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For Hanna Farrar, Gravity Is Just a State of Mind

Hanna Farrar '09
Hanna Farrar '09
Hanna Farrar '09
Hanna Farrar '09 navigates the huge waves at the 2007 World Freestyle Kayaking Championships in May. She took top American placing, finishing fifth overall in the senior women's class. (Photos courtesy Hanna Farrar '09)

The Phonix Monkey is very cool and you have to love the Space Godzilla. But Hanna Farrar '09 says her favorite is the Air Screw.

Like the McNasty and the Tricky Woo, the Air Screw is a maneuver performed by elite freestyle kayakers, of which Farrar is one of the best. At the 2007 World Freestyle Kayaking Championships on Canada's Ottawa River in early May, the sophomore from Carbondale, Colo., was the top American and fifth finisher overall in the senior women's class.

Farrar, who competed in the 2003 worlds in Austria and the 2005 worlds in Australia in the junior women's class, describes her up-and-coming sport this way: "You utilize features on the river called waves and holes to do as many and as difficult tricks as you can. You are scored on the difficulty, the variety, and the explosiveness of the tricks you do."

Tricks on each 45-second run over a 2007 World Championships course that featured the colorfully—and appropriately—named Bus Eater wave, included all manner of flips, spins, and even aerials like the Air Screw, essentially a barrel roll above the water. "Just thinking about having a kayak go aerial doesn't make much sense because kayaks are for going on the water," Farrar says with a laugh. "But especially with the waves on which the world competition was held, you could use the dynamics of the water and how the boats are built to actually bounce and accelerate off the face of the wave and get airborne. That leads to all kinds of possibilities for tricks."

Farrar followed an older brother into a sport that clearly fits her personality. Growing up not far from Aspen, she was a freestyle telemark and alpine skiing champion fond of backflips, as well as a competitive climber. An old biography on the Internet lists, "A ship in a port is safe, but that's not what ships are for," as her favorite quote, which should surprise no one who knows her.

"A lot of the sports I do, especially alpine skiing, I try to push to the limit," Farrar says. "It makes it fun for me. Just skiing down the slope gets boring after a while."

Farrar believes her background in skiing, high school soccer, and climbing works to her advantage on the water and above it.

"Having an athletic awareness of where I am in the air or where I am on a wave is helpful," she says. "Skiing helped me develop an awareness of what the different parts of my body are doing and what I need to do to stay balanced and execute the tricks."

Farrar is considering a geography major modified with geology and has thoughts about medical school. While the Upper Valley can't boast of anything like the legendary Bus Eater, it does afford easy access to some fun creeks as well as the Connecticut River, so she's happy.

"A lot of people asked me if I would go to a school that didn't have kayaking nearby," Farrar said. "Kayaking was important in choosing a school, but I could have given up proximity to kayaking for a place I love. It just happened that Dartmouth had both."

By BRUCE WOOD

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Last Updated: 5/30/08