African Canoeist, Stookesbery, Hoffmeister Top Nat’l Geo’s Adventurers of Year List

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Once again, paddlers have made an impressive showing on National Geographic’s Adventurers of the Year list, with no less than three separate parties and individuals getting the honor for everything from paddling around South America (Freya Hoffmeister) to a wacko whitewater first descent in Papua New Guinea (Ben Stookesberry and company)…

National Geographic doles out the awards every year to adventurers whose achievements in exploration, adventure sports, conservation or humanitarianism have distinguished them in the past year. “This is the 11th year that we’ve searched around the world for individuals who personify the adventurous spirit in unique ways,” says Mary Anne Potts, National Geographic Adventure editorial director. “This year’s honorees are extraordinary and inspiring adventurers who push the boundaries of exploration.”

Among the winners are the following paddlers:

>> Steve Boyes, a South African wildlife biologist and National Geographic Emerging Explorer, who led a team on a 1,500-mile, 120-day expedition by dugout canoe to collect data to help protect Africa’s wildest place, the Okavango Delta;

>> German long-distance kayaker Freya Hoffmeister, who finished her four-year solo journey in April to complete the first circumnavigation of South America in a sea kayak, a 16,700-mile voyage;

>> Ben Stookesberry, Chris Korbulic, Ben Marr and Pedro Olivia, a team of kayakers who made a source-to-sea first descent of one of the most remote and treacherous rivers on the planet, tucked away in the jungles of Papua New Guinea’s New Britain Island;

The organization also opened up online voting for the People’s Choice Adventurer of the Year, which will run through Jan. 31, 2016. Last year, Polish kayaker Aleksander Doba won the honor after, at age 67, spending six months paddling 7,716 miles across the Atlantic Ocean in the longest open-water kayak crossing in history. Fans can go HERE to vote every day for their favorite honoree. The adventurer with the most votes at the end of the voting period will be announced in February.

Other 2016 Adventurers of the Year:

>> Pasang Lhamu Sherpa Akita, a rising climbing star in Nepal, who, after an 8.2-magnitude earthquake hit her country, has worked tirelessly to help her fellow Nepalis;

>> American ski mountaineers Chris Davenport, Christy Mahon and Ted Mahon, who, this past May, became the first people to climb and ski Colorado’s 100 highest peaks, all with summits over 13,800 feet;

>> Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgenson, a pair of American rock climbers who spent 19 days on the side of 3,000-foot El Capitan in Yosemite to complete the first free ascent of the Dawn Wall, a seven-year-in-the-planning odyssey;

>> The Afghan Women’s Cycling Team, a group of women in Afghanistan who have defied cultural taboos and endured harassment by riding bicycles with the goal of competing internationally, ultimately sparking a cultural debate about women’s rights in their country;

>> Swiss pilots André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, who completed the first trans-Pacific flight by solar plane, flying day and night for five days from Japan to Hawaii without using a single drop of fuel;

>> Wildlife photographer Joe Riis and biologist Arthur Middleton, who teamed up to chronicle the Yellowstone elk herd’s annual migration, using art and science to call on policymakers to protect the herd’s vital wilderness corridors; and

>> American ultrarunner Scott Jurek, who capped a 20-year career in trail running with a speed record on the iconic Appalachian Trail.