Stakeout with the gals

What has been particularly great during stakeout 2018 is that most times when I was surfing, I could count more women than men surfing with me. For those not familiar, 'stakeout' is the term for the action of 'staking out' (waiting for) big waves in Ontario and Quebec to come in during the spring rise and fall, and typically occurs from late April through the end of May. That's right, some of the tallest and fastest river waves have been paddled this spring by women all pushing themselves to go bigger- whether or not they were just pushing their limits by paddling through the wave, just getting started learning to surf waves coming from creeking disciplines, or working on throwing their personal arsenal of tricks with more air.

While I have the Send boys (@wearesend Dane, Adrian, Ben and Kalob) to partially thank for drawing some great women boaters to stakeout to surf with me as 2018 Unleashed invitees (Darby McAdams, Nouria Newman, Mariann Saether, Nicole Mansfield, Adrienne Levkenekt, Katie Kowalski, Gen Royer, Anna Wagner and Erin Savage), I was actually internally pleased when the event got cancelled, because it gave me a chance that I haven't had before to hang out and actually get to know these women better without throwing in the stress of competing - which I have found in the past to be a barrier to form connections with my peers. An added bonus of having the event not actually occur was that it freed up other women, who weren't scheduled to compete in the event itself, to rip the waves with us (Mandy Chan, Becca, Ayden Dermenjian, Jessica Droujko, Brooke Hess, Anna Bruno, Addie, Julie Frangenberg and others... Sorry if I forgot you!)

Staking out Minibus trying not to get sunburned. Adrian Mattern, Jessica Droujko, Natalie Anderson, Anna Bruno and Becca (left to right).

Although we never ran around in a pack and I just interacted with a few of the gals with nothing more than a quick hello in the eddy, I realized how rare it was for me to be around so many women at once all working on bettering their own boating skills that span experience from veteran in the sport to second year boater, from women consistently sticking pan-ams to those just learning to catch waves and control their front surf.

Between watching Davis (my 13 m.o. son) and Benji (Mariann's 18 m.o. son) and trying to squeeze in as much wave time as possible, we did get less photos than we would have liked. However, here are a few showcasing what we did get of some of the ladies. Thanks to everyone who augmented what I did have. I may not have the sickest shot of everyone's tricks. So just look at these and think: each of these girls did something bigger and better than what you see.

Me, Davis, Mariann and Benji on Mother's Day.

Minibus on the Ottawa River

Minibus is good when Ottawa is between 13-18 ft (prime 16-16.5 ft) You can check the levels on this online gauge (
This is a great wave, that gets pretty fun and dynamic, especially at the high end when you can get pitched by the wave into surfers left, which people call the toilet bowl. I broke a paddle in there this trip! Some of my favorite times this trip were evening sunset surfs on Minibus with Darby, Nouria and Anna Wagner while Leif was putting Davis to bed. I think we all had the biggest tricks at this time when we were just surfing for fun and it was too dark for media.

Nicole Mansfield on Mini Bus with Brooke Hess towing on. Nicole typically doesn't throw that many small moves. She uses the wave well and although she doesn't throw tricks as often, when she does, they are usually quite large. Nicole is also always such a pleasure to be around. She never airs out her personal frustrations, is good at lightening the mood with some great humor, and seems to always just paddle as much as is pleasurable for herself- being okay to hang and enjoy the time off the water as on. For me, it is easy get so focused on squeezing as much boating as possible that I forget that the off the water chum time is just as, or sometimes more important as developing your skills. Photo by Leif Anderson.

Anna Bruno gettin inverted. Anna is a bulwark of Ottawa and New Zealand boating scenes and after years of occasionally crossing paths, I finally got to know Anna a little over this trip. What I found out was that she has a quite natural way for asking questions and getting you to talk about deeper things other than how much air you got on your blunt. So thanks Anna for not being shy to ask about motherhood and getting me to discuss that a little. You are welcome to use my baby for watching entertainment anytime. Photo by Leif Anderson.

Anna Wagner gettin some nice air. This was Anna's first time surfing big waves (she's got a solid V creeking background) and she approached it like she does everything: a cheery upbeat attitude combined with some serious getting after it. She worked all week to learn the tow-in rope and I never saw her get disgruntled or frustrated. She simply works and works until it works for her, and then bam does it pay off. I think by the end I saw her get a blunt (or maybe air poo turn?). I can't wait to spend some time on the Slave River this summer to really whip her into shape and to simply have a good time. Maybe her good cheer will rub off on me and she can teach me to let loose a little more easily.

