Stakeout with the gals
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 RiverMinibus is good when Ottawa is between 13-18 ft (prime 16-16.5 ft) You can check the levels on this online gauge (http://www.shaggydesigns.com/gauge/ottawa.htm).
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.
|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.|
|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.|
Crowe Wave on the Crowe River, Ontariogood above 150: https://wateroffice.ec.gc.ca/report/real_time_e.html?stn=02HK003
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 RiverGood 19ish to mid twenties (I think) at the bonnet rouge rafting gauge (www.bonnetrougerafting.com) 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.
|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.|
|Mariann with a clean on a high tension at the high end- flushy and flattish. Darby with some media, photo by Nicole Mansfield.|
RuinsI 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.
|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!?|
Molly650-800 (wider window than most would like but these are the levels we surfed) Mistissibi River (http://www.cehq.gouv.qc.ca/
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.|
|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.|
Black MassThe 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.|
- 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).
- '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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
|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.|
|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|