Take a moment to think of the people in your life who inspire you to get on the water. Which names come to mind? In my life, it’s the everyday women who inspire me. Not necessarily the pros (though some of them are), but the bada** ladies who are out crushing it every day at their local stomping grounds, like our local White Salmon River.
When I was just learning to kayak, I was inspired by the confidence of my friends and encouraged by their support. As someone who immensely values community, I was grateful that I was becoming part of an awesome crew of ladies. I find value in the space that is created when I’m surrounded by women; as genuine connection emerges, ego and pressure dissipate. I felt comfortable pushing myself and trying new things, comfortable trying and failing, which was essential to my growth and progression in the sport. So, I pondered. How could I make sure the next aspiring boater had this kind of inspiration too? How could I encourage women to go after the next step?
I am also inspired by women who are actively working to build a community of female kayakers. Every year, I see photos and videos of the Green River Takeover in North Carolina. This event began with the idea to get as many women on the water on the same day as they could to take over the Green River for a day.
“I hope that women can take away a sense of community, and knowing that no matter what their body looks like, or what shape they are, or what shape they’re in, they can still kayak.” -Adriene Levkinecht in Women of Whitewater
Aside from getting ladies out paddling, they give back to the community by donating all proceeds from the raffle to the Live Like Maria and Shannon Christy Memorial Funds, which honor the memories of two incredible women in the whitewater community. I found myself wishing for a community of female paddlers on the West Coast.
Then, I learned about California Womxn’s Watersport Collective. Cali Collective was born from Melissa DeMarie’s desire to get as many women on the water as she could. I had the privilege of assisting on their annual Womxn’s Holistic Paddling Clinic on the Rogue River, and I was blown away by Cali Collective owner Melissa’s commitment to community. Her ability to hold space on and off the river for all kinds of people was incredibly impactful, and I was so inspired by her and her team. No matter where they were in their paddling career or life in general, everyone was welcome and supported.
So, I moved into a management role at Wet Planet, I thought about what I could do to contribute to the Wet Planet community, and the broader community of female kayakers in the Pacific Northwest. After reconnecting with Melissa, we decided to partner up and create a 3-day Intermediate/Advanced Women’s Clinic. With venues such as the White Salmon River, the Wind River, and the Hood River at our fingertips, the whitewater in the Columbia River Gorge in the spring is a perfect training ground for an intermediate to advanced whitewater kayaker. Partnering with Cali Collective, we are excited to hold space for women to step up their kayaking skills on the water, the opportunity connect back on land, and to grow the west coast community of women in whitewater!
The truth is, it’s up to all of us to keep fueling the infinite stoke within the circle of paddling women. Whether you want to take part in the 3-day Women’s Clinic, join in on the facebook conversation of Ladies of the Whitewater Community, hop on the PDX GirlPaddlers annual paddle, or just want to be a mentor to a new lady paddler, we want you to be a part of it.
Author Sharon is a kayak instructor and Reservations Manager at Wet Planet. She is incredibly stoked to share her love of whitewater and to be a part of the incredible team at Wet Planet! Read more by Sharon here.