Name: Tanya Shuman
Profession: Retired Freestyle Kayaker, ARRT Certified Radiologic Technologist
Current Residence: Atlantic Beach, Florida USA
In 2007, Tanya retired from a successful career as an athlete to pursue a career in the medical field, trading her paddle and boat for a stethoscope and luxel badge. As a top professional athlete in kayaking for ten years, she wanted to give back and help others.
She says, “Having an understanding of the human body, knowing its importance as a strong working machine, I am compassionate to injuries and set-backs, since I’ve had them in my own career. I’m used to routine levels of discomfort with rigorous training, but nothing compares to an injury.”
In 2001, during a highly televised NBC event, she was severely injured during a head to head event; another kayaker crashed into her, causing serious damage to her external oblique and possibly to her kidneys. She was hauled immediately away to the Emergency Room.
Almost losing one of her kidneys, she recovered only with the aid and support of the Hospital staff. Knowing how essential patient care was to her own recuperation, she knew once she retired from kayaking she wanted help others back to recovery.
Making her mark as a professional freestyle kayaker…..
“I love perpetual motion and the sense of fluidity…the spontaneity of a big wave gives me this,” says freestyle kayaker Tanya Shuman. “Waves are like rollercoasters that spit you out like a watermelon seed and send you shooting down their face in lightning speeds and launch you sky rocketing up into the air.” With that kind of attitude, it’s no wonder that Shuman was crowned the 2004 & 2005 World Champion of Aerial Freestyle Kayaking. Throughout her 10 years as a professional, she took the sport to new levels as a female athlete.
Shuman’s everyday roller-coaster ride involved more than paddling for personal thrills. An eight-time U.S. team member, she represented her country around the world, did sponsor and charity demos, and was an adept photojournalist as well as a popular subject for other photographers. She was living out her childhood dreams of being a pro athlete – except that in her dreams she was wearing soccer shorts, not a spray skirt.
Finding her future Shuman was born in Alexandria, Virginia, in 1972 and spent her childhood in nearby Potomac, Maryland. “Whenever anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I told them I wanted to be a professional soccer player,” she recounts. Never mind that there wasn’t a pro women’s league yet – Shuman was a visionary. She played Division I soccer for Villanova; but after graduating magna cum laude with a business degree, she accepted a position with a top corporate consulting firm. She lasted one year.
“Six months into the job – it was 1995 – I got a kayak for my twenty-third birthday, and within another six months I was addicted. Kayaking had already become a lifestyle,” she acknowledges. Everybody thought she was throwing away her future, but Shuman realized that she’d found it.
Although she was a latecomer to the sport, Shuman had a natural feel for the water. She was first named to the U.S. Freestyle Kayak team in 1999 and has represented the United States every year since. Her resume is long with numerous titles and awards.
Along with all her achievements, her biggest accomplishment was through her demos/clinics of teaching people how to kayak and river conservation. She worked closely with the American Whitewater Association and her sponsors like Patagonia to bring more awareness to river conservation. For over ten years, she was an athlete correspondent and major contributor to the AWA magazine with photographs and articles highlighting various rivers in jeopardy.
She also was on the forefront bringing more women to the sport of kayaking. Constantly doing demos and clinics specifically for females, she wanted more women to participate in a sport she loved so much. In 2006, she helped design the first freestyle kayak for women. The first boat of its kind named the Project 45 became the top seller in 2007 and 2008.
Tanya was one of the most recognizable and influential names in the sport of kayaking. Her abilities have earned her an international reputation as a leader in her sport and role model to aspiring young women. Her celebrity transcends the broader sports culture. However, most will remember her by her trademark smile and passion to share her love of kayaking with others.