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November 6, 2019

Nathan Fa'avae – 5-Time World Champion on Packrafts in Adventure Racing

Adventure Stories

Ambassador Dulkara Martig chats with accomplished adventure racer, Nathan Fa’avae, about packrafts and their use in adventure racing. Check out Nathan’s book, “Adventurer at Heart,” on

DM: What expedition races have you used packrafts in?
NF: The first time was eco challenge Fiji in 2002. I’d never heard of them prior to that, but was impressed with the concept. I bought a single and have used it a lot since. The next race I needed them for was the 2015 world champs in Brazil, we had a monster packraft stage in the pantanal, incredible place. I used them in the 2016 world champs, and Godzone 2018. I suspect they’ve been used in about 10 races now, including the past three world championships. My next race is Reunion Island.

DM: What do you think about the inclusion of packrafts in expedition racing?
NF: I think they offer a lot in making courses more interesting and remote, so I am excited about the potential. I just hope they don’t become a lazy option for some events to avoid getting kayaks. Packrafts in the right situation are awesome, but used in the wrong place they’re not fun.

DM: Any moments that stick out as particularly unique/memorable using packrafts in AR?
NF: The best packraft stage I’ve been in was in Pantanal because there was a lot of discussion and strategy about when to paddle and when best to walk. So, it had more relevance. Other races have just been straight paddles.

DM: Where do you see packrafts in the AR world in the next 5-10yrs? 
NF: I think applied well, packrafts should be able to make courses more remote and more dynamic. Being able to access waterways away from roads and infrastructure is a huge appeal. Not every race will have the terrain for packrafts, but if the area is suitable, then it’s a big value add. Technology wise, I think getting the paddlers in the doubles into comfortable and powerful paddling positions will be a great advancement. 

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Nathan Fa'avae