‘Wild Waters’: Learn About Nouria Newman, One of Paddling’s Greatest Athletes

A whitewater paddling powerhouse, Nouria Newman has stood on the podium of many international canoe slalom competitions and extreme creek races. More recently, the 31-year-old has set off on some of the most audacious whitewater expeditions ever, sometimes solo. Oh, she’s also the first female paddler to go over a 30m waterfall.

Wild Waters: The Film

Newman’s skills are on par with the very best paddlers of either gender. Her latest Red Bull film, Wild Waters, chronicles Newman’s life of adventure. You can watch it here.

This biopic delves into her emotions, risk management theories, and the driving forces that are pushing the limits of whitewater kayaking. Adventure filmmaker and professional paddler David Arnaud tells Newman’s story in a way that doesn’t focus on gender but on her pursuit of excellence in both competition and exploration.

It combines archival footage of Newman as a small child all the way up to her latest first descent over a 30m waterfall. The film is mostly in French, with English subtitles.

Nouria Newman in her kayak after running a 30m waterfall in Ecuador. Photo: Ian Avery-Leaf/Red Bull Content Pool

Kayaking since age 4

Kayaking intrigued Newman from a very early age, but her parents made her learn to swim first. She picked that up quickly, then talked her parents into enrolling her in a French Canoe Club program at age four.

Her career in paddling started with slalom. While she has competed at the highest levels, she has always been a free spirit who can’t be contained by artificial slalom courses and competition rules.

That love of the river led her to extreme creek racing — something in which she still competes today. Taking her precise paddling skills and athletic training to big rivers around the globe have led her to accomplish some truly impressive feats, beyond trophies and medals.

Big-water paddling has become one of her specialties. She runs some of the largest volume rivers with the biggest rapids on the planet. Running the Site Zed rapid on the mighty Stikine River is one of Newman’s many historic feats. She’s the only woman to have paddled it, and one of only a handful of humans. She is arguably the paddler who made it look the easiest.

Newman approaches the 30m Río Pucuno waterfall in Ecuador. Photo: Esteban Barrera/Red Bull Content Pool

Expedition kayaker

Besides big water, Newman is also into long, exploratory river expeditions. This is where she has spent much of her time over the past five years.

On her solo paddle in India, she was flushed through a siphon and nearly perished. The film chronicles this terrifying event.

I’ve been an expert kayaker for over two decades and personally know or have met most of the characters in the film, including Newman. The rivers depicted in the film are ones that I’ve either paddled, dreamed of paddling, or had nightmares about.

I truly connected with the themes of the film and loved the insight into what makes Newman tick. Meanwhile, my wife, who has whitewater paddled just a handful of times, found her “super-inspiring and modest”. Wild Waters captivates, whether you’re a kayaker or not.