Name: Mariann Sæther
Home location: Voss, Norway – Futaleufu, Chile.
Kayaking discipline: Extreme kayak, freestyle kayak, canoe slalom
Profession and educational background: Lecturer/whitewater kayaker
Years in sport of any kind: For ever
Other personal information you would like to share: I also do and have done….Snowboarding, jazz-ballet dancing, baton twirling in a marching band for 11 years, synchronized swimming, horseback riding.
What got you started in kayaking?
I started dating a kayaker – our first date was a roll session. I got hooked right away.
What is your biggest accomplishment in kayaking?
Phew… these questions are hard! Obviously I have run some big ones, like Rheinfall, Laksforsen, Flemming´s falls on the Rauma, Double Drop on Teigdalen… and endless first-descents and burly rapids around the world…But I think perhaps I have to say that every time I have a course or when I have done some youth kayaking programs in Norway and hung out with the kids I feel accomplished in the sense that I can give back to the sport a little bit.
What one or two things do you currently do in your training that are keys to your success?
Never give up until I get it right (especially in canoe slalom) and planning my lines properly down a section of river or race course. I also have done quite a lot of interval training in my kayak this summer because of canoe slalom.
What would be your ultimate achievement?
This past season it was making the semi-final at the World Cup in canoe slalom in Pau, France. To realize I was among the top 30 fastest in the world in a discipline I have not trained too much in was motivational to say the least. Also, winning the Adidas Sickline World Championships was an amazing experience.
How do you set your goals?
I try to set an end-goal that is actually possible to reach – and then I break it down into smaller goals on the way there. I also accept that the end goal might have to be changed along the way, or that some of the smaller goals in the end do not work in the process to reach my end goal. I try to be gentle to myself if I do not reach all my goals, and rather look for positivity in the path instead of negativity.
What is your biggest challenge, and what do you do to manage this challenge?
I get bored too easily. It is the reason why I used to switch in between freestyle and creeking a lot, and I guess it is also the reason why I am these days switching in between canoe slalom and creeking. I seem to always need a challenge in my life to be happy, instead of being able to simply just chill.… I am working on it though!
What is your favourite piece of kayaking kit?
My Sweet Protection Intergalactic dry suit!
What was the best advice you were ever given?
Early on in my kayaking career legendary Flemming Schmidt asked me (while we we were running Åmot canyon on the Sjoa) why I kept paddling backwards. He was referring to the fact that I was always turning my kayak with a break stroke…. So he taught me then and there some basic technique that was the first step on the path to become a faster and more efficient kayaker.
Do you have a saying or motto that you live your life by?
It is a bit cheesy… but I know how short life can be, and I just want to make sure to live my life so that if I die tomorrow I would not be regretting all the things I did not do.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Nature and the outdoors. I could never live happily in a city – I need fresh air, a living nature around me and tranquility. That is also why I have a place on the Futaleufu in Chile and an amazing place to live on the Raundalselvi in Voss, Norway.
If you could be anything besides a pro athlete, what would you be?
Who is your favourite athlete?
I would have to say Emilie Fer (France) and Maialen Chorraut (Spain) at this point. They are both super strong and smooth in their kayaks. Emilie is the gold winner from London Olympics in canoe slalom, but also one of the nicest people I have met on the slalom circuit – Maialen was also on the podium in London and I find her especially inspirational from the fact that she is also a mother and still in the very top in a super competitive field.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I think we need to fight dams in a global perspective. I also think that kayakers in general do a poor job in this field – we tend to use arguments that just are not relevant (e.g “I want to kayak down that river, don´t dam it) in discussions with people around us, politicians and beyond. I think we need to take responsibility to educate ourselves when it comes to the benefits and drawbacks of both small and large dams – so that we can secure our sport for our kids and so on. The first step I would say is to check out the damplans going on in your area – what is happening and why? Can you oppose them on valid grounds? On a larger scale it is qood to go to www.internationalrivers.org and start reading their blogs, articles, scientific reports etc to get a good grasp about the world situation. Get out there and DO something.