Kayaking Across Continents

An Iranian native joins an Oklahoma club to pursue her kayaking dreams.

Arezou Motamedi trains at the USA Canoe/Kayak high-performance center in Oklahoma City. Photo by J. Christopher Little.

Arezou Motamedi trains at the USA Canoe/Kayak high-performance center in Oklahoma City. Photo by J. Christopher Little.

Arezou Motamedi is one of many individuals in the Sooner state who love to kayak on the Oklahoma River. What makes Motamedi unique, however, is that she traveled across the world to do it. The 25-year-old kayaker was born and raised in Tehran, Iran, and was a member of the Iranian national kayaking team.

After nearly seven years of excelling in the sport, Motamedi met up with world-renowned kayaking coach and Oklahoma native Shaun Caven, and in June 2012 she began training at the USA Canoe/Kayak’s national high-performance center in Oklahoma City. In addition to kayaking, Motamedi works as a staff accountant for the Oklahoma Boathouse Foundation and is pursing a master’s degree in business administration from Oklahoma City University.

What made you want to come to Oklahoma for kayaking?
I wanted to get better and improve in kayaking, and I eventually heard about my coach (Caven) and the program. When I moved here, I really liked the atmosphere.
I researched and found out about Oklahoma Boathouse Foundation…and they have one of the top facilities. I traveled all over the world back when I was on the [Iranian] national team, but this is one of the best in the world.

How did you get into kayaking?
I started off as a swimmer when I was 6 years old. I was on the national team for swimming, but since Iran is an Islamic country, we got the chance to race against other Islamic countries – but we couldn’t compete in the world championship or the World Cup. I really liked all water sports, and I thought it would be a good idea to switch to another sport, so I tried kayaking. At first I just wanted to try it out and see how it went, but I ended up really loving it.

What advice would you give to someone in your position – someone growing up and aspiring to become successful in a sport?
I came all the way from Iran to be here…and I did that to get better at kayaking. I’d tell young kids to try a sport that you really love…especially one that has facilities close to you. Iran was good, but it just doesn’t have the facilities for kayaking.