A Pioneer in Paddling
BY Shannon Connolly
June 10 2008 12:00 AM ET
Consistently taking home top honors in paddling competitions around the world, lesbian kayaker Tanya Faux is quickly gaining recognition in her home country of Australia and in the United States. With sponsorships from Teva and Wave Sport, among others, Faux has conquered white-water rapids on multiple continents. Having come out four years ago, Faux has established herself as a pioneer in her sport and a role model for female athletes. Faux's rigorous training regimen for the Teva championships, won her the top spot in the PaddleCross.
How did you get involved in the sport originally? While I was in Australia I did an outdoor education course, and as soon as I put a paddle in my hand, I decided I loved it and just didn't stop. I just kept paddling as much as I could. And then I met a few people over here who traveled to Australia, and so I came over and went paddling. Did a bit more, paddled a bit more, won a few competitions. Yeah, I really just went from there.
When you first started, did you intend to make it a career? I think I definitely wanted to work the river, but I didn't realize I would end up becoming a professional athlete in the industry. It’s quite funny because one of my first goals when I started kayaking was to paddle every river in the world.
Really? Completely unachievable, but yeah, that was definitely one of my goals. So yeah, I’m pretty stoked to have made it a career. The people are great; it’s a pretty relaxing lifestyle.
But you travel all the time, right? Yeah, I’m continuously on the road. I’ve just been in Colorado for a few weeks, and now I’m back in California trying to get a few more runs done here out this year and then off to Colorado again for and then out to eastern Canada.
Do you have a specific area of the world or a place that you’ve enjoyed the most? Yeah, I’d say for creeking or steep whitewater, California Sierra’s hold some of the best white water in the world. Just multiday trips through amazing sites, gorges, rapid after rapid, waterfall after waterfall. It’s unreal. In terms of freestyle kayaking, out in the Quebec area there’s a lot of volume of water, like the rapids around the Ottawa and in Montreal. Great paddling all day and then you can just go out on the town at nighttime. Those would be my two favorite places for sure.
Well, because you travel all over the world for this, is there really an off-season? Or are you continuously in competition all year? I definitely try to take some time off from competing. The main focus is just kayaking. For me, in many ways it’s just getting out there and going down a river I haven't paddled before, or going on an expedition. I like to take at least three or four months off from competing and focus on traveling to a country or a remote location where there’s a river that hasn't been paddled before. So, recently I did an expedition in the northwestern part of Australia, which was 80 days unsupported, and did two first descents up there on the Moran and Mitchell rivers. That was definitely a highlight.
Was it just last year, or two years ago that you had a pretty serious shoulder injury? Two and a half years ago I blew out my left shoulder and had surgery. Pulled the boats off the roof racks of my car and had that, “Oh, My god, I'm not going to kayak ever again” sort of feeling. It was quite funny though because you sort of go through that moment of “It’s all over, my career is over. I'm injured.” And then you sort of get it done and you do a lot more visualizing rather than paddling. And I luckily didn't have any of hiccups coming back after the surgery. My shoulder is really good right now and I haven't had any issues with it, which is great. But it was a learning curve for sure, to not be able to kayak when I'd been kayaking for all five years previously, and then all of a sudden there’s no paddle in your hands for three months.
I’m sure it was an adjustment to cut down on your usual training regime, but was it a nice break? Did you get to spend time with friends and family? Absolutely. When you get injured you're probably going to go to a place where you'll get support and that’s generally with your family, and that’s what happened to me. It was great because I don't usually get to spend time with my nephew, and my mom and dad. So, in terms of getting an injury, sometimes I think that happens for a reason. I spent quality time with friends and family that I otherwise wouldn't have because I'm on the road all the time. It also remotivates you when you have an injury like that, and I was just so motivated to get better and go kayaking because I hadn't been kayaking for so long.