One Woman, One Kayak, One Continent
by Joe Glickman
In 2009 at age 46, kayaker Freya Hoffmeister undertook the circumnavigation of the entire continent of Australia in 12 months.
A Book Review by Helen Workman
If you are looking to read about a woman’s spiritual transformation as she journeys solo around a continent nearly as large as her ego, then this book is not for you. It is not an Eat Pray Love-athon, but more so, a true story about a woman who decided what she wanted to do, connected all the dots to do so, and then set out and proved to many nay-sayers that she could do it. And so she did.
As the story progressed, I found myself feeling sympathetic towards Freya, even sorry for her, as I sensed loneliness and a desperate need for attention contradicted by a desire for privacy. I’m not convinced she is fearless (as a matter of fact, in one chapter, she admits to being afraid). However, I am convinced that what kept her going is her refusal to give into that fear and her driven nature to complete what she started. In Fearless, the author creates a fair balance of factual and personal information where, no matter what the reader thinks of the subject, one cannot deny this journey was a most amazing and historical accomplishment. Journalism at it’s finest.
As a paddler, I knew something about Freya’s trip through articles written by Joe Glickman, and from occasionally reading her blog entries. Because I found the blog almost painful to read due to her flat and dull writing style, overabundance of emoticons, and self-adulating nature, I had already decided I didn’t think this was the type of gal friend I would call up to go get a pedicure (although it appears she prefers to do this herself…well, of course she does!) Yet, I looked forward to the book’s release, and when it arrived, I was ready to give it a go.
From page one, Joe Glickman draws you into the Who, What, Where, and attempts to answer the Why of this most complicated, frustrating, and goal-driven woman. He does a swell job in describing the geography, environment (sharks and crocs, oh my), history, and culture of Australia. These descriptions and stories provided mental visuals that helped me in realizing the significance of Freya’s trek and the absurd mental strength needed to persevere day after day…alone. (The chapter on the Zuytdorp Cliffs was most striking and also my favorite). The stories of the interactions between Freya and Oscar Chalupsky as well as other key characters, and the author’s own personal stories such as his encounter with the blue bottles were darn amusing. Do not doubt: Joe Glickman is a funny man.
Fearless should appeal not only to the obvious mob of kayakers, canoeists and other lovers of water sports, but also to anyone with a curiosity of foreign lands, quest for adventure, and to those who appreciate and ponder the ability to overcome extreme adversity. It's a quick and easy read, made enjoyable by the author's wit and insightful contributions.
(Note: My only criticisms: there were a few--less than 5 small fingers--typo/grammatical errors uncaught by the editor, and the ending seemed a little rushed--perhaps the book was as eager as Freya was to finish...or maybe I just didn't want it to end.)
Organizer, US Surfski Championships, Wavechaser Northern California Race Series
Freya Hoffmeister is currently paddling around the coastline of South America with a goal to finish in 24 months.