To any journalist seeking an interview with me:
Please study this page carefully before contacting me! It will be very helpful for both sides. Thank you very much!
Q: “Why” are you doing such paddling trips, getting longer and longer?
A: It is like climbing mountains – they are getting higher and higher and more and more challenging…I am a (some kind of ambitious) sportswoman, not a traveller or a travelling photographer, and my “mountains” are just horizontal, not “vertical”…
Q: How far away from the coast are you paddling?
A: As “coast” in no way means always safety, as there can be big surf, rocks, cliffs or reefs, it does not really matter. I paddle where the water is the calmest, and where the shortest way is which usually means crossing bays. Surely, close to the coast paddling is more interesting!
Q: How many hours per day are you on the water?
A: I average now around 9-10 hours. But it can be much more or even overnight if there is no proper landing, or much shorter if conditions like strong (head-) wind, huge waves or counter current are annoying and stressful.
Q: Will you have rest days?
A: Basically the weather dictates the rest days. Overall, there might be about 1/4 of all days on the trip where I don’t paddle for weather or resupplying reasons.
Q: What is your average travelling speed?
A: As I am not a sprint racer and paddle a heavy kayak, and do frequent stops on the water for eating, drinking, peeing, resting, taking pictures and enjoying the scenery, the daily average is around 5 km/h.
Q: How important is/ was it for you to be the “FIRST” or the “FASTEST”?
A: It is a nice by-product coming along the way and helps marketing yourself…I just like to do what not many people are doing or can do, and ike to go to places where not many people can get and have seen! I like to be “exclusive” by my own means…
Q: Do you stop on the beach during the day?
A: If there is an extremely calm, close distance and inviting landing, I may stop during the day. But mostly, there is no chance to stop nowhere! I always have to be prepared to stay out.
Q: How do you manage your bathroom needs on the water?
A: When I am not in a dry suit and wet anyway, I simply pee in a sponge and rinse everything with sea water. If I like to stay dry, I use a funnel-shape thing to replace the natural lack of a hose. The dry suit has a male pee zipper through which I can use the device also.
Q: How are your preparations for the trip?
A: Mostly office work…the logistics is an important part, collecting maps, tidal/ weather informations, new gear and making local contacts. Physically, I try to stay and am in a general good shape and can jump in my kayak and paddle a full day without training for some while. I may get some blisters and a bit stiff next day though…but this will improve on the trip.
Q: Did you have any support team?
A: There won’t be a team driving along the shore carrying my gear. I’ll carry all supplies with me and will be independent. But I do have support all over the world – my Partner Peter Unold in Denmark helps me on the electronic side, Karel Vissel from Israel use to send me the weather, and I am thankful for the general politeness of the local people, helping me along here and there and hosting me in big cities many times. Only in Colombia, for security reasons due to the high crime rate, the Navy was escorting me continuously with a boat. And in Australia, I had my boyfriend with me driving along the southern coast for six weeks.
Q: Do you paddle by yourself?
A: Yes, usually I paddle all solo.Only in South America, the section from Valparaiso/ Chile to the end of Peru my partner Peter Unold was paddling with me. Australia and New Zealand was all solo, and my first trip around Iceland I was paddling with my then-partner Greg Stamer. And maybe a few hours before and after the big cities, there may be some locals here and there joining me.
Q: Is it easier to paddle with a partner?
A: It depends very much on the skills of the partner, the mindset, the expectations regarding speed, trip purpose, documentation needs and the general relationship. If all is matching, it may be easier. If not, it is hell. Also: two people – two problems…many people – many problems…
Q: How hard is it to be a “woman” on such a trip? Are you not getting harassed camping by yourself?
A: Most “macho men” are highly impressed (or scared away…?) by a strong woman and do respect her. It is all about your presence and aura – and a bit of luck…. In South America, the men usually are “caballeros” (gentlemen) and can’t put me anywhere as local woman don’t do such independent things…one of the first questions on a new contact was:”Are you married?”…and the next:”And where is your husband?”
Q: Do you do any kind of mental training before a trip?
