Tributes flow following death of champion Maria Noakes

Tributes are flowing on social media for expat Kiwi and expert kayaker Maria Noakes, who died in an accident while paddling on a river in North Carolina at the weekend.

Maria Noakes

Maria Noakes

Source: Facebook

The Asheville Citizen-Times reported 50-year-old Maria Noakes of Bryson City died on Saturday as she paddled down the Cheoah River with her youngest son and two of his friends. All were considered expert paddlers.

Ms Noakes has been described as inspirational, joyful, a beloved leader and encourager.

New Zealand kayaker Courtney Kerin posted on Instagram, writing that Maria Noakes "was the best Kiwi team mate and friend anyone could ever dream of! She was always filled with stoke, the biggest smile and the best go getter attitude!"

"My condolences go out to your amazing husband and beautiful boys!! Thanks for letting me be a part of your lives!"

The International Canoe Federation wrote on Facebook that on behalf of the entire freestyle community, "the ICF Freestyle committee would like to reach out our sympathy and celebrate the life of Maria Noakes, one of the most inspirational freestyle kayakers around. 

"Tragically Maria passed away this week whilst paddling one of her local rivers, the Cheoah river in USA. Maria will be remembered for her passion for freestyle and the sport of kayaking. 

"She represented New Zealand for numerous years at freestyle world championships. Everyone who knew her will talk about her passion and warm heart and how she constantly was helping the next generation in our sport. 

"Our thoughts and prayers are with her family in this time. Maria represented the sport and her country like no other and will be truly missed by all who knew her, all around the world."

Wayne Dickert, pastor at the River of Life Church wrote on Facebook, and posted a photo of Ms Noakes holding up a note that read "You are beautiful".

"Today, many of us are waking up to the news of the terrible loss of our friend Maria Noakes. This picture speaks of her heart. She was a beloved leader, encourager and awesome presence in our paddling family. Please pray for her husband Nick, and children Teo and Dom," Mr Dickert wrote.

Friend Mark Mullinax wrote on Facebook: "Maria Noakes, you were invincible. My first T rescue on the river was with you. My first lesson was with you. You cleaned up my first two swims and collected my thoughts. I never thought I'd paddle the same rivers as you."

He added: "I wish I would have gone on the Asia expedition of bugs and portages with you. Thank you for always greeting me with a smile and saying hello at the river. We will always remember and honour your spirit."

Ms Noakes' family posted to social media that her boat was found pinned on the right side of the river, but they will never know exactly what had happened.

Ms Noakes was a member of New Zealand's national freestyle kayak team for many years. 

The accident occurred about 3pm on Saturday, local time.

North Carolina Fish and Wildlife Commission officer Zach Allman said the cause of the accident is under investigation.

TVNZ

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