Born and breed in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand Mike Dawson grew up paddling the local rivers in his backyard. His competitive career was kick started as a 17-year-old in 2004, when he won and rocked up the stunning Wairoa Extreme race. He had discovered the sport a couple of years earlier and had gone into the Tauranga Boys’ College production line of talented paddlers but when he blitzed some of the best whitewater specialists on the globe to win on the Wairoa, people just sat up and started taking notice.
Mike used this win to kick-start an incredible year, winning his first New Zealand slalom title, finishing in the top-10 of the world junior slalom championships and picking up a clutch of wins in Australia, including the Youth Olympic slalom crown.
Since then, he’s created a string of competition highlights, both in extreme racing and the Olympic slalom discipline His wins include a second Wairoa Extreme crown in 2005, Voss Extreme, the Swiss Boatercross Masters and Week titles in 2008, free-ride kayak wins the Teva Mountain Games in 2009 and 2011, 2012, 2013 and free-ride world championship success in 2009, 2010 and 2011. Sickline Extreme Kayak World Championships (2009 2nd, 2011 2nd, 2012 3rd, 2014 2nd)
In September 2011, Mike became just the fourth New Zealander to qualify for the Olympic Games. He’s also an experienced expedition paddler, having paddled rivers the United States, Africa, Europe, Mexico and throughout New Zealand.
“My biggest goal is to do what I love and enjoy it, and see where that takes me,” he said. “If I get paid it’s a bonus, but I would still be doing it cash or no cash!”
I’m always looking to accomplish being stoked on what I am doing and loving the life I’m living. As soon as that changes I’ll be looking for something new that gets me to that place. Right now it’s kayaking and the journey towards the Rio Olympic Games in 2016. I’m 100% focused on that right now.
Greatest achievement would be making the NZ Olympic team for the 2012 games. It was a brutal selection for the spot. Otherwise I love the expeditions and getting out there and exploring the world. In that sense the best achievement I have is paddling the Murchison Falls section of the White Nile in Uganda. It was a full on 5 days in the wilderness totally out of our comfort zone.
Kayaking is a crazy sport. It’s so diverse and the water is always changing. The difficulty right now is keeping up with the progressions in racing, river running and staying up with the level of paddling. People all around the globe are pushing what’s possible in extreme racing, slalom, expeditions, and waterfalls. It’s a cool time to be involved in the sport.
Having the sweetest run on the water. The feeling I get when the body is in tune with the water is incredible. It’s why I do it, win or lose.
I live really close to the Kaituna River in New Zealand. It’s the best place for kayakers to hone their skills. It’s the skate park of kayaking.
A super friendly river that is easy to practice anything and everything. Plus the community around is rad. It’s a super tight bunch of people always out and about doing things on the river or in the environment.
I paddle as much as possible. Mostly on whitewater. I’m paddling slalom kayaking for most of the year and the transfer to creeking and extreme kayaking is first class so I try to paddle as much slalom as possible in the NZ summer to be ready for the northern hemisphere summer. Basically our training is about getting better and better at the moves that we need to do in races.
Everyone’s nervous it’s just about how you can deal with it. I guess the thing that’s the worse is being scared of failing or screwing your run. It’s cool to be nervous but be excited at the same time. In extreme racing sometimes you’re nervous about whether the line you’ve chosen is runnable.
Enjoy what you do. And get out there disconnect from the world and experience.
The future is awesome. It’s super exciting. We have the qualification for the Rio Olympics coming up in London this year, plus a ton of awesome adventures lined up. I’m looking forward to keeping doing what I do!