Freya Hoffmeister is a sea kayaker from Husum, Germany, who has made it her mission to sea kayak around Australia (15,000km) in roughly one year, preferably beating the current record. There have been many attempts to complete this paddle, but only one person has ever completed the entire journey by sea kayak, Paul Caffyn in 1982. The others have been turned off by the crocodiles, sharks, deadly jellyfish, huge surf, long and exposed open sea crossings, the logistical difficulties of getting food and water on uninhabited or inaccessible coastlines and the Australian weather, which can range from tropical heat to freezing cold.
None of this seems to faze Freya too much - she has taken all of these challenges and more in her stride before. Looking at Freya’s kayaking CV, it appears that she doesn’t enjoy the out and back journey very much - she would prefer to paddle around things. In 2007 she circumnavigated Iceland in a record 33 days, then three months later she circumnavigated the South Island of New Zealand, solo and unsupported, in 70 days. She not only became the first woman to complete this trip, she also beat the record, leading her friend and supporter Paul Caffyn to call her trip “the most significant solo kayak trip undertaken by a woman in the southern hemisphere”.
Freya is not only a good portion of her way around Australia (she started in January 2009), she is going strong and appears more than capable of completing her journey. She has negotiated most of the east, north and a good portion of the west coast so far and has some of the most exposed sections of coastline behind her. She has been aiming to cover a minimum average of 60km a day, which means that some of her days can be over 100km long. If you read Freya's blog you can see where she is at the moment and how she’s getting along. She would like to compete the trip in less than a year - and if she does it in less than 361 days, she will beat her friend Paul Caffyn’s record.
Freya started paddling in 1997 in a folding kayak on sheltered waters, with her young son in the back hatch. She first became interested in long distance, rough water kayaking in 2003, and has completed many expeditions and competed (successfully) in several marathon ope water kayak races. She is also accomplished in Greenland style rolling and enjoys playing on white water rivers or sprinting in surf skis.
Freya’s background has been heavily influenced by sport - she has ten years of competitive gymnastics, five years of competitive body building and ten years of skydiving under her belt. She is also an acute business woman, having successfully built up a chain of seven franchise ice cream cafes, a salad bistro and a Christmas shop that has become a supermarket. Before coming to Australia Freya sold all but two ice cream cafes and the Christmas shop, feeling that after 22 years in the business she is entitled to some time off to go kayaking! When she’s not on a major paddling trip, Freya teaches rolling and kayaking skills to people all over the world.
Make sure you follow along with Freya’s journey at her blog - generally if she’s too far away from civilisation there will be a text message or coordinates to show where she is. If you live near the coast, she might even be doing a presentation in a town near you - but bear in mind that she’s only got a little bit of the west coast and the south coast of Australia to go!
Freya is also part of Justine Curgenven’s This is The Sea III film (Justine is also profiled on GO! Girls Outdoors).
Photos in this article are from Freya's website, Qajaq Underground.
UPDATE: December 15th, 2009. Freya has completed her journey and achieved her goal of beating Paul Caffyn's record. Well done to Freya! You can read a news article here.