Mariann with a nice clean. Mariann is such a icon and veteran in the kayaking sport and it was such a pleasure to have the opportunity to spend some time with her and bond over being new mothers. Despite not having done much freestyle in the past five years or so, she really showed that her skills only needed a light dusting off. I was so impressed by how unflappable she is and her ability to get it done efficiently and elegantly, while travelling solo with an 18 month old. She even flew home with a kayak. Travelling and kayaking with your husband and baby (like me) pales in comparison to what she just pulled off. On top of it all she was working on launching a rafting business on her home river in Norway and doing her own media. She has inspired me to work a harder on my own self-sufficiency.

Lou Urwin goes for a dynamic surf. It was really great to be able to hang out with Lou and her little baby Ivy. I am so glad that she got out on to surf my last day on the trip. It is really hard when taking care of a little one to get out and make some time for yourself. I am so glad that Lou did and I got to share an afternoon with her. Photo by Leif Anderson

Darby 'McParty' McAdams, 'Party' for short, throwing a nice lefty. This girl charges hard. She would just go and go and go all day every day on the wave. Her raw grit, aspirations, focus and athleticism is a deadly combo that is going to take her places in the sport. And, let it be stated in the record. She owes me about 5 hours of babysitting for 5 hours of time in my Featherweight. Everyone else has paid up including Tom Dolle!

It was truly great to be able to paddle with Julia Frangenberg and her brother who showed up for two days. Every single person who tried my featherweight small screwed up the rope on their first try. The only person who didn't was Julia . Props to this gal, can't wait to see her progress.

Nouria going big in a boat she is not supposed to be in. Oops. Pretend you didn't see this photo. Photo by Anna Bruno.

Me finally getting my cleans. Clean blunting did not come naturally to me and I have really struggled with this trick for years. The summer before I became pregnant I finally felt that I had it, then in the post partum period, I lost the trick. Hopefully it is now here to stay because I love how it looks! Screenshot from video by Mandy Chan.

Natalie Anderson. Flashback (dirty). I am so addicted to flashbacks, although they were a little scary on this wave. I also loved Anna Bruno's NRS lifejacket so much, that I just had to try it, partly because Mariann made me very aware that my gear would simply not cut it and the next time I paddled with her, I better have brighter colors. Photo by Anna Bruno.

Katie Kowalski shows me how its really done. This is Katie's home wave and it shows. Katie also extended such great hospitality and it was fun to be able to hang out a little before the start of the rafting season when things must get hectic! Katie is now in charge of a lot of the hiring at Wilderness Tours, and that sounds like it could be quite a job given the rumors I have heard about WT shenanigans! Although it sounds look a hoot, I think I'll make my exit in preference for a quieter summer on the Slave River. Photo by Darby McAdams.

Crowe Wave on the Crowe River, Ontario

good above 150:
The day I went to Crowe it was boyfriend/husband tag along day (the crew: Adrienne, me, Mandy, Brooke, Erin, Ayden, Leif and Nick). Crowe wave was awesome because it was a mid-size wave that you could control and really work on tricks. Brooke, Adrienne and I all had fun working on our airscrews and Adrienne chuckled as I tried to attempt some blunt nasty (which she does incredibly well) and just ended up doing back pan am thingies (which were cool too).

Brooke Hess starting to dial in that airscrew. Although I didn't get to paddle with Brook as much as I was originally hoping to because she is recovering from hardcore (seriously hardcore) digestive ailments after her travels to South America and Africa last year, she is getting after it as much as her body allows. I was incredibly impressed with her discipline and drive to get out and paddle, while at the same time knowing when to stop and take care of herself. Despite the set back this girl is still seriously progressing her moves with limited time on the water and it has been totally inspiring for me to watch her progress these past couple years. It makes me wonder about my own very slow progression over a decade. Maybe if I hang out with Brooke some more, I can learn to progress my moves faster. It probably starts with actually taking footage and then taking the time to watch it. Sigh. So much work. Screen capture by Brooke.

Adrienne with an airscrew. The Crowe wave was perfect for working on tricks and Adrienne, Brooke and I all spent some time here working on our airscrews with good success. Screen shot by Adrienne.

And me for good measure. After all, it is my blog. Screenshot by Leif.

High Tension on the Gatineau River

Good 19ish to mid twenties (I think) at the bonnet rouge rafting gauge ( call for water levels with someone who speaks French.
This wave was great and changes a bit with flows. On this trip I didn't get the full feel of the wave as I only surfed it two different days because logistics are harder for this one with a baby, since you have to do a run and not just park and play. On the first day the shoulder was very bowled out and you could get some steep passes by surfing way out onto the shoulder. On the second day the wave was higher and bigger, but also flatter and you had to work a lot harder to get tricks.

