Maya-Ray Cross, simply Mayo to her friends, is 14 years old (she will be 15 on April 12th), hailing from the UK. She has been paddling from the age of seven, starting out on a lake, and has moved on to whitewater. Mayo has chronic pain because of Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, a genetic condition that affects the collagen, in some cases all through the body. It can cause dislocations and subluxations of joints. Mayo dislocates shoulders, knee caps, fingers, thumbs, wrists, toes, and her hips are dodgy too. She finds walking painful and difficult as she falls lots. She is constantly covered in bruises due to her condition, which at times are very painful.
In addition she has Dyspraxia, an umbrella name for lots of different illnesses which for Mayo include anxiety, irrational fears, and lots of other stuff. She also has a very rare vascular condition called Blue a Rubber Bleb syndrome. It causes raised painful lumps of damaged blue veins. She also had spinal surgery several years ago which seems to have had an adverse effect on the nerves in her right leg. This too can make kayaking more difficult for her, but still she remains undeterred.
She paddles as much as possible. Often she is in lots of pain, but Mayo says what she gets from paddling is worth the pain and injuries that she has to endure. She is Home Educated due to her condition and inability to lead a normal school life. Her social life revolves around paddling; that’s where most of her friends are. Doctors are investigating her chronic stomach pains at the minute by putting her on a liquid diet, fed via a nasogastric tube. She is still paddling with this in. She got out of hospital Wednesday, paddled in a pool Thursday, then on a grade 4 river (the Tryweryn) Friday.
Her favourite boat so far is her Jackson Rockstar, and she’s currently looking for a riverboat. Mayo wants to train as a coach as soon as she is able; she helps out at several clubs and is a inspiration to the younger members. She already holds 2 BCU 3* awards one for Open Canoe the other for Whitewater. She wants to do the 3* Freestyle award next. Mayo wants to do freestyle competitions in the future, starting with Young Guns, and she is currently working on her loop. It may have to be put on hold though until the feeding tube is gone!! However, she is attending the Young Guns this year if only to gain the experience.
Until recently people didn’t realise how badly her condition affects her, but her friends are amazing. They help her by carrying her boat, and supporting and encouraging her on the water. She decided out of the blue to write her blog, CAN U KAYAK? on Facebook and is really overwhelmed with all the support she has received, especially with recognition from Emily Jackson and Lowri Davies. In her own words (from the blog):
CAN U KAYAK? Mayo’s Blog-
EDITOR’S NOTE: We are stoked to call Mayo one of us, a true dirtbag paddler! Her story and her passion is amazing, her dedication to the sport is complete, and the love that flows through her via The River and its people is an inspiration to us all, paddlers or not. Look for our upcoming interview with the birthday girl, coming soon in DBP MAGAZINE ONLINE!