pink ugg slippers Karah Nazor Friberg
Karah Nazor Friberg is one of those role models you want your children to emulate.An accomplished scientist, Friberg spent 10 years researching brain prions, including in her post doctoral work at the University of California at San Francisco. Meanwhile, she found time to become the first person from Tennessee to successfully swim across the English Channel.Following a whirlwind courtship with local jazz musician Ben Friberg, she moved back to Chattanooga in late 2009 and has continued her high energy lifestyle.Currently, Friberg works in biomedicine at Chattanooga based eSpin Technologies Inc., which manufactures polymeric nanofibers.”We’re going to try to grow different cells on nanofiber matrices to create technology that could be used for making implantable biomedical devices or potential masks that protect against biological warfare,” she said.When she’s not in the lab, however, one will likely find Friberg in the water. In addition to taking up stand up paddling on whitewater, an emerging sport in which there are few participants, she volunteers as coach for the Chattanooga Department of Parks and Recreation swim team. She also started Chattanooga Open Water Swimmers, a weekly swim in the Tennessee River. Friberg is organizing “Swim the Suck,” a 10 mile open water swim through the Tennessee River Gorge, on Oct. 16.Indeed, if a science lab is Friberg’s office, the water is her playground.”I definitely like playing better,” she said.Q: What do you love about the water and swimming?A: I started swimming when I was 7. I swam in high school, at East Ridge and Girls Preparatory School, then in college at James Madison University. It keeps me in shape, but what I love about swimming in open water is that I have this weird skill with swimming: I know how to swim very efficiently, sparing energy. This is a way I can just swim straight for miles on end and be outside, someplace beautiful. I can access these places where a lot of people can’t go. In San Francisco, I could swim under the Golden Gate Bridge.Q: In fact, swimming led to your romance with (now husband) Ben Friberg.A: I met Ben when we went to Our Lady of Perpetual Help at the same time for a year in elementary school. He read about my English Channel swim, and he remembered me and contacted me on Facebook. We met within one month (after varied online communications) and were married within five months. We got engaged really quickly, not the first weekend we met, but we were probably engaged within two months of meeting. We got married on a boat underneath the Golden Gate Bridge and then we jumped in. Most of the guests jumped in, too.Q: Why start an open water swimming group in Chattanooga?A: I think there’s a lot of desire for people to swim in open water, but there aren’t a lot of people swimming in the Tennessee River here. But I like the current. Once I started a group, it grew really, really quickly, mainly with triathletes, who wanted to practice the swimming portion of their event. I did it just to find people to swim with, because I don’t like swimming in pools. I’ve made a lot of friends and had a pretty good turnout.Q: And you’re also a kayaker and have recently taken up stand up paddling on white water.A: It’s a very new sport, surfing on the river and actually going down through the rapids on the stand up paddle boards. You fall a whole lot but it requires a lot of balance. I wear protective gear, because you can fall on the rocks. It’s pretty dangerous, but it’s really fun to make it through a rapid standing up.Q: What other challenges have you taken on in the water?A: Abalone diving. It’s like free diving. It’s super challenging. You have to hold your breath and go down probably 40 feet. It’s a test of endurance and then you get this beautiful shell at the end. You can eat the abalone. I used to have abalone taco parties. So it was really fun to do that, and I love the shell (Friberg’s engagement ring is inlaid with abalone). Not very many people can dive down 40 feet, swim around and look for them, pull them off and then swim up.Q: You have so many skills and talents. Did you set your sights on standing out?A: I’m kind of shy, actually. I also like sleeping. I like going home and cooking dinner. I get to do these things on the weekend. I’m 33, and I don’t have kids, so I’ve had a lot of time to explore different sports. I’ve always enjoyed sports, since I was little. There’s a lot of things I’m not good at, like skiing. Ben’s parents are taking us on a ski trip for Christmas break, and I’m going to cry. Every time I’ve gone, I’ve ended up hurting myself and crying. I need lessons. I’m scared of heights. Somebody got us a skydiving gift certificate for a wedding present and I’m scared of it. I’m shy about singing. I whisper happy birthday.