A Young Lady’s Perspective on Kayaking

| Posted in Kids Outdoors, Women Outdoors |


by Margaret Branson, Jackson Mississippi


My Experience Being a Junior Kayak Instructor

| Posted in Kids Outdoors, Women Outdoors |


by Olivia McGinnis

I often go kayaking in Bryson City, North Carolina. There is a kayaking store called Endless River Adventures in Bryson City.  Endless River Adventures offers kayaking instruction, guided raft trips, unguided raft trips, and fly fishing instruction. They sell Wave Sport kayaks and kayaking gear. ERA is mostly run by a lady by the name of Juliet and also a guy named Ken.

This past summer, Juliet asked me to be a Junior Instructor for Endless River Adventures’ Beginner Kid’s Camp. I was so excited, but I also didn’t know what to expect and was a little nervous. Kid’s Camp is three days and, depending on the day, around seven hours long.

We met at ERA in the morning with Pelle and Ellie, the two ERA instructors who were helping with the camp. When all of the kids got there, they all got in one of the ERA vans and we loaded their kayaks in the trailer behind the van. We drove to the Finger Lake to teach everyone basic strokes and to get them used to their kayaks. When kayaking, you have your paddle and kayak, the gear that you usually wear is a helmet, a PFD, and a spray skirt. A spray skirt is something that you put around your waste and then put around the hole that you sit in in your kayak so water doesn’t pour in. What is good to know how to do in kayaking is how to roll. A roll is when you flip over in your kayak (intentionally or unintentionally) and you use your paddle to flip yourself back up so you do not have to swim, also known as the wet exit. What we were teaching/working on with the kids at the lake was how to swim. There is a loop on the front of your spray skirt that you need to pull if you flip and can’t roll up. Once you pull the loop, your spray skirt should pop off of your kayak and you need to push yourself out of your kayak.

One girl forgot how to pull her spray skirt when we were practicing the wet exit. I wasn’t in my kayak because the instructors were out of their kayaks helping the kids (who were in their kayaks) with the wet exit. The girl was struggling under water and I was the one keeping an eye on her and helping her at the moment. The other instructors were about fifteen feet away and didn’t notice what was going on. I swam over to her and she put her hands on my shoulder and got her head out of the water so she could breathe. I pulled her spray skirt for her and she swam out of her kayak.

Later that day we went on a small portion of a fairly simple river called the Town Tuck (Tuckaseegee). We ran only one rapid that day because the kids were mostly new to kayaking and were pretty tired from being at the lake for most of the day. I sat in an eddy (calm water behind a rock) in my kayak above the rapid so if anyone had trouble and flipped I could paddle down and help them. The instructors all went down and the last little boy to go down the rapid in his kayak got scared and paddled into the eddy next to me. “I don’t think I can do this.” He told me, his voice shaking with nervousness.

“You’ll be fine, I promise. You’re one hundred percent skilled enough for this rapid. Once you run it you’ll be so proud of yourself and you’ll realize how much fun it was. I swear, you’ll have an amazing time running it.” I told him.

I talked to him for a long time about what we were going to do in order to go down the rapid successfully. After a while of encouraging him, he finally followed me down the rapid and, like I had promised him, he did brilliantly. It felt really good to see him paddle into the eddy at the bottom of the rapid with a huge grin on his face. “I told you that you’d do really well! Aren’t you glad that you ran it?” I asked him.

“Yeah!” He replied, stilling smiling like crazy.

That day I learned so much about teaching and how good it felt after you helped somebody learn something. I made lots of friends and a couple of them I became really good friends with and I will most likely see them next year at the Kid’s Camp.

Throughout the next two days of the camp, I helped kids learn the technique of strokes, balance, rolling, and just having fun kayaking. It felt really good helping people learn. Not only did I teach them something, they taught me something: how to be a good instructor.

Ladies Day Out At the Collegiate Race Series National Championships

| Posted in Kayak Technique/Skill Development, Women Outdoors |


One of the favorite canoe & kayak downriver races is coming up!  The ACA Collegiate Race Series National Championships.  Colleges & Universities from across the country will show up on March 30th at the Tuckasegee River to compete in canoe and kayak downriver racing. What makes the event fun is that it is in both individual and team races–in kayaks, solo and tandem canoes.

Local southern favorites like Warren Wilson College, Georgia Tech and Georgia State are always enthusiastic participants at the event.  Last year a surprise showing of force arrived from Virginia: the combo team of Sweet Briar and Hollins College.  Returning again this year, the womens’ college team is fired up for another great event!

Tasha Gillum, outdoor director for Sweet Briar College (SBC) and Jon Guy Owens, Hollins’ outdoor director (HOP), are the support team behind this great group of ladies.  Coming up on the weekend, we pulled the two aside to reflect on what brought the schools to the competition and what their strategy is for this year.

A Sweet Briar/Hollins team showing up for the race series. When did this come about?

Tasha (along with Kate, SBC’s team leader): We have gone to regionals/state three times now.  This will be our 2nd time at Nationals. We started going because Jon Guy got Laura Staman (former SBC director) jazzed about it.  Then we, the students, got excited because we got to meet other boaters (we were a little reclusive at that point) and get out on new rivers!

