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THE HECK WITH SUGAR & SPICE ~ Interviewing SUP Star Nadia Almuti

EDITOR’S DESK: This month on the cover of our Magazine we’ve featured four fantastic Women of Whitewater, or #WOW! from four different forms of paddling. Our ultimate goal is to inspire young girls and women to try paddling, to rise up and tackle what they may think isn’t possible, to reach out to the local communities where our featured athletes live to see what’s right there that they may not be taking advantage of, to open the door to a new sport if they (girl or boy!) haven’t tried a particular discipline of whitewater, and to be a positive role model in a bro-driven ego-laden market. And of course, to highlight these awesome ladies!!

Photo: Heather Jackson

Up next is Nadia Almuti, an award-winning sponsored Stand Up Paddleboarder who currently lives in Colorado. She joins Robert Delgado as the only athletes to ever be on multiple covers of our Magazine after first being featured on the December 2016 issue with her BFF Brittany Parker and Paul Teasdale following their 1st SUP descent of the Zambezi River in Africa. Let’s turn the mic over to Nadia!

Phot: Zach Mahone

“I’ve always loved being on and in the water. I’ve been whitewater kayaking for about 14 years. I learned how to kayak while going to school at SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry with the Syracuse University Outing Club. I immediately loved whitewater. The following summers I was working in Fayetteville, WV first as a raft guide and then as a video boater. Eventually I made my way to paddling in Colorado and started working for Colorado Kayak Supply.”

Photo: Zach Mahone

“Then 7 years ago one of my friends convinced me to try paddleboarding for the first time during a race in Glenwood. Ever since then I’ve been spending as much time as I can out on my board. I still go out and kayak a bit but I love the feeling of being on my feet and moving around on the board.”

DBP: Stand Up Paddling has taken off like crazy! It’s been the biggest growing slice of the paddling pie for years, but what’s truly amazing is how popular whitewater SUP has become. When and how did you get your start, and who introduced you?

NADIA: Matt Solomon convinced me to try paddle boarding for the first time. During the race I mentioned above, I swam every rapid and loved it. During that weekend I also got to try out river surfing and I was hooked. I needed a board.

Photo: Heather Jackson

DBP: You’re part of a vibrant community of rad adventure ladies in Colorado. It must be very inspiring to look around and see so many encouraging friends doing awesome things! What effect do you think a strong community of women can have on both each other and our society?

NADIA: I think a strong community of women can encourage each other to work on getting better at paddling. We train together, surf together, race together, and all the time cheer each other on. Part of the reason I love SUP so much is the community. Running whitewater with your friends creates a bond. They trust you to be there for them and you do the same.

Photo: John Lesage

DBP: You’ve risen to the top tier of your discipline through hard work. What are some of the challenges of tackling big or technical whitewater on a SUP board?

NADIA: I love paddling whitewater. Every rapid feels like a puzzle to me. Sessioning a rapid over and over again allows me to hone in my skills, catching harder eddies, trying challenging ferries, and picking harder lines. With bigger water you need to try to stay aware of what the water is doing and try to be ready with a good brace if it decides to surge on you. With technical water, being comfortable catching smaller eddies to look over your lines and set good safety for your friends is key. You also need to be aware of your fins in shallow technical water, so that you don’t get hung up anywhere.
DBP: All of your experience led you to the podium at many of last year’s races! More and more festivals are adding a SUP category. Describe not only the feeling of competing against some of the best ladies in the world, but rising to the top? What categories did you medal in?

NADIA: I competed in a lot of races last year with some incredibly talented women! I love the feeling of competing in our paddling community because we all support and cheer each other on.

Competitions and Results:

– 1st place overall Tuck Fest, Charlotte, NC

– 4th place Back of Beyond Race, Moab, UT

Golden Games: 2nd in SUP Surf Competition, 2nd in SUP Cross, 3rd in Downriver

Colorado Kayak Supply Paddlefest: 2nd in SUP Slalom, 3rd in SUP Cross, 4th in SUP Surf Competition.

