With a résumé full of wins at kayaking’s most prestigious competitions and historic first descents of the planet’s deadliest whitewater, Nouria Newman is considered one of the greatest paddlers around. So why can’t she turn her passion into a sustainable career?
The night before Nouria Newman nearly drowned in India, in August 2018, she used her paddle to sweep animal dung out of an abandoned stone hut. The then 25-year-old French kayaker was alone at 13,467 feet in the Himalayas. “It’s gonna be the bedroom,” she announced, whisking the space with a mix of mild altitude sickness and bliss. That day she had put on the Tsarap River and kayaked mostly flatwater through mountains too high for trees to grow. Day two would bring elevated flows and mellow rapids—Class III, she’d been told.