For those who do not know who Martina Wegman is, you are forgiven as freestyle kayaking is taking its time to reach households around the world. However, by the end of this article you won’t forget her!
Martina is taking the kayaking world by storm and in recent years she has become one of the most successful female contenders in freestyle kayaking. She has won the European Freestyle Championships and some of the highest profile whitewater races in the world, including the Teva Outdoor Games and the Sickline Extreme World Championships not one, two, but four times in a row! In recent years, she has sought out new challenges and decided to do what very few kayakers do and switch codes to slalom kayaker.
In one of our sessions at The Flow Centre, Martina gave us a low down of how she has won FOUR world titles and continues to turn heads.
Cameron: What do you focus on during your greatest moments?
Martina: It’s hard to say. I’m usually, even when I have a good run or when I race I still want ~to be a bit~ better…, because there always places to still improve, and I just want to be better and better.
Cameron: You’re known for dropping long 70ft waterfalls, absolutely amazing feat! Are you always confident in your preparation. Is there a specific drop that you were nervous about?
Martina: At the start it was like “No way I m going to,” I would never run a 70-foot waterfall, and once you’re at the top of it you re like “Okay, let go!” I don t even have to think about it twice because I feel certainly so confident and good about it that. Yeah, and once I did it, I look back and I’m like “Why did I do that?! That’s just crazy!”
I was pretty relaxed about it, but in my mind I was like “I should be really scared of this!” Because I was really scared at first when I looked at it, and then ~I saw~ somebody standing under the fall, and I was just signing to him. I was scared but I wasn’t really scared, but I was slowly drifting backwards because I wasn’t focused at all. He was kind of like a distraction. I wasn;t even really aware of it [the waterfall], and then I just had to flow into it.
Cameron: So do you often plan your route and goals beforehand?
Martina: For me in kayaking I don t really want to set goals because then I can be disappointed if I don’t run it, so I just don’t think about it. I’m more focused to get the lines right. Of course you always want to do well, but I think for me it’s setting really small, achievable goals so I know I can t be disappointed, but still trying to push to get that good result I think I’m not super outcome-focused. My goal is to get better and better. [laughs] Like, today I was focusing on keeping my boat flat and trying to get a fast start on the upstreams. I guess every day you just try and do the courses better and better and focus on those little things.
Cameron: So what are you focused on?
Martina: At the race I often don’t really think about all the detail, I’m just really focused on where to go. I’m like, “Oh, I’m not too sure how I’m going to get from here to there.” But I’m not worried about it, I will just see in the race as long as I focus on where to go…the subconscious will take care of what I’m focused on. I’m not really focused on, I have to be there, and do this (etc.) I think less and just trust in my ability.
When I did the freestyle races 10 years ago we had a trainer and he always wanted to know what our plan was in the competition, and he knew for me that he didn’t even have to ask anymore because I wouldn’t say, I would just be like “Oh, I just go and just feel what I feel.” But still I had a little bit of a plan, I knew which tricks I was good in and which I could do, I just didn’t really want to think about it too much. I just wanted to have fun and be like “Oh yeah, I’m just going to see where I go.” My trainer accepted it because he knew that worked for me. I just needed to have a good time!
Cameron: Did you use any mental skills to prepare?
Martina: I think looking back at those races, I think I was quite intimidated about the race courses, so I definitely visualised myself more running it ~and wanted to be like~ I just really don’t want to mess up those lines, so I just focused really hard on getting in the right place.
I don’t want to think too much about it and just want to have fun. That was my preparation, not to be too serious about it. Of course, you always want to do well, but I think just for me it just setting really small goals so I know I can’t be disappointed, but still trying to push to get that good result.
Cameron: Do you focus on winning or being excellent?
Martina: I’m not super outcome-focused, it’s more about having a good run rather than the outcome of the races. Like, it’s always fun to win, but I don t really care if somebody else is better, because that just makes you want to go harder and practice more to get on that same level.
There a lot of things you do in creeking which don’t work in slalom, when you tip the boat on top of the water, so jumping over little waves and holes, that again is a total different technique from creeking. So I’m just trying the things that you have to work a bit differently in slalom. Keeping the boat flat is probably one of the bigger things, and staying forward in your boat.
My goal is to get as good as I can. Because a lot of slalom paddlers, they started when they were seven or eight years old, and there are not many people who cross over from creeking to slalom at my age, or even to cross over from creeking to slalom in a lifetime. And a lot of people who creek, they also think when they cross over to slalom that it is easy to get on the top. So, when they’re really good in creeking you almost think like “Yeah, I ll be good in slalom.” Which is totally not the fact. I’m just trying still to get as high as I can, get as good as I can in slalom and really push and train hard. It is more personal than outcome focused, I intrinsically just want to do what I do really well.
The Flow Centre would like to take this opportunity to thank Martina for her time and energy and to thank you for reading the post. Stay tuned as we interview more extraordinary people on how they find Flow!