Jon Guy: This is the 4th year that Hollins has traveled to the National Championships, and the 3rd time on the Tuck.  The first National Championships was in Fredericksburg over Fall break.  We decided to go up and try it out for fun.  Getting to hang out with other schools, with other boaters sold the deal.  The big motivator was realizing that with some with work we could actually do well.  Maybe not win, but we knew we could get people’s attention.

Hollins and Sweet Briar have always had some good rivalries in sports. How did you two bond for racing together?

Laura/Kate:  There is nothing like a little innocent rivalry to get students psyched! SBC and Hollins have had a great time paddling together, competing and supporting each other. SBC boaters look forward to meeting up with the ladies they’ve formed friendships at races and other events like swift water rescue classes. It has been fun to have two women’s paddling groups coming together to do what they love – and encourage each other through competition and support of each other.

Jon Guy: I would say the bond has come together in the sense of sisterhood.  Hollins wanted to Sweet Briar to do well because they were so similar.  It was less about school pride and more about women getting the chance to compete on par with men.  They love making men squirm at the thought of losing to a women.  I am not sure if they would say that, but I know its true.

What is the students’  favorite part of the event?

Laura/Kate: The opportunity to get out and paddle with a community – meet other boaters and have a fun day on the river.

JonGuy:  I think that the women at Hollins really enjoy that they have done so well.  It is not lost on them that they really know that the time could come when they get crushed again, so they are enjoying it.  In many ways it reinforces their choice to come to Hollins, be successful in a male dominated arena.

Okay, without spoiling your strategy, what is the goal for this years competition?

Laura: Our ladies aim to do their personal best in the kayaking races. We don’t have a well rounded program so we focus on the kayak portion – we know it won’t bring us an overall win but the ladies have fun getting out on a different river, trying to their best and meeting other boaters.

Kate:  We don’t go to win, we go to have fun. ACA is cool because you can be as competitive as you want to be. At nationals last year we wanted to get on new rivers, work on our paddling skills, meet new people and have a good time. We go to become better paddlers.

JonGuy:  Our goal is to really have strong representation in all of the events.  OC1, OC2,  & K1.  This is the best way for us to come out on towards the top of the pile in the end.  It is hard to win a single event, there are some great teams out there.  Consistency is our best bet at getting in the top 3 again.

We’d love to hear any final thoughts leading into next weekend?

Kate:  ACA’s offer a time for new boaters and old boaters alike to get out and meet more boaters. States is better for new boaters and we have had more beginners come with us on those trips than to nationals. It has been cool to meet other boating schools, particularly Hollins, and I hope that more schools start coming to these events!

JonGuy: My biggest thoughts towards the women that have been racing is the fact that it has really pulled whitewater paddling into the forefront at HOP and Hollins. The spirit of completion has motivated them to strive to be better paddlers.  They check out boats more often, they work out more often, and they are starting a club with the full intent of helping to support the competitors.  It has created a sense of identity for many of them, which is incredibly important to many of them.  They are accused of being too much of a clique.  Imagine that, a HOP clique!!!

Tasha: The ACA’s races have given the SBC boaters an opportunity to rally as a team and work toward goals – individual and team goals. The veteran paddlers encourage new ladies to join the team and compete each fall. It’s something to rally around and a way to build community. I’d second Jon Guy- even within the SBC Outdoor Program there is a paddling crew. They’re hooked and they encourage each other in pool sessions and on the river. Having a culminating race is a great way to celebrate all their work and be a part of a larger boating community.

Well, obviously the Endless River crew will be cheering for both Sweet Briar and Hollins. We love sharing time on the river with you. And sure enjoy your enthusiasm. The best best of luck!








I Ain’t Skerd to Kayak!!

| Posted in Kayak Technique/Skill Development, Women Outdoors |


that’s how we say it here in the south…

the vision behind our I Ain’t Skerd program is differentiating between “fear” and “anxiety.”

Fear is what keeps us from doing something that is way out of our ability, or just really stupid.

Anxiety is what keeps us from doing something that we can do, but just have not worked up the grit to do.  Anxiety is the butterflies in the stomach, the “accidently” missing that last stroke that would have sent us into the hole, the not giving a move 100% and scurrying back to the line we feel super comfortable with.

We celebrated another awesome “I Ain’t Skerd” Ocoee day this week.  Moves were tried, different eddies caught, limits pushed, confidence built, and lessons learned.  We all came away better boaters from the day.

All of the above is at the heart of good instruction, but sometimes it is valuable–and fun, to just have a good ol’ southern I Aint Skerd day and put it all out on the table.

There are more I Ain’t Skerds coming up this summer for the Ocoee and for transitioning from a flat water roll to whitewater.  Check the dates out, or make a date for your own day….


