Nikki Kelly | New Zealand

Year Inducted: 2017
Years Active: 1999- Present
Home Base: New Zealand

Explorer Accomplishments:

In the world of competitive rafting Nikki Kelly is the most successful paddler (including men) of her generation; her team were World Champions in 1999, 2001, 2003 and 2013 – every other year they competed they achieved a second, two thirds and two fourths. She has won 12 gold medals, 12 silver and 6 bronze medals; a total haul of 30 medals – a record in itself!

Besides rafting Nikki has a long list of other achievements:

  • Teva Mountain Games competitor: 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008
  • Completed the ‘7 Rivers Expedition’ 2004, USA (kayaking serious grade five white water non stop for 50 plus days)
  • First female descent of the Stikine River, British Colombia, Canada
  • Countless first river descents
  • Reno Freestyle Festival: 2nd place in 2004 and 2006, 3rd in 2007
  • Ford Gorge Games Extreme Kayak Champion 2002
  • World’s Fittest Woman Contest 2003, Hong Kong: 2nd place

From the age 20-33 she was at the top of the extreme kayaking field – she is often spoken about as the best extreme kayaker in the world at that time (there were no World’s during this period). Nikki has also competed in freestyle, canoe slalom, canoe polo, kayak surfing, surfski, stand up paddleboarding and outriggers at a national and world level.

Nikki’s achievements alone are an inspiration to all paddlers, but in particular to women paddlers who have seen her achieve greatness in a discipline that has been reasonably male-dominated since she first started paddling. She inspires women all over the world ‘to get out there, try new things and believe in themselves.’