In the Spotlight: Deborah Pinniger

More people, more paddling, more often.

In the Spotlight: Deborah Pinniger

How do we introduce someone who has done so much? Debs is the former world champion, twice, has penned several books on paddling, is an extremely accomplished photographer and is currently completing her PhD. Beyond all of this, Debs is endlessly inquisitive and has paddled all around the globe, bringing back countless tales of triumph and troubles along the way. This inquisition goes further than exploration, she will find something interesting in each and every person she speaks to, paddler or not.

Who are you?  

I am Deborah Pinniger 

Why do you paddle? 

For many reasons, to be in and move through nature, to enjoy bodily movement and the rivers currents, to hang out and meet interesting and motivated people, to learn about all of those things: people, nature, body and self.

What have you got going on in paddling at the moment? 

Not too much, I am on a year of unpaid leave from work to write my PhD thesis, so I am just paddling as and where I can. Although, I have written a chapter in my thesis on reading terrain and use kayaking and reading the river as an example, so hopefully I can make something from it to share with the kayaking community once I am finished. 

Where did you learn to paddle? 

I learnt to paddle in my home town of Chippenham, on the river Avon and at various other venues and pools close by.

Who is your paddling hero?

Oh that is a difficult one, I think really anyone that enjoys getting out in a boat and is motivated to make the effort can be an inspiration. 

If you could be a part of any moment in paddling history, what would it be (ignore your paddling level, just go for it!)? 

I’m pretty content with my paddling history, however, I think being part of and competing at the London 2012 Olympics would have been pretty amazing, from the UK. 

If you could paddle with anyone at all, who would it be (not necessarily a paddler)? 

I think I might have enjoyed going kayaking and discussing life with the late writer and art critic John Berger, he seemed so engaged and had a mischievous streak to his character, a way of perhaps enjoying everything.

What is your favourite place you have ever paddled? 

It’s hard to say, I think the Zambezi still has to be one of the best rivers in the world.

Anywhere you’ve not paddled that you’d like to? 

I’d like to paddle some of the classic rivers in India the Brahmaputra, also in some of the other regions there too, Kerala, Aran Chal Pradesh, Meghalaya, the tributes of the Ganges.

Photo by George Younger

Your latest type 2 fun adventure? (Type two fun being retrospective fun, not necessarily fun at the time!)  

Type 2 fun might be last week, kayak surfing with a massive offshore wind and a 15 second period and 4 foot in a plastic play boat and not catching a single wave, because I was too slow to paddle in. However, I got a lot of fun wave wheels and felt so invigorated after paddling my ass off in the wind for an hour, it was a lot of fun.

Your favourite swim (must be you in the water)? 

It might be swimming out of the hole on number 18 on the Zambezi, after surfing through an upright raft and it rafting clients. The raft flipped and went out of the hole and I stayed surfing with no paddle, so decided I should pop my skirt and swim out before take two occurred. 

If you could be any animal, what would it be? 

Perhaps a cross between a bird and a dolphin, an animal that could swim and fly that would pretty amazing.

Quick fire would you rather… Starter or desert 

I guess it depends, everything is down to context

Be attacked by twelve duck sized horses or one horse sized duck 

One horse sized duck

Have two sets of knees or change gender every time you sneeze? 


Breathe underwater or see in the dark? 

Breathing underwater could be helpful

Tea or Coffee? 

Contextual – haha

Lose your paddle, lose your boat? 


Speedos or Shorts? 

Speedos for the pool and shorts for the river

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