Holy saltwater blisters, batman. She did it. On Dec. 15, Freya Hoffmeister completed her 9,400-mile circumnavigation of Australia in 332 days (245 paddling days), ending one of the most challenging sea kayaking trips in the world. The feat makes her the first woman to ever complete the journey and only the second person to do so since friend and mentor Paul Caffyn completed it in 1982.
Now she’ll likely gladly return to her ice cream shops she runs in Germany (you canbet she thought about the treat on herjourney).
While Caffyn completed his trip in 361 days (257 paddling days), Hoffmeister bested his mark by 29 days.
Hoffmeister arrived at Queenscliff—the point of her departure way back on Jan. 18—salty and weary around noon Dec. 15 at the Victorian Sea Kayaking Club, which made arrangements for her arrival and hosted a party for her on Wednesday evening.
When asked earlier what she thought her biggest barriers to completing the project would be, she said: “Huge salt water crocodiles, Great White sharks, venomous sea snakes and deadly jelly fish, massive surf, exposed crossings, coordinating freshwater and food dumps, hundreds of kilometers of sheer cliffs without landing zones, and destroying cyclones are some of the most daunting treats…not to mention the tropical heat and physical toll it will take to average upwards of 35 miles per day for one year.”
If anyone was up for the task, it was Germany’s Hoffmeister (AKA the “Woman in Black”). A true kayaker at heart, she’s accomplished in several styles of paddling, including open water marathon racing, Greenland-style rolling (she’s mastered 35 Greenland rolls, while adding in a few of her own), huge expeditions and rough water kayaking. She’s also honed in other disciplines, including 10 years of competitive gymnastics, five years of competitive body building and 1500 jumps skydiving – one of which was over the North Pole, getting washed out of a Russian Iljushin jet.
While she started kayaking in 1997 in a folding kayak on quiet waters, carrying her newborn son in the back hatch, she graduated to rougher waters in 2003 exploring Germany’s and Denmark’s coastline.
In 2004 she won the Arctic Sea Kayak Marathon in Norway; placed second in 2006 in the 300-km race around the Danish Island Fyn; and knocked off a 120-km trip around the Isle of Man in just 14 hours.
She also won the overall women’s class in the 2006 Greenland National Championships, taking home eight gold medals in rolling and races.
Then came Iceland, which she circumnavigated with Greg Stamer in June 2007 in a record time of 33 days (25 paddling), as well as a solo trip around New Zealand’s South Island, becoming the first woman to do so and only fourth person ever (yes, another record of 70 days/, 47 paddling).