Martina Wegman traveled the world for years, kayaking the wildest rivers, among the crocodiles and down the highest waterfalls. This summer she will go to the Olympics in the canoe. “But the most important thing is that I get to places where nobody is.”
So fierce, she says, pointing to the blue table in the garden of her childhood home. Such a bright blue is the Rio Azul, in Chiapas, Mexico, surrounded by waterfalls and arguably the most beautiful river of all the rivers she has ever sailed on.
Or did she see the most beautiful water in Iceland, so unlike everything else? Besides, now that she thinks about it, the most memorable trip has to be the one to Uganda. She became the first woman ever to embark on the risky five-day kayak tour of Murchison Falls. The national park there has one of the highest concentrations of crocodiles and hippos. Those hippos are not that bad, they only attack if they feel threatened, says Martina Wegman carelessly. Crocodiles: different cookie. They attack to attack. In addition, the group was told just before departure that a six meter long crocodile had just been captured. He had eaten too many villagers during the period.
“That trip was once in a lifetime”, says Wegman, for the first time since October 2019 in the Netherlands. She is 31 years old, lives largely in New Zealand with her boyfriend Mike and is perhaps the most unknown of all Dutch participants in the Olympic Games this summer. She’s really going there. In the canoe, on the slalom, on the artificial track in Tokyo, the Japanese city where she has been several times. Not so strange. You could call her the Floortje Dessing of the Olympic team. Her Instagram page is an accumulation of enviable photos in beautiful settings.
Yet she grew up here in Schoorl, North Holland. From an early age, father took her, her sister and brother to the sea, fifteen minutes by bike. After school, on weekends, Wegman hit the surf. Posters of kayakers hung on her walls, she watched kayaking movies. Full of fierce scenes, because it is an extremely dangerous sport.
First came the freestyle with the tricks, then the extreme kayaking – always looking for the adventure. There were the family holidays. First to Slovenia, then to Bosnia, when she was thirteen years old. It was right after the war. She was not allowed to exchange the water for the berm in the meantime, because of the mines. Then followed the trip to Australia, and at the age of sixteen the first trip to Uganda with her brother. Since then, traveling has never stopped and her time in the Netherlands has been kept to a minimum.
,,I like to travel, discover new places. I want to see as many countries as possible, but it’s not a competition. It’s about the lifestyle. I spend a lot of time in nature, on the rivers, but I also hike up the mountains. I enjoy it. If you don’t speak the same language, and end up in a problem situation, you will be completely taken out of your comfort zone. Dealing with that is the challenge. Sometimes those situations are really not fun, but in the end I do have a nice story to tell.”