Heartbroken farewell for Kiwi champ Maria Noakes killed in kayaking tragedy

"Today a very special person was taken from our community."
"Today a very special person was taken from our community." Photo credit: Maria Noakes / Facebook

The friends and family of a former New Zealand kayak rep are sharing their grief after her sudden death on a US river.

Maria Noakes, 50, was a member of the national freestyle kayak team and represented New Zealand in the 2013 Freestyle Kayak World Championships.

She was paddling in North Carolina with her 12-year-old son when the accident occurred on Monday (NZ time).

"Our dear and loved friend Maria died today kayaking the Cheoah. She was with three super star paddlers. The water level was normal. It happened below Python. Her boat was found pinned against river right. She was found downstream," a message on her page reads.

"We will never know exactly what happened. She is in our hearts and minds in this extremely challenging time. We mourn for this loss and our hearts reach out for her two boys Dominique and Matteo, and her husband Nick.

"Today a very special person was taken from our community."

Her friend, Juliet Kastorff, told the Asheville Citizen-Times they're struggling to understand how the accident happened.

"Whatever happened was a fluke. For her it was an easy river. The Cheoah for her was like her backyard, she had been paddling it for 10 years," she said.

"She was paddling with people who she was responsible for and she didn't take that lightly."

There has been an outpouring of love and support for Ms Noakes, with many sharing how she touched their lives.

"It is with an extremely heavy heart I write this... Maria Noakes was the best kiwi team mate and friend anyone could ever dream of!" wrote New Zealand kayaker Courtney Kerin in an emotional message on Instagram.

"She was always filled with stoke, the biggest smile and the best go getter attitude!

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

Newshub.