Women Boaters Discussion Group - Page 1

Women Boaters Discussion Group
©David Blue

Women Boaters Discussion Group
At NRS – April 4, 2007

Laura: I’ve been at NRS for 12 years. I’ve done both rafting and kayaking (dedicated runner). I’m now the mother of two children, so have moved into a mom role but still getting outside and doing the before-kids activities, just not quite as often.

Jenni: I’ve worked here about six months, in Purchasing. My fiancé is Brian, an NRS Wholesale Rep, who was a raft guide. I got into boating after meeting him. My first river trip was on the Middle Fork Salmon, been boating ever since.

Keli: I’ve been at NRS just over 5 years. My boating was limited before coming to NRS, just a few times in canoes and one whitewater trip. I now try to get out a few times in the spring and a few in the summer, mostly whitewater. I would like to get out to do more flat water kayaking. I’m an avid reader and love to spend my free time outside with my dogs enjoying the beauty of Idaho.

Pam: I’ve been at NRS over three years. I’ve done quite a bit of rafting and canoeing, mostly whitewater. I’ve done a lot of mountaineering and backpacking, spending time outdoors is important to me. This summer, I’m leaving NRS for a two-year stint in the Peace Corps, in southern Africa.

Virginia: I've been working at NRS for about 4 months now. My boating experience before working here consisted of mainly outfitted trips down many of the rivers in Idaho. One summer I worked in Stanley, Idaho for a boat rental company and it was there that I learned the most about boating and the paddle sports industry. Personally, it doesn't matter what activity I'm doing in the outdoors; as long as I'm outside I'm happy.

Devon: I’m a member of the NRS Paddling Team and have been a full-time paddler for the past six years. Fortunately, I’ve had a lot of success, winning the World Surf Kayak Championship and am two-time National Freestyle Kayak Champion. In the World’s, I’ve also placed high in Squirt Boating and Freestyle Kayaking. One of the really fulfilling things I do is work with kids in the Dare To Kayak anti-drug program, the kids are great. I’m a National Board Certified Educator and do a lot of instruction and presentations. Finally, my family has an outfitting business, so I’ve been a raft guide in Idaho for 18 years!

Erin: I’m a grad student at the University of Idaho, and I probably boat way too much. I’ve been rafting since I was a little kid, we went in the summers. I’ve been guiding commercially for a little less than three years. I’ve been kayaking for a year and a half – I love it and do it as much as I can.

Ashley: I’ve worked here for a little over a year. I grew up rafting, canoeing and sea kayaking. Started whitewater kayaking three years ago but only really got active with it in the past year and a half. I absolutely love it and just want to keep improving my skills and help others that want to get into it.

Donna: I am a whitewater rafter. I’m married to Bill Parks and serve on the Board of Directors here at NRS. I’m also a zoology research professor.

e-News: There are the feelings and ideas out there that the boating sports are male dominated. What are your thoughts and experiences on that issue?

Laura: I have probably perpetuated this in my own little way. I hate strapping down kayaks, and I’m short, so it usually turns out there’s a guy in the group that can help with that. Part of it is that physically most of the guys I paddle with are taller, bigger, stronger…I don’t know, it hasn’t stopped me from being on the water, but I certainly appreciate having some of the help around.

Erin: Definitely it’s a lot harder for a woman to be a Class V Guide. It seems like it comes in waves: there’ll be times when there are a few girls that are at the Class V level and then it’ll be totally male dominated again as those girls leave. So, it takes just a lot of effort.

Laura: So, when you see these waves, are they women who are friends, who come as a group and then move on…or is there any other explanation?

Keli: Was management different during these waves? What is your opinion about why women are able to do it sometimes and not others?

Erin: I think it’s just based on the women. The women who do it are just stellar guides and they’re pretty aggressive about it. So I think that’s the biggest part of it. And the experiences I’ve had – last year I had a crew – it was super-high water, almost Class V on the Class IV section we normally run two-day trips on, and that group didn’t want to go with me because I was a girl.

Laura: Devon, do you see this male/female division starting with little kids you teach kayaking to?

Devon: I think it’s a bit about how our approach is, to paddling, to raft guiding…I don’t know if it’s because we approach it differently, that men don’t see us as proficient. Maybe it’s more that they don’t identify with how we approach paddling. I know I like to playboat and I like to river-run and I’ve raft guided now for 18 years, but it’s definitely different for me in the fact that I watch males and they’ll have a bad line and they survive it and they’re like, “That was rad, let’s go do it again, I’m sure I’ll nail it this time!” Now, me, if that happened, I’d be saying, Gosh, what did I do wrong! I mean, I read the guidebook, I looked at the line, I made my decision and I didn’t do it. Am I putting the group in jeopardy, am I putting myself in jeopardy, should I not be here?

So, it’s not set in stone but I think we have the ability to think about it in that way and talk about and verbalize and see it that way. Where the guys are “Woo hoo, I survived it!”, then go back and do it again; it seems to empower them. But for me, it doesn’t empower me, it makes me doubt my abilities. So, I think because our approach and reactions are different, it can kinda create that split, when it doesn’t mean that either of us is a better boater, but it does create that division in our approach.

Erin: I totally agree and that goes along with what I was saying with in reference to which girls get to be Class V guides. These are not the girls who are having carnage all over the place, these are the girls who are on-line all the time and feel confident enough to do it. So, I totally agree.

Ashley: I think one thing about being a woman boater, no matter what type of boating you’re doing; you have to prove yourself. These are people that think women are not as strong or experienced, that they can’t handle tough situations. I think it helps if you are somewhat stern with people to make them realize you can handle it. However, that doesn’t apply to every situation.

I’m pretty new to play boating. I typically boat with four other people, two guys and two gals. I have definitely noticed the difference between the way the guys boat and the way I’d like to boat. Guys seem to be more aggressive and use their strength to power through things. I want to figure out what I’m doing wrong, and correct it. Also, things like ‘why can’t I do that move, how do I improve myself?’ I ask a lot of questions and watch a lot of people when I’m out on the river or even in a pool. That’s the only way I’m going to get better.

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