Becky Bristow

Expedition Kayaker

Dec 1, 2004
Outside Magazine

Just eight weeks after the U.S. State Department warned Americans off traveling to Iran this May, 27-year-old expedition kayaker Becky Bristow drove overland from Turkey with a team of paddlers from Britain and Argentina for a series of self-supported multi-day descents down Iran's Class IV and V Bakhtiari, Zez, and Sezar rivers. As it turns out, pushy water was only half of the challenge: Reconciling river-rat culture with Islamic law came with its own set of hardships. Despite 100-degree average temperatures, Bristow paddled in long pants and a long-sleeved shirt and donned a head scarf while portaging. At one point, three villagers accosted the team along the Zez River—holding Becky in her boat and making menacing hand gestures until the team's British photographer, Alex Nicks, handed over his camera to appease them. "That was some outrageous stuff that I don't think happens over there that often," says Bristow. "The majority of the time we met beautiful people who were generous and friendly." Bristow got her start on tamer waters in 1989, paddling the North Saskatchewan River near her home in Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, in a 13-foot fiberglass kayak her father bought at a garage sale. Fourteen years later, she has notched first descents in Alaska, Ecuador, Russia, and B.C. (she scouted drainages from a helicopter during the three summers she fought forest fires), starred in TGR's film Wehyakin and Scott Lindgren's Aerated, and is in the process of launching her own production company, Wild Soul Creations. "She comes off as an unassuming, mild-mannered Canadian," says fellow paddler Kristen Read, 29. "It turns out she's also a total badass."

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