Mandy Chan with pan am at perfect levels. Mandy is one of those great unassuming boaters who quietly goes about getting better and throwing nice tricks. She really impressed me on medium to small waves and I am looking forward to seeing her transfer her smaller wave skills to the bigger more dynamic waves. During the year Mandy works as an accountant and one of the funniest things I heard all trip was her portrayal of her mother always asking her why she does all these 'boy sports'. Well, Mandy, you can show her this article and say, see it's a girl sport too! Looking forward to paddling with you again, hopefully up on the Slave River. Screen shot of video by Nick Beavis.

Adrienne doing her thing making High Tension wave look epic. I am always impressed with her athleticism and how her tricks are so internally driven by her body mechanics and core strength. The consistency with which she can throw this pan-am is truly impressive. I have seen this move on small and large features, right and left as well as different spots on a wave, etc. She is ratcheting up her game and starting to get pretty consistent with the Blunt Nasty as well, something that I am not even remotely close to tackling. Screen capture by Adrienne.

Anna Bruno with a back move on High Tension (maybe low side of perfect?). I feel like this photo really captures the feeling for the day: Cold. Photo by Leif Anderson.

Darby towing in her sleeping pad with Anna Wagner and Anna Bruno leading. Photo by Nicole Mansfield. I admit that I had some envy of some of the gals when they went for a campout at the wave. It just wasn't quite feasible for me with our squirmy munchkin. And... I wanted another day at Ruins. Mariann and I were able to meet up with them briefly in the morning before they headed out. Photo by Nicole Mansfield.

Mariann with a clean on a high tension at the high end- flushy and flattish. Darby with some media, photo by Nicole Mansfield.


I have been told that I am not allowed to post the good level range. This is because this wave really is a spot that can be quite dangerous if you are swimming since you will be far from shore. Also, it requires a certain skill level to have some fun here. The wave and eddy are not easy to catch. So, my advice if you want to surf it is to put your time in on other waves and make some friends with some boaters that will show you because they feel comfortable paddling with you.

Me getting some air on Ruins. This wave was awesome, when you could catch it. In the past year I have been working on my airscrew and making good ground. However, on this trip, I struggled to keep them straight without converting them to Pan ams. I am not sure if this is a natural part of the progression, or if I need to go back to the drawing board. I am learning to be patient with myself, knowing that if I keep working at it, it will come. And, in the mean time, I got a lot of pan am/silly flip practice! Photo by Leif Anderson.

Nouria with a Sasquatch. After years of not quite meeting but seeing each other in similar circles, it was great to finally have a chance to get to know and converse with Nouria. She reminds me of Dane in that she just loves to be on the water kayaking all the time in any way possible. No wonder she is so good. I always end up trying to do all my tricks bigger all the time at the cost of learning new tricks or doing tricks often. It was inspiring to watch Nouria go out there and just throw tricks all the time, and not be caught up on always throwing the biggest trick. This reminded me to just have fun moving around the wave and try different things! When I started getting frustrated with not quite being able to do my airscrew this trip, it was a blast to relax and just have fun working on Sasquatches with her. And now I really want to get that bread and butter because she did it first. Photo by Natalie Anderson.

Mariann Saether with a nice solid air blunt. Photo by Natalie Anderson.

After days of solid tries, Anna gets a surf! Photo by Natalie Anderson.

Me with air. Why oh why didn't I pull the trigger on something!?


650-800 (wider window than most would like but these are the levels we surfed) Mistissibi River (
This is a wave that I dream about. It is big and perfect with a big eddy, decently easy to catch and limited consequences. You can also drive up and hang out with the kids. And when it is prime, it is to die for. Leif and I surfed it a few years back when it wasn't really in and the wave exceeded my expectations this year. And when it is high you can set up a tow rope and do one off tricks off the rope. I had a blast working on my bread and butters doing this. When it is low, it is kinda holey and a little trashy, but you can still throw good tricks.

Me with Davis and Benji at Molly.

Me with a nice blunt. I just really like this photo. Photo by Leif Anderson.

Mariann with a painful pan am that I think might have made the entire trip worth it. Photo from Wally Mistissibi Photography.

Nicole going massive. Again. Photo by Leif Anderson.

Jessica Droujko with a nice air blunt off the shoulder. Jessica was a consistent but quiet presence at stakeout. She impressed me with the clarity in which she pursues her goals. She wants to be a rocket engineer, so she is doing it and currently researches and works on jet engines. She wants to go to Stakeout, so she travels from Switzerland and rents a car and does it. In comparison, I still feel like I am waffling around trying to figure life out. Photo by Leif Anderson.

Me throwing an airscrew. Photo by Leif Anderson.

Jessica lovin it. Photo by Wally Mistissibi of Quebec Rafting.

Nouria with an airscrew. Anna Bruno, Nicole Mansfield and Mariann Sæther in the eddy. Photo by Natalie Anderson.

