Raised on the Road: The Story of Abby Holcombe, World Champion Kayaker and Winnebago Ambassador
Traveling by RV can teach you about the world and empower you to chase your dreams.

By: GoLife Staff
Ten years ago, Peter and Kathy Holcombe bought a Winnebago RV and set out for a lifetime of adventure on the road with their nine-year-old daughter, Abby. They raised and educated Abby as they pursued their travel photography business and inspired her to embrace a love of the outdoors and kayaking – a passion that would lead her to chase a Freestyle Kayak World Championship and embark on her own journey as a Winnebago + Adventure Wagon ambassador.

Watch the video to learn more about Abby, and read her story below ..

Watch Abby's Story:

Go Where You Feel: Van by a River - The Abby Holcombe Story

Growing up in an RV isn’t what most people would think is normal.  But to Abby Holcombe, living your life in one place and only traveling once or twice a year for vacation doesn’t seem normal at all.  Raised on the road since she was nine years old, Abby’s life experience is built around adventures rather than routines and possessions. 

The more she travels, she finds that, “home isn’t a place – it’s a feeling you get when you discover something new with the people you love.” 

Read more of Abby’s insights about finding home on the road, here.

Raised on the Road

Peter and Kathy had been dreaming of life on the road but were compelled to comply with the traditional pathway of college, house, career, and so on. One day, they found themselves on a photoshoot in Moab, Utah, and all they wanted to do was stay for a few days and rock climb. Instead, they had to drive home, mow the lawn, do the laundry, and be bound by all the responsibilities of owning a house. 

Kathy wondered, “what if we just stayed?” and dreamed of more time spent on the road - going from photoshoot to photoshoot. Within 30 days, they bought a Winnebago, and hit the road for some of the best adventures of their lives. They're on their 10th year traveling now in a Winnebago Revel and can't imagine doing anything else.

Peter believes that the freedom of life on the road is the best part - you can be in amazing places at the most ideal time of  year, when you're most excited to be there. When the Holcombes discovered this travel-focused lifestyle almost a decade ago, it felt weird to them socially, but in practice, it now feels natural and good. More and more people are taking off on long-term RV trips every day, they're getting on the van life program, and even working from the road is much more accepted.

Abby feels fortunate that she’s been traveling for the last nine years, and there are so many memories that are more alive to her than pictures in books, and real places that feel like home – she believes that's the special part about growing up in an RV.

Learn more about how Abby completed her schoolwork while on the road. Plus, read about the different Winnebago RVs Abby has traveled in here.

A Passion is Born

When Abby was about three or four, her parents came home with a present - a little red kayak. She started out in lakes, then gentle moving water, and kept learning and growing her skills quickly. 

When she was 12, the Holcombe family got a permit to kayak the Grand Canyon.  Not a day tour, this was an ambitious, 26-day river trip with no easy way out once you get going.  Kathy remembers one particular rapid called “Granite” that really showed how far Abby’s skillset had advanced. She remembers watching the tiny little pink kayak going through this giant rapid when, about halfway down, Abby flipped. 

“When you flip upside down, or when you do a roll in the river, it's loud, you can hear the current moving, it's dark, it's cold, it’s unnatural,” Abby recalls. To Kathy’s relief, Abby rolled back up at the bottom of the rapid, got out of her boat, and realized that was the worst thing that could have happened, and she did it. Her confidence grew immediately, and she knew she could roll in serious whitewater. She had the skills and was ready for more.

After 26 days on the river, Abby set the record for the youngest female to have ever kayaked all 280 miles of the Grand Canyon. Through that she learned determination, to believe in herself, push past her fears, and she took a huge step toward becoming the woman she is today. 

Later, she discovered “freestyle” kayaking. Once she had a taste of the flipping, spinning, artistic body language of the sport, she was all-in. Her coach, Clay Wright, reflects that it was interesting how when she chose freestyle and started focusing on it, there was an immediate decision to up the game. Instead of approachable goals, like learning basics and being even better in the water than her parents, Abby wanted to be better than anybody.

At the beginning, she was determined to get her first front flip, and spent a whole season trying to master the skill, eventually nailing it during her first US Junior National Championship.  At the end of her ride, she dipped the bow of her kayak into the wave, executed the front flip and won her first national title.

