Justine Curgenven is a badass. She paddles her sea kayak through raging surf in remote locales and makes movies about it. She was part of the first all female team to circumnavigate Tasmania. She climbs, bikes and, on occasion, skis. In short, we’re big fans.
When did you start paddling?
I started kayaking 10 years ago in the Jersey Canoe Club (in the British Channel Islands).
Has sea kayaking always been your first outdoor love?
I spend a lot of time surf kayaking, climbing, biking and walking in the mountains. I competed in the world surf kayak championships for the England team a few years ago, and I’ve climbed new rock routes in Greenland & filmed a successful ascent of Aconcagua (in Argentina). And I support my play by making TV programs and DVDs!
Before I became outdoor obsessed, team sports like hockey, squash and rugby were my passion. I played sport all the time, and represented England at hockey at university. When I left uni, my best friend started dragging me outside to go walking, mountain biking and kayaking and I discovered that I loved fresh air and the ability to explore nature while getting a good work out. The outdoors became my passion at the same time as I started a career in television. Soon I decided I had to spend more time kayaking and exploring so I gave up my job and started to try to make a living from filming kayaking and other outdoor adventures.
Tell us the idea behind Cackletv.com? Where does the name come from?
It’s named after my characteristic laugh! Someone recently emailed me and said that after watching my DVDs, he understood the reason for the name.
You’ve been all over the world. Where’s your favorite place to paddle?
My favorite place to paddle is ‘the next place’ as I always enjoy seeing and experiencing new environments and ways of life. I’ve paddled in many places including New Zealand, Newfoundland, Norway, Australia, the Netherlands, Greece, Russia, Iceland, Alaska, California, Florida, Georgia, the San Juan Islands, all over the British Isles and even a few days in France.
Kamchatka in Russia is an amazing place with big surf, the world’s largest population of brown bears, virtually no people or roads and strict rules and regulations. Hadas Feldman and I had a fantastic trip there in 2003. We had to take a Russian ‘guide’ with us who had never been in a sea kayak before.
He swam a lot in the big surf! We also got arrested by eight soldiers and taken away on a tank. The expedition was a wonderful way to see a beautiful remote country with fascinating people.
A few years ago, I spent six weeks in Alaska with a wildlife photographer. He was taking photos of humpback whales from his kayak and I was filming him. It’s such a beautiful place and it was amazing to have such huge, magnificent creatures erupt to the surface while bubblenet feeding a few hundred meters away from the kayak. I’d love to go back to Alaska and explore more.
My home area in North Wales is pretty hard to beat though, as the cliffs are stunning, the currents are strong and the tidal races are exciting. The sea conditions are always different and it’s often windy but you can usually choose to go on a pretty coastal trip, or get the adrenaline running in the moving water.
What are your future expedition/travel plans?
I have two trips planned: In March I’ve been invited to a symposium in Australia by the New South Wales kayak club and afterwards my boyfriend, Alun, and I will attempt to kayak across the East side of the Bass Strait from Australia to Tasmania. The Bass Strait is shallow with strong currents and sudden storms so it’s a challenging trip. We cross via a series of islands, the longest crossing being 67km.
In July and August, Alun and I will join our friends Shawna Franklin and Leon Somme from the San Juan Islands and attempt to kayak around Haida Gwaii (The Queen Charlotte Islands) in British Columbia ( including a 70km crossing back to mainland Canada). It’s about 1,000km around a beautiful, challenging and remote island chain.
Before both of those, I’ll be at Canoecopia in Wisconsin for the world premiere and launch of ‘This is the Sea 3″ (March 9-11), sponsored by Lendal.
What has been you’re greatest paddling accomplishment?
In terms of paddling, my most challenging trip so far is the first all-female circumnavigation of Tasmania with Trys Morris & Gemma Rawlings.
We paddled 850 miles around the Australian island over 37 days dealing with endless headwinds and large swells. But I think my greatest off-water accomplishment is creating seakayaking DVDs which inspire people to get out paddling.
So you’re a professional kayaker. Seems like an oxymoron. What else do you do for money?
I make television programs. I’ve been trained as a journalist, producer, director, camerawoman and editor so I work in various roles on different programs. Television work tends to come and go like busses—I’ve either got loads or none!
Recently I produced a 6-part series about the threats facing endangered wildlife. Next year, I’m not looking for any TV work. I want to concentrate on making kayaking DVDs, kayaking and traveling.
Fill us non-European paddlers in on your film work. You’ve made several movies. We’ve seen your video promoted as TITS3. What’s up with the acronym?
The latest DVD is called ‘This is the Sea 3″. It’s a similar format to 2 previous DVDs I’ve made called “This is the Sea” and “This is the Sea 2”.
The unintentional acronym is TITS ! It means that, unless I know people very well, I have to write out the name of the DVDs in full. It has caused a few chuckles.
The DVDs are a celebration of seakayaking, showing some of the world’s top seapaddlers in exciting conditions, on challenging expeditions and in stunning locations around the world. They’re inspirational, rather than instructional. In TITS 3 the features are generally slightly longer and more in-depth, with more of an insight into the personalities. I think the action footage is the best yet with dramatic shots of some excellent paddlers taking on the meaty “Falls of Lora” tidal race in Scotland. I’ve also included footage of where it goes wrong.