Kiwi ingenuity in action before Canoe Marathon World Champs

Emma Kemp has been putting in the  mahi at Mana and ten days out from the 2023 ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships, she is excited to put her learning into action, less than a year after her first international marathon race.

“Last year was a cool and challenging experience,” laughs Emma of her Marathon Worlds experience in Portugal last September. “It was only my second-ever marathon. It was my first marathon race outside of NZ,  first overseas racing experience and first time in a country that didn’t speak English. A lot of firsts, but I learnt so much about myself from those experiences.”

Emma, 23, is one of 7 Kiwi paddlers representing New Zealand in Vejen, Denmark in the long-distance World Championships, which begins on 31 August.
Marathon races can be over 30 km  long and include regular portages – running whilst carrying your kayak.  Emma is racing in the women’s K1 U23 race, which this year consists of 6 laps and 5 portages to make up the 23km course.

For this year’s event, she knows what to expect and, with the support of her Mana Kayak Club coach Mark Watson and some dedicated training buddies, has been racking up the miles on Porirua Harbour.

Training in the lead up to Denmark has included 2hr plus aerobic paddles as well as threshold and VO2 max sessions on the water and erg. Emma and Mark have been exploring how to approach threshold sessions a bit differently this year, trying out longer efforts made up of up to 40 minute repeats holding a critical speed.

“Last year most of my training was solo. This year it’s been great having a squad of around 6 paddlers from Mana Kayak Club who regularly train together. I’ve also been very lucky to leverage some excellent learning off Tim Waller and Liam Lace (current Oceania marathon champion).”

“Portages are a big work-on for me but we’ve had to get creative with training and show some kiwi ingenuity, being in Wellington in winter,” explains Emma. “The jetty is often icy and has nails which makes portage practice difficult and dangerous. Instead, we have spent a lot of time in the park, doing press-ups to mimic fatigue in the arms from paddling, then running with 10kg kettlebells.”


She is used to juggling things. In her final year of her biomedical science degree, Emma has had to learn how to balance the requirements of her study with being a full-time athlete and having to support herself.

Despite all that, and in an effort to become competitive on the international stage, Emma has spent the last year targeting international racing. She travelled to Penrith in February for the Australian Grand Prix 2 Sprint Regatta, before heading over to Geelong in April for the Australian and Oceania Marathon Championships and finishing just seconds off the podium. She also represented NZ at the U23 Canoe Sprint World in Auronzo, Italy, coming 2nd in the B final in her U23 K1 1000m event, before finishing an impressive 4th place in the 5000m race.

“I had no idea how I would go, the focus was very much on practicing my mental skills in a high-pressure environment. It was so much fun, the location was out of this world and I learnt heaps about myself throughout the competition so really the result was just a bonus.”


Emma values the variety that both marathon and sprint racing bring to her enjoyment of training and competing in the sport.

“Both offer transformational skills that are going to help me further in life, along with the mental refresh I get from having a different focus at different times of the year.”

“I’ve found that the aerobic nature of marathon racing and the skills gained from racing throughout winter have benefited the durability of my sprinting capacity. Whereas the sprint component over summer has helped grow my confidence in starting and accelerating, which are major components of marathon racing.”


All the best to Emma and the NZ team in Denmark.
Stay tuned to CRNZ media channels for updates on the action.


2023 ICF Canoe Marathon World Championship,
August 31 – September 3
Vejen, Denmark

Watch Live on Recast- Planet Canoe Channel


2023 NZ Canoe Marathon World Championship Team
Sarah Lockwood – Open WK1
Samuel Newlands – Open MK1
Liam Lace – U23 MK1
Emma Kemp – U23 WK1
Briana Trewern – U18 WK1
Deva Bennett – U18WK1
Liam Neal- U18 MK1