2020 Grom of the Year

Presented by


Offical Sweet Protection logo
The future of kayaking looks BRIGHT !!
Celebrating the most solid up and comer, age 18 and under, in the World of Kayaking !!

Rachel Buys


This young gun is approaching kayaking with an attitude of fun, reminding those around her to enjoy the process and surround yourself with an environment that inspires growth.

Whitewater Awards: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Rachel Buys: I am planning to become a nurse, the dream for me is to be a travel nurse. I would love to go back to Ecuador or Zambia and work there. 

WA: Where did you grow up? Where are you living currently?
RB: I was born in Asheville, North Carolina and have lived there all my life. It was the perfect place to be introduced to the sport. 

WA: Someone in kayaking who has motivated you?
RB: A huge shoutout to all the World Class Kayak Academy staff, especially my mentor Nicole Mansfield, they have all taught me so much. Our head coach, Kalob Grady is my biggest motivation in kayaking, he is truly dedicated to the progression of the sport, well rounded as a paddler and a person, but most of all he is a great guy. He has shown me what it means to be a kayaker. 

WA: Who taught you to kayak?
RB: My dad taught me to roll and sent me down my first rapids, and the Ottawa Kayak School Keener program is where I really grew as a beginner paddler. 

WA: When you were learning what was the scariest part?
RB: All of it, it was all terrifying at first! I had a big fear of swimming which probably helped me in the end because I would NOT give up on my roll. 

WA: Planing or displacement hulls?
RB: I would say there is a time in place for both, but for the past year I have been using, and loving, a planing hull!

WA: What was / is the most fun you have paddling?
RB: My favorite aspect of kayaking in doing overnighters and multi-days, last January I did a self support kayak trip down the Grand Canyon. Kayaking can take you to places not very many other people have been, and to the greatest views on earth. 

WA: Do you have siblings? Do they kayak?
RB: I have two older brothers and a younger sister, one of my older brothers, Zac, is also a paddler, but we are all fans of the outdoors.

WA: Biggest feat / most stoked accomplishment in 2019 / 2020?
RB: I was given the opportunity to run the Middle section of the Rio Fuy in Chile with World Class, Cobra Falls is a committing 50 footer part the way down the run. It drops into a beautiful gorge with some quality whitewater below. It was one of the biggest days of kayaking and some of the better lines I have ever had.

WA: In your entire career kayaking?
RB: About a year ago I was surfing and clapped my hands seven times on a paddle toss then caught my paddle and stayed in the wave, this was a huge moment for me and my confidence as a paddler. Also in 2018 I was the US U-18 Women’s Slalom National Champion, that was a huge accomplishment for me, I owe a lot of that achievement to Evy and Lee Leibfarth who introduced me to slalom and helped me in preparing for the event!

WA: Best / most essential piece of gear?
RB: Well, aside from the big five, I never paddle without the plastic shark I keep in my life jacket. It brings me speed and smooth lines. 

WA: Favorite river to date?
RB: The Futalefu River, in Chile. It has the most fun whitewater I have ever paddled, and the views are unbeatable. 

WA: River you hope to get to in the future / river you are training for?
RB: In a few years I want to go back down to Chile and check out the Rio Baker. I have heard it is similar to the Futa but BIGGER!

WA: What are your goals for 2021?
RB: I would like to start training for some races. Green race has been on my list for a while and I am excited for the challenge. 

WA: Advice you would give to other Groms wanting to step up?!
RB: I have found it is all about paddling with the right people – people who push you, and are smart about their decisions. It is all fun and games, but improving is about asking questions and having some epic fails. 

WA: What high school do you / did you go to?
RB: I am lucky enough to attend World Class Kayak Academy, I owe my biggest improvements to this program. I am currently a senior there, I came into the program as a sophomore and just fell in love with it. Originally I was only committed to a semester there, that semester turned into the biggest three years of my life. 

WA: Something you’ve learned in quarantine?
RB: Sometimes it’s not about you. I already knew this, but it is harder to face when something directly effects you and doing the things you love. I am so devastated I will not get to say goodbye to World Class in person, and have our last few months together. We had to move to online school because of Covid, but right now we have to keep people safe. Its not about running “stouts” right now, but I cannot wait until it is again!

WA: Something unique about you not many people know?
RB: My freshman year of high school I was selected to play trumpet with the United States Army Field Band in concert, I was very dedicated to my musical studies before I went to World Class. 

WA: Thank you Rachel!


Watch out for the next generation – they are all on FIRE 🔥
Give these kids a follow to see where kayaking is headed !!

Mashup Reel Featuring:

James Byrd

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