Junior World Championships

Growing up in the Winnebago and traveling to so many different rivers has given Abby opportunities to be able to be the kayaker that she is today. She has chances to travel to ride with the pros at the top of her sport, and with the ability to travel to so many different rivers, she has experience training on every type of wave and hole that you can imagine. Whenever she comes to a new water feature, it doesn't take her as long to adapt as other people who haven't traveled as extensively.

When asked about how it feels to compete at the highest level, Abby talks about going into a “flow state” where she’s so focused in the moment that she doesn’t really remember the competition rides. This is what she loves about competing – “you have 45 seconds where you're not thinking about anything else, just purely kayaking and feeling the water, flying through the air.”

In 2022, Abby entered the Junior World Freestyle Kayak Championships with high hopes. Her performance was inspiring, and she had a good showing with colorful tricks with names like the “McNasty,” “Space Godzilla,” and “Lunar Orbit,” which ultimately helped her win the competition, her first time as a world gold medalist. 

The Skookumchuck Narrows

A ferry ride away from Vancouver, there's a natural phenomenon on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast called the Skookumchuck Narrows that holds a special place in the Holcombe family’s hearts. Twice a day, when the tides change, the water reverses direction and flows out of the huge bay as 200 billion gallons of saltwater surges through a narrow pinch in the rocky shore, forming gnarly whirlpools and a giant world-class wave. The water level difference from one side to the other can exceed 9 ft. in height, and it is often claimed to be the fastest tidal rapids in the world.  

To access the shoreline near the rapids, the Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park near Egmont, British Columbia, offers a stunning three-mile hike through giant trees and moss-covered logs.  Besides watching the water flow and thrilling surfers and kayakers that come from all over the world to try their hand at “Skook,” the crystal-clear saltwater reveals pink and purple starfish as the tidal flow recedes and even the occasional whale traverses the bay. 

Skookumchuck is truly a secret wonder of the whitewater world, but for Abby, it's a milestone in her progression as a kayaker every time she returns. Her favorite part of traveling is the visible growth she sees between visits. She tells the story of her last time  at Skookumchuck at 13 when she was scared of kayaking and wasn't sure what to do next.  

Years later, she’s a completely different athlete in the water. The first time she came to Skookumchuck, she was scared to do certain tricks, was maybe getting 15 degrees of verticality and is now getting 90 degrees of verticality with no paddle. It’s inspiring to see just how much she’s improved – not only as an athlete, but also in confidence and personal growth. 

The Road Ahead

As a mother, Kathy Holcombe wants Abby to chase her dreams, the really big dreams that everybody says are impossible.  Abby wants to continue traveling - there are so many places that she wants to go, including new countries she wants to visit. She dreams of shipping her van internationally to embark on international van life by herself. 

As a kayaker, Abby wants to win a senior Freestyle Kayak World Championship -pushing her paddling and getting closer to breaking the barrier of what women can do while challenging what men are doing in the sport. 

The Holcombe family has fallen completely in love with the RV lifestyle and traveling around the world. Even though Abby is now an independent woman on her own with her own Winnebago + Adventure Wagon RV, she feels grateful that she and her parents are both able to continue this lifestyle, traveling to the places that set their souls on fire and inspiring them.

Read this article to see the highlights of the Holcombe family’s Winnebago Revel trip through Europe. Plus, learn about Peter and Kathy’s exciting Pan-American road trip, here!

Click on the links to learn more about the Winnebago Revel or Winnebago + Adventure Wagon featured in this article and video!

How Will You Go Where You Feel?

Winnebago’s celebrated heritage and pioneering nature still thrive today, and hearing stories from our community of owners truly fuels Winnebago’s passion for innovation and quality. Winnebago builds the best RVs on the planet so customers can explore the world and author their own adventures. 

Abby’s story is one of thousands. We’d love to hear your personal stories of travel, adventure, and community involving Winnebago products! Fill out the form at the link below to share with Winnebago how you Go Where You Feel.



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User commented on April 2, 2024 9:58 PM
Quite impressive! Safe travels Abby!
User commented on April 2, 2024 11:01 PM
Simply amazing with young people like Abby this world is in good hands.
User commented on April 3, 2024 11:20 PM
Cool. Story. I’m totally an Abby fan now.