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And She Kayaks!

Professional paddle prodigy Tanya Shuman on fans, rivers, and losing her float bags

When National Freestyle Kayak Champion Tanya Shuman isn't raising the bar in the water, the Maryland native is raising blood pressures on land.

A lot of importance seems to be placed on "paddling technique." What's the secret to yours?
I utilize the water; if you know how to finesse and balance, then it's a lot easier.

Is kayaking the most fun you can have with a paddle?
Most fun with a paddle? Oh, definitely not.

Please explain the following terms:
"blunting."
That's a kayaking maneuver on a wave where you actually kick back and get air.

"Spray skirt."
The apparatus that you wear around your waist. It, um, goes over the cockpit.

"Wet exit."
When you flip your kayak, pull your spray skirt, and get out of the cockpit. It's a safety maneuver and one of the first things you learn.

"Float bags."
Air-filled bags that you put in the back of your kayak that help keep the boat above water.

Use at least three of them in a sentence.
I was making a wet exit, so I had to pull my spray skirt ... I moved so fast, my float bags almost popped out! How's that?

Perfect. Does that mean you're a fast girl?
I do have a problem with speeding. I'm so competitive and love the rush I get when I'm kayaking. I tend to take that with me on the highway, too. Once, I was arrested, handcuffed, and broughtto jail for speeding while on my way to a competition. All that just because I didn't have my license! Another time, I was racing this green crotch-rocket, and the cop stopped me. I could have outrun him, but it didn't seem like a good idea. I can't wait to go back to Germany to hit the autobahn.

What's the worst pickup line you have ever heard from a kayaking enthusiast?
Oh, God—I've heard so many cheese-ball lines, but I don't get a lot of crazy people around me because my twin sister runs interference for me. We're like Charlie's Angels—any time someone comes up to me, she's like, "Uh-uh! No way!" They usually think she's me anyway and go after her!

What are some out-of-the-ordinary places you've been kayaking?
You name it, I've been there.

How about New York City's East River?
Yup. It was pretty disgusting. I was out on an expedition in the New York Harbor—showing people how to roll, exit, and so on—but it was so polluted. There were condoms and garbage floating in the water . . . thank God for nose plugs.

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