the early stages of her career and many of the sport’s experts believe she will become one canoeing’s all-time greats.
Her record in the under 23 World Championships stands at eight golds, one silver and four bronzes, while in the open age World Championships Fox has seven golds, one silver and two bronze medals. Fox also has two Olympic medals: a silver in the K-1 class at the 2012 London Olympics and bronze in K-1 at the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro. William “Bill” Clifford Mason, born in 1929 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, is another person who is highly respected and well-known in the world of canoeing. Although Mason never competed on an international scale, he was called “the patron saint of canoeing” thanks to his many instructional videos and books written about canoeing.
Mason wrote three books, Path of the Paddle, Song of the Paddle, and Canoescapes and produced 16 films, the last coming in 1984 called Waterwalker which is a feature-length film of his journey on Lake Superior. Sadly, Mason died of cancer in 1988. After his death, his favourite boat, a red “Fort” Chestnut Prospector, a 16-foot canvas covered wood canoe, was donated to the Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough, Ontaria where it remains on display to this day. Mason said that despite the influx of modern materials for canoes, this particular boar was the most versatile design ever made.