Mick Hopkinson is one of the pioneers of whitewater kayaking. Hailing from Yorkshire, in the industrial North of England, he spent the 70s traveling the world looking for the fiercest, most remote whitewater he could find—an ambition that took him to Switzerland, Austria, Nepal, the Karakoram, Baltistan, and Ethiopia, to name a few. According to Canoe and Kayak magazine, the documentary he and the late Mike Jones made of their first descent of the Dudh Khosi, Canoeing Down Everest, remains the most watched paddling movie of all time. Few people on Earth have as much experience and knowledge of rough water as Mick.
I showed up to his house, which doubles as the New Zealand Kayak School, armed to the teeth with questions, but few of them interest him much. Instead, he talks politics, testosterone, socialism, guns, the British class system, and the future of rivers almost uninterrupted for over an hour. All I can do is set my tape recorder down and hold on for the ride.