Addie goofing off under the bridge with the river boarders. I had a fun time kayaking with Addie, but I had a more fun time freezing our butts off riverboarding and slacklining under the bridge. Addie reminds me a little of myself when I was in my early 20s. Open and receptive to experience. Being around her made me want to re-kindle my openness to new adventures. Thanks for hanging upside down with me and let's do it again sometime! Photo by Leif Anderson

Black Mass

The levels for this wave overlap quite a bit with the levels for Molly, so I didn't really surf it much this year. But, I'll be back! Like the Ruins, this wave makes you work for it. I will need some time to really figure out the tricks to consistently catch it. But, once caught, boy is it fast and dynamic and so awesome.

Me on my only Black Mass surf. Due to baby logistics and the fact that Black Mass levels overlapped with Molly levels, I only got a few tries at this wave and one surf. Although I wish I did a trick, I loved every second of it. Thanks Wally Mistissibi for capturing the moment! Next time I'll get more surfs and bigger moves here, it is such a great dynamic wave!

General thoughts about motherhood, women and boating.

The other part of the trip that was special for me was to travel around with another new mother (Mariann), enabling both of us to continue to push ourselves on the water while managing and caring for our little ones. We wouldn't have been able to do it nearly as well without Leif holding it down with the kiddos while we could paddle together, the awesome and incredible daycare in Beachburg by Debbie and babysitting by Ayden.

Davis Lovin' Daycare.

Leif, keeping the boys in line.

Ayden getting both boys to sleep at once! Ayden also got some time on the waves while I took a break.  This is Ayden's third summer boating and second summer with Davis. Her determination to paddle as good as the people who she is paddling with (13+ year veterans) is making her have a very fast progression. Sorry no surfing photo! But she really did get some mini bus rides in.
This trip has gotten me really thinking about relations and support between women in the sport. Here are some of my observations, which are anecdotal based on my experiences and may not reflect all experiences of women in the sport.
  1. While women generally want to be role models to up and coming boaters (most of the time), I find that women are not as good at elevating and supporting peers, fellow female boaters who are boating at the same level (but aren't already a good friend).

  2. 'Outsider' women breaking or paddling in a scene with established local network of women boaters often feel excluded or that the local boaters are either cliqueish or have a chips on their shoulders.

  3. Currently, there is a paucity of imagery of diverse women paddling whitewater in mainstream media outlets and gear catalogs. Imagery of women paddling has appeared, to me, to have declined in the last decade.
While I have my own ideas the cause for some of the observations above, I would be interested to hear other peoples thoughts on these observations. Do they ring true for you, or do you think I am out to lunch?

I am a sincere believer that it benefits the whitewater kayak community and industry to have more women in the sport and to keep them paddling past when they have kids. (Maialen Chourraut won Olympic gold in Rio 2016 K1W slalom with a 2 year old daughter and inspired me to keep paddling at a high level.)

When women are involved, kayaking becomes a family endeavor and the sport will expand. After all, it is the parents that often run youth programs that get kids form non-kayaking backgrounds involved and all of a sudden kayaks and kayak gear become a justified family expense, not just the hubby's side hobby.

I think there are some simple actions to combat the three observations above that will lead to keeping women in the sport after the initial learning phase.
  1. You don't have to be best buds with other women boaters, but make a conscious effort to recognize jealousies and try not to see other women's accomplishments and exposure as threatening. If we can bring each other all up as a cohort, we will do better than each trying to make it individually.

  2. Make a conscious effort to smile, introduce yourself and say hi to other boaters in an eddy (men or women) not just interact in a fun way with those you already know (which is safe and comfortable). Otherwise this leads to feelings of exclusion and awkwardness.

  3. Women in whitewater are doing amazing things (on and off the water); sometimes they just aren't that visible beyond their own social bubbles. Be conscious of bias in choosing images in paddling catalogs and magazines and make a little more effort to find and showcase a variety of women role models (not just type A chargers) in whitewater media outlets.

Thanks to everyone that paddled with me this spring!

Mariann had a good time in my boat, even if my backband system kept breaking! A lot of gals tried my small featherweight and there was just a little boat envy happening. What is nice about the featherweight boats, especially for women, is that they are narrow. This makes it much easier for us to work on inverted moves like airscrews.

Mandy Chan with Davis.

Brooke Hess and Nicole Mansfield goof off at Minibus. This is something I need to do more of. Photo by Leif Anderson.

Anna Bruno and Liz.

Anna Wagner.

Darby McParty. Party McAdams.

Nicole looking good. Photo by Anna Bruno.

Nicole with "Jelly Man" (Davis) hanging out at Molly.


From left to Right: Darby McAdams, Anna Bruno, Natalie Kramer Anderson (holding Davis), Nicole Mansfield, Anna Wagner


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