A: No, I am mentally strong by nature and by my long sporty career…confidence is growing by the years.
Q: Did you use any sail or motor help, or did you “hitch hike” along the way?
A: None of the three! I am a sportswoman and a paddler, not a “sailor” or simple “traveller”…using a sail on a kayak feels like riding an e-bike
Q: What are you thinking all the time paddling by yourself?
A: Well, what do you think when you do a long car drive or flight? But yes, at some time you are running out of thoughts, and your brain sleeps occasionally while the body is still working. And yes, your brain is getting “rusty” on the linked everyday’s business thoughts in our fast-living world…
Q: Are you getting bored sometimes?
A: YES! Not all coast lines, open water and conditions are exciting or interesting, but I still have to keep on going and to continue on my path, taking what the nature has to offer. But the overall mindset is EXCITEMENT what’s around the next corner and what is getting thrown at me next minute…
Q: How do you keep yourself motivated?
A: I do split my BIG trip in sections – to the next headland, over the bay, to the next night stop, to the next city to shop, to the next home trip…and do see myself already the first days arriving back at my starting point to close the loop!
Q: Did you ever think about “giving up”?
A: I do not know this phrase, can you please explain it to me?
Q: Did your trips change you somehow as a person?
A: If you are asking for “soul searching” or such…no. I am still the same person, stronger in all regards though…
Q: Are you listening to music while paddling or while in camp?
A: NEVER, but my electronic book is absolutely the greatest invention in camping! It entertains me on long weather days in the bush, without taking space or much battery power. I won’t go without any more! I also tried to read while paddling boring sections, but this makes me sea-sick…
Q: Where are you sleeping?
A: Usually, in my tent on the most remote beach spot I can find to have restful, undisturbed and relaxing evening after a long paddling day. It is somehow stressful for me to chat with just any passersby about the “same old questions”, sorry… In cities, I may get hosted by friendly locals to also be able to resupply, and then I do also enjoy some company. I do not sleep in my kayak, only when I was crossing the Gulf of Carpentaria in Australia I spent 7 nights on the water.
Q: Are you also paddling at night?
A: Usually it is nicer to have good view, but there may be the need to paddle through (parts of) the night if there is no reasonable landing or campsite to find in a reasonable distance, or if the tide demands a certain landing/ launching time to get off/ on the water. It is surely more dangerous, but also can be as beautiful as it can be in a bright sky with stars and moonlight on possibly calm water with some bioluminescence!
Q: What are you eating?
A: I am simply shopping every 2-3 weeks in a supermarket what I like, whatever is available, keeps for long, is (more or less…) healthy and has a lot of carbohydrates. Oats with milk powder in the morning, pasta or rice at night, cooked on a small gas stove inside my tent (if there are no bears around…). During the day, I eat fresh or dehydrated fruits, nuts, cereal and chocolate bars, cheese, crackers and beef jerky. Most food is getting quickly boring, especially the day snack, but I need the input! I can carry 3-4 weeks of food and up to 10-14 days of water. I use around 4 liters of fresh water per day for drinking, cooking and hygiene.
Q: Do you carry a desalinator, or use a water filter?
A: I can carry plenty of water in my size kayak, if I have to, but then it’s “quite a submarine” at the start of the section. Mostly, I find enough villages with people where there is clean water available. Or the “bush” is so remote the streams are drinkable without filtering. A reasonable size desalinator is heavy and of not much use for my small kayak household.
Q: Do you lose much weight on a trip?
A: Yes, around 6-10 kg may be the difference if I do not take care on either end….
Q: Are you fishing on the way?
A: No, never. Trailing a fishing line attracts sharks and takes too much time.
Q: How heavy is your kayak?
A: Empty, it is around 25kg. Fully loaded it sums up to 100 kg. It is like driving a heavy but very stable truck.
Q: Which safety backups will you carry?
