Katrina Van Wijk: Founder of TiTs Deep

Pho­to © John Webster

Pro kayak­er Kat­ri­na Van Wijk has made her mark on the white­wa­ter world in more ways than one. This year she became the first female to com­pete in the North Fork Cham­pi­onships on the Payette Riv­er in Ida­ho and has a come in first at both the Green Race in 2013 and the Lit­tle White Salmon Race in 2014. Not only is she paving the path for female boaters by scor­ing high and turn­ing heads at these com­pe­ti­tions, but she is also the founder of TiTs Deep, an orga­ni­za­tion that rec­og­nizes and cel­e­brates oth­er extreme women in the sport of kayaking.

THE CLYMB: Can you give us a run down on what TiTs Deep is and where you came up with this idea?
Kat­ri­na Van Wijk: It’s kind of fun­ny: a group of us Slalom girls start­ed jok­ing around and telling each oth­er, “You got­ta look sexy out there, tits up,” as a way to talk about our dif­fer­ent style of boat­ing. In 2010 when I was train­ing for my first Green race in North Car­oli­na I was prac­tic­ing this one move above a 15 foot drop. Some­times you can get pit­ted into it and sink way down. I just plugged it in one of my train­ing laps and just yelled out, “I’m Tits Deep!” From then on the word just kind of stuck.

The kayak­ing world is awe­some, I have incred­i­ble guy friends and I love it but I start­ed ask­ing myself the ques­tion, why aren’t there oth­er girls out here charg­ing with me? I felt like we need­ed an all female mis­sion. That’s why I grouped up with a bunch of oth­er girls and we trav­el the world and kayak. We just came back from Norway.

THE CLYMB: TiTs Deep is def­i­nite­ly a mot­to among all the female boaters I know, like you said. Why do you think it’s become such a pop­u­lar say­ing?
KVW: There are oth­er female pad­dling groups out there. And I think there’s room for all of us. Some­one like Anna Levesque with Girls At Play has a slow­er approach, a more sup­port­ive way of learn­ing how to kayak, where­as TiTs Deep is just a lit­tle bit more out there, push­ing your­self to anoth­er lim­it. So I think there are girls out there who been stoked to have a dif­fer­ent out­look to look up to. And then there’s also the wow fac­tor of the name, I’m sure.

THE CLYMB: Do women have a dif­fer­ent style of boat­ing than men? Are there pros and cons of being a female ath­lete in this sport?
KVW: Yeah, I def­i­nite­ly have watched men and tried to copy their style. As female kayak­ers we have to learn to use the water because we aren’t as strong as the men. We learn how to use the water a lit­tle bit eas­i­er, how to har­ness that ener­gy. You real­ly don’t have to be that strong to pad­dle. You just use the water to your benefit.

THE CLYMB: What advice do you have for women and girls who are new to white­wa­ter kayak­ing?
KVW: Do it. Take a course or get your friends to get you on a riv­er. Don’t give up if it gets to hard because it’s incred­i­ble out there. Even if it’s on Class II there are so many incred­i­ble rivers that go through some of the most beau­ti­ful, mag­i­cal places in this world and it’s so worth it to pad­dle those rivers. 

THE CLYMB: What has kayak­ing taught you about your­self?
KVW: You always have to be patient with kayak­ing because some­times you don’t get it. That’s a hard ques­tion but I think I learned most things that I know about myself on the riv­er when I’m trav­el­ing, doing a solo mis­sion, or from the oth­er peo­ple that I know through kayaking.

THE CLYMB: Who are the oth­er ath­letes that make up TiTs Deep?
KVW: There’s lots of girls out there, we don’t real­ly have a team, per say. We kind of just say everybody’s TiTs Deep if they want to be. 

THE CLYMB: What is the future of TiTs Deep?
KVW: I’m hop­ing to build some sort of web­site for any­one around the world in any sport to find out infor­ma­tion about an area or to hook up with oth­er females. It would also have con­tent for female ath­letes, like videos, sto­ries, and cool adven­tures that women are doing around the world. I think that would be incred­i­ble. I’m in school right now so I’m quite busy but one day it will be up there.