Animas River Days: 3rd in Downriver Sprint, 3rd in “last man standing” technical SUP race, 4th in SUP Surf Competition.

Vail Whitewater Series: 2nd place overall for Women. (SUP cross and Downriver)

GoPro Mountain Games: 3rd in SUP Cross, 4th in SUP Skills Invitational

FibArk: 3rd place overall in Colorado SUP Championship, 5th in SUP Surf Competition

Gunnison River Festival: 3rd place in SUP Surf Competition (only woman in competition, competed against 15 men)

Montrose FUNC Fest: 2nd place overall, 2nd in SUP Cross, and 2nd in Downriver Sprint.

Gore Canyon Fest: 2nd in SUP Cross and 3rd in Downriver Sprint.

New River Gorge Race: 3rd place overall for Women.

Tosh uno River, Japan. Photo: Zach Malone

DBP: Your hard work and skill has earned you sponsorships and the ability to paddle some of the most beautiful rivers of the world. What places ranked as your favorites?

NADIA: Definitely the Zambezi River is my favorite!

The experience I had paddling in Japan. So many rivers!

I Love West Virginia. The Gauley and New River have great surf and are amazing on a SUP.

My Local Runs! I love the Westwater and Shoshone sections of the Colorado River and the Fractions and Browns sections of the Arkansas River!

All the Colorado surf spots! One of the reasons I can’t leave Colorado. All the amazing waves that come in! From Glenwood, to Big Sur, to my local spot in Montrose!

Zambezi River, Zimbabwe. Photo: Chantelle Melzer

DBP: We were stoked to feature you on our cover along with Brittany and Paul when you three teamed up with Shane Raw for Standup4Rhinos. Looking back, what lesson did you bring home that means the most to you now?

NADIA: Heat stroke is a real problem in Africa. Hiking down to the river on day two I felt faint and nearly passed out. Paul helped get me water and the second I got to the river I felt much better. I learned I need to drink a lot more water. Our awesome lifestraw bottles made keeping hydrated so much easier while we were on the water. We just filled the bottle straight out of the river and the straw filtered out all the bad stuff.

I also learned a lot about the rhino poaching problem. Before joining this trip, I thought poaching was a thing of the past and that it wasn’t that big of a problem. But in the last 5 years, more rhinos than ever are being poached for their horns. The rhino horn is more precious than gold. Hopefully we can raise all the money needed for the Care for Wild Rhino refuge in South Africa. The take in and care for orphaned rhinos.

Photo: Zach Malone

DBP: Gear talk time!! When it comes to SUP it all boils down to the board and the paddle. What models are your current go-to?

NADIA: For big whitewater like the Zambezi the Hala Gear Atcha 9’6 is my go to.

For shallow technical runs I love the smaller Atcha 8’6

For my downriver races I use the Hala Gear Playa.

Long distance touring it’s the Nass-T 14’

For surf I love the new Hala Gear Peno and Miligram.

Winter Shoshone session. Photo: Heather Jackson

DBP: You’ve been sending it on some wintery whitewater lately. What’s it take to stay comfy SUPping in the snow?

NADIA: A good drysuit with booties built in! I love my Goretex Sweet Protection dry suit! I layer up with fleece and wool underneath and a good hat under my helmet. I have been struggling with good gloves but I just found great gloves by Glacier Glove thanks to my friends Jason and G-mo! Alway have a thermos at the take out with some hot chocolate.

DBP: Thanks so much for your time, and we all look forward to following along as you continue your adventures! Any last words of inspiration for the young ladies around the world who are reading this at home?

NADIA: Don’t be afraid to push yourself. Try a new sport, enter a race, travel. Get out of your comfort zone and you might discover something about yourself your didn’t know.
“Courage, sacrifice, determination, commitment, toughness, heart, talent, and guts. That’s what little girls are made of; the heck with sugar and spice.” – Bethany Hamilton

By Chicago Mike

Editor-in-Chief "Chicago" Mike Toughill is co-founder of Dirt Bag Paddlers and former Peshtigo River Manager at Kosir's Rapid Rafts in Wisconsin. He's been Wallacing since 2003.

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