A: Anything modern electronics provides: Satellite phone, EPIRB, GPS, VHF radio, cell phone, some flares…
Q: Why are you mostly paddling without PFD? This gives a bad example…
A: Correct. But when I paddle for so long, a PFD would rub my skin and clothing and I would sweat way too much. I wear it in heavy seas, when it is cold and on landing/ launching as a padding. On the other hand, I find it way more important to be ALWAYS hooked with my bow line to my kayak. My kayak is my best PFD. It did save my ass once in South America in the Pororoca tidal wave in the Amazonas Delta…
Specially about North America:
Q: What kind of “new” challenges do you expect on this new mammoth project you have not encountered yet on your trips before ?
A: I have no experience with bears…neither with black nor brown nor white ones. Just with Teddy bears ! Especially the polar bear area will be a dangerous section. But people have paddled also there before! The whole huge distance of roughly 50.000 km will be the next challenge…not knowing how my aging body will hold up. I am over 50 now, and will be close to 60 years old when I’m around!
Q: How long will the trip be?
A: It is roughly about 50.000 km around the “North Island”, through the North-West-Passage and the Panama Canal. I will cross Hudson Bay, but may paddle inside the Golf of Mexico and Bahia California. As for the final trip time…roughly around 8 years! I can’t plan so much ahead…
Q: Where will you start?
A: I will start my first section in March 2017. Both half-loops with two kayaks will begin in Seattle on the West Coast, and I will meet myself in New York under the Statue of Liberty after roughly 8 years or such on the East Coast…
Q: Why did you decide to do two half circles rather than paddling in one direction only like on a “proper” circumnavigation?
A: The ice-free time in the northern area allows only weather window of a few month of ice-free sea. The rest of the year I do not like to sit around only and getting older and older…
Q: Why do you paddle in blocks of 3-5 months with home breaks in between?
A: I already did this around South America. I do have a business, a house and a family to go back to. I am not “living” on the trip only like for example many sailors do. They need to sell their house and have nothing to get back to…and I do like the changes during the year! In this way it is also more entertaining to do the North (cold) – Home (cozy) – South (warm) – Home (cozy) rhythm!
Q: Will you do talks in the cities on your way along the coast?
A: YES! Whoever likes to engage me for some speaking event is very much welcome. There is the challenge of planning ahead though, as I never really know when exactly I will arrive where…
Q: Which kayak will you use?
A: I will use again (like on the last 2/3 of my South American trip) my special “FREYA” kayak, a perfect fit for such trips, with a special retractable rudder/ skeg combination. It was designed by Magnus de Brito and myself for the needs of a long-distance expedition kayaker, and originally produced by Point 65of Sweden. They stopped layup-kayak production completely now, and “my” kayak will soon be manufactured by the German company Lettmann.
Q: Why do you use a wing paddle?
A: A wing blade is the most efficient paddle blade on the world, also used by any competition racer. And they would use something else if there would be something more efficient… a rudder helps also to be efficient. No need to steer with complicated paddle strokes taking the speed out of my heavy kayak!
Specially about South America:
Q: What was the most dangerous part of your last big trip around South America?
A: This is hard to answer, almost every day brought a shorter or longer, harder or less hard new challenge. Surely approaching Cape Horn, and unintentionally surfing the Pororoca in the Amazon river at night were really life-threatening, but also the many mine-fields of trashing breakers out on the sea, and many horrible landings and launchings
Q: What was the most beautiful part of the trip?
A: Also hard to answer, every day I saw the beauty of the South American nature in landscape, flora and fauna. As an opposite, the most ugly parts was truly paddling past most big cities.
Q: What was the most challenging section of the trip?
A: Also hard to answer, but the section between the Panama Canal and Sao Luiz was most stressful due to the extreme heat, constant headwind, mosquitoes, skin issues, shallow water and muddy coasts with no dry campsites and occasionally very high waves in river mouths.
Q: Did you have dangerous animal encounters?
A: Around Australia, there was the more or less constant threat of the saltwater crocodiles, sharks, venomous jellyfish and sea snakes. Around South America, it was rather the threat of the high crime rate I had to deal with. Many times, I thought I had as a woman rather an advantage of *not* being attacked or robbed.
Q: Did you see marine mammals?
A: Yes, many whales, dolphins and thousands of any kind of seals. Always nice, impressive and not dangerous at all!