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Anna Stishova: aka Kayaking Hijabi - Completing the Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race.

Renata Chlumska  - Adventure athlete who became the first Swedish and Czech woman to climb Mount Everest and in 2005 did a circumnavigate of the lower 48 States of the United States by her own power.

Meet Anna Stishova, an adventurous paddler hailing from Russia, whose paddling journey began in the UK in 2011. With a strong initial focus on white water kayaking, Anna's path took an unexpected turn towards flat water marathon racing due to various challenges she encountered along the way. As a dedicated paddler, Anna not only pursued her own goals but also became a staunch advocate for inclusivity in the sport. Let's delve into Anna's inspiring story of determination and community impact.

Overcoming Obstacles and Chasing Dreams:

In 2015, Anna faced a significant setback when an elbow injury from a bike accident forced her to put her athletic pursuits on hold for six months. However, Anna's indomitable spirit remained unwavering. In 2016, she earned her Coaching Paddlesports qualification and generously volunteered at the Leaside Trust in London, sharing her knowledge and passion for the sport.

Anna's ultimate aspiration was to complete the formidable Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race, a challenging 125-mile-long journey often referred to as the "Kayaker's Everest." Undeterred, she participated in this demanding race twice, first in 2017 and then in 2018, paddling in a K1 kayak. Although her first attempt resulted in disqualification on Day 3 due to a minor time delay, her second endeavour faced unexpected adversities as adverse weather and treacherous water conditions forced the entire race to halt on Day 2.

During her time at Leaside, Anna crossed paths with Sirin Arif Gisel, a young Turkish girl who had relocated to the UK from Romania. Recognising Sirin's potential, Anna invited her to be her Junior-Veteran kayak crew for the 2019 DW race. Their collaboration paid off handsomely as they successfully completed the race, becoming the first female Muslim K2 crew to conquer the DW challenge. With Anna's achievement, she became the first hijabi Muslim woman, to finish the race.

Life's Transformations and Continued Resilience:

In 2019, Anna tied the knot shortly before the DW race and subsequently moved to Bolton. The following year, she experienced the joys of motherhood, along with the challenges posed by the Covid-19 lockdowns. Anna herself contracted the virus in April 2020 and continues to deal with its lingering effects.

Furthermore, the combination of a demanding pregnancy, labor, and the pandemic led to a decline in her fitness levels. However, Anna discovered solace and rejuvenation by joining the Bolton Canoe Club toward the end of that challenging year. Her passion for paddling even inspired her stepchildren to explore the sport.

Advocacy and Recognition:

Anna's dedication and remarkable achievements within the paddling community did not go unnoticed. In 2021, she was honoured to become a #ShePaddles Ambassador for British Canoeing, serving as a role model and advocate for female participation in the sport. She also joined the Inclusion Advisory Group for British Canoeing, actively contributing to the development of the organisation's Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) strategy for the years 2022 to 2026.

Looking ahead, Anna continues to be a shining example of perseverance, determination, and the power of inclusivity in the world of paddlesports. Her journey serves as an inspiration to all those who dare to chase their dreams, overcome obstacles, and make a lasting impact on their communities.


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Show notes

  • Who is Anna

  • Moving to the UK in 2003 at 20 years old

  • Her love for paddlesports

  • Her childhood and growing up in Russia

  • Getting introduced to the outdoors

  • Festivals and kayaking in Siberia

  • Wanting to start over in the UK

  • Her first big rafting trip at 18

  • Not knowing where to paddle in the UK

  • Converting to Islam & getting married

  • Losing herself and going through a hard time

  • Visiting her parents in 2011 and going on a 21 day kayaking trip with friends in Siberia

  • Wolves & bears!

  • Getting back into paddling again once back in the UK

  • Finding a local canoe club

  • How things have changed over the past 10 years

  • Hiring a coach

  • Struggling with barriers in white water rafting and needing to make a pivot

  • Getting into flat water marathon racing

  • Being better suited to endurance

  • Kayaking marathons

  • Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race

  • Persevering with the race and going back 3x

  • Deciding to enter as a Junior (aged between 15-19 years old) & Veteran Team

  • Finding her team mate, Sirin Arif Gisel

  • Dealing with the death of a competitor during the end of the race

  • The lessons and learning from completing the race

  • The support from the flatwater community

  • The mental challenges while being out on the river

  • Being a role model

  • Feeling judged by the non paddling muslin community

  • Using water sports as a way to have time to herself

  • Motherhood and continuing with paddlesports

  • Not being able to get out and paddle during the lockdowns

  • Getting back into paddlesport

  • Dealing with a back injury and not being able to get back into a kayak

  • Taking up Stand Up Paddle boarding

  • Being a She Paddles Ambassador (2021-2022)

  • Being a member of the Inclusion Advisory Group for British Canoeing

  • How to connect with Anna on Instagram & Facebook

  • Follow #ShePaddles hashtag on Instagram

  • Advice for women who want to try new things


Social Media

Instagram: @KayakingHijabi

Facebook: @KayakingHijabi


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