I started off the new year with a new sponsor, NRS had reached out to me and after a year hiatus of any soft goods sponsor, I was honored to be on their team. Snowy and I once again rung in the New Year in Costa Rica, surfing, though we were in bed when the ball dropped. We were awake at 445 to get out to be some of the first out in the surf and watch the sun rise. I was only back in the US for a short time and headed to Uganda, Africa, for 6 weeks. While there, I competed in the Nile River Festival and came away with the win, despite taking my only swim of the year, during the Hendri Coetzee Itunda Falls Extreme Race.
I woke up every morning, in my tent on an island in the middle of the White Nile, listening to monkeys play in the trees and the river rush past. Just a short paddle upstream is the iconic Nile Special wave, spending six hours out there a day. Realizing this island only had a short time above water as the impending dam was about to be finished. RIP Hairy Lemon.
My friend Ben Marr came to Uganda and Davey O’hare decided to invite me on a trip to paddle the Murchison Falls section of the White Nile. After a 6 hour drive north, in an overland vehicle, getting the raft ready at noon in the desert of Uganda, and almost getting bitten by a 5 foot cobra while peeing, we set off on 80 kms of whitewater where you are on the menu 24 hours of the day.
With the highest abundance of man eating crocodiles and hippos in Uganda, this section holds more fear in the flatwater than the rapids. The rapids were the largest ones I have ever seen and, yet, I was still more scared of the flatwater. Benny and I were chased by two crocs, one that was over 20 feet long and hit our raft after we had been loaded into the raft, still in our kayaks.
We were all pretty thankful to finish the run and be off the menu above the iconic Murchison Falls after three highly memorable days. We headed back to Jinja and the Hairy Lemon to let our adrenaline go down and surf more on Nile Special.
Another fast turnaround including a weekend at my sisters in D.C., with my niece, and Snowy and I were off on our honeymoon, to Thailand. We had a magical two weeks of hiking, being together, SCUBA diving, and just adventuring together. Sadly, while we were there, the World lost a very special human and a woman who had helped me grow into the human I am now. Maria Noakes passed away while paddling on her home river in North Carolina and Snowy and I were literally as far away from our community as we could get. We still tried to have a great time overseas but we were both looking forward to coming home during such a devastating loss. After coming home, and many tears, life always goes on. If loss brings one thing to us, it’s community. I had the chance to paddle and ride bikes with my favorite people in the World, all together. Maria always made a point to bring community together and we were all making a point to Live Like Maria.