What’s so fun about Slalom

| Posted in Slalom, Women Outdoors |


by Mary Mills

Mary Mills is a slalom boater.  She did not get into slalom because she aspired to go to the Olympics.  In fact, there was more than a little reluctance when the suggestion was made that she try paddling the slalom gates. Just a little…

Thoughts on “Slalom”
When Juliet brought me to the gates for the first time, I wasn’t sold on the idea. It just didn’t seem practical to me; it was something only Olympic people did. I thought doing a slalom course would be super easy, but it actually turned out to be incredibly difficult.The first time she took me out on the Nanty gates, I just couldn’t do them. I was so frustrated. I was determined to get the hang of it. It turned out to be the best thing to develop my skills and confidence.

So What Changed

This past weekend was a dual slalom weekend: with Olympic hopefuls racing at the Nantahala River’s U.S. Open, while a whole separate crowd of enthusiasts participated in the final leg of the 3-part Alabama Race series on the Locust Fork River.

After an awesome weekend on the Locust Fork, Mary shares a little perspective on where slalom has taken her:

Why Slalom Makes you a More Proficient Paddler
I have to use the water features effectively to make ferries, eddies, and gates. Presetting your boat angle and planning at least 2 or 3 moves ahead is crucial, you just can’t make the gates unless you plan way ahead. I used to be awful on creeks, now they are my favorite thing to kayak, one giant slalom course. Doing slalom all the time makes a technical creek move much easier since now I am not thinking of just the move I am on, but the next few moves. Just like a slalom course. I certainly wasn’t sold on the idea of slalom gates the first time I did it, but I am sure that the reason I have improved and can now catch just about every eddy anywhere is because of all the slalom practice and the races I do.

And Then There are the Races
Plus the races are so much fun. You sit in the staging eddy with someone holding your boat, your name and number are announced over the speakers,the countdown begins, your friends are cheering at you from the banks, your are so excited, your adrenalin races, you hear the go signal and everything vanishes but the gates as you take off. 20 to 25 gates later You come to the end exhausted and everyone is cheering for you! You make the last upstream gates cleanly without stopping your momentum or touching the gates, You sprint to the finish line and realize you made a clean run, no touches or missed gates, everyone is cheering for you. It is the just the best feeling. I have gone from touching almost every gate and missing quite a few when I started last year, to almost a clean run every time.You can really see your improvement each time you go out and race.

That’s the winning attitude!

Team ERA Celebrating after a great race on the Locust Fork

Women and Traveling Abroad

| Posted in Costa Rica, Ecuador, Women Outdoors |


For women traveling abroad, there are a few cultural hitches that can make for awkward moments; nothing that should dissuade a female from embarking on an international trip, but if known ahead of time, can make traveling as a female a whole lot easier. Here are a few points that often are overlooked on the standard packing list:

Toilet Paper; something many of us take for granted. But once out of metropolitan areas, there are many countries that consider toilet paper a luxury. If you are not a big drip dryer, make sure you bring along a travel size roll of paper. And work on your squats before you go—many toilets are not really conducive to sitting down.

When it is “that time.” The last thing you were thinking about when packing for your trip was the ol’ monthly girl time. And even if you check the calendar to make sure you are not going to overlap, traveling often screws up the timetable just to be a nuisance. Pack for it even if it is not going to happen. Outside of large metropolitan areas, many cultures take a different view on how the monthly plaque is handled. Solution: pack enough of your favorite product for the time you are going to be gone. And think about disposal. If you are traveling in a country that has little access to public bathrooms, or has septic systems that do not accommodate paper products, you need a disposal solution. Bring a supply of snack-size zip lock bags. And have a bit of toilet paper folded in each one (for reasons already mentioned).

Prescriptions. Many countries bypass the doctor when handing out prescription drugs. You walk in to a pharmacy, describe your ailment, and as long as you are not asking for your favorite recreational drug, you will probably be taken care of. Exception to the rule: birth control pills. Don’t leave home without them. It is not only uncomfortable asking for them, but all but impossible to get a prescription filled in countries that do not exactly condone the use of modern medicine in birth control.

Changing. If you are visiting a country that has religious and/or cultural stigmas about public nudity for women, don’t embarrass your host country. You will not win any friends flaunting your inhibitions. Respect their culture—even if their culture is not shy about calendar photos of half-dressed women snuggling up to sweating beer bottles, they might not take you changing in front of them well; therefore, bring a changing towel, dress, skirt, long shirt.

Cat calls/wolf whistles/being ignored. Sure it might be sexist in your country. And it is in theirs. But that is beyond the point. In many countries (Latin American countries for example) if you are a good-looking lady, you are going to be appreciated. Don’t shoot them the finger and shout “pig” in every language you know. Just continue on your way and be flattered. On the other extreme, there are certain cultures where you will be overlooked if you are part of a group embarking on an adventure—particularly an athletic adventure. Don’t be offended when there is a show of surprise that you are going to do the same thing as the guys…kayaking a river, climbing a mountain, riding a mountain bike. There are cultures–even in this day and time, where women do not participate in such activities, much less alone with a group of guys. Don’t back off from what you are doing. But don’t take things personally if dubious eyes turn towards you when you start putting on your gear.

The Bar Scene. In many countries, it is against every cultural norm for a woman to hang out in a bar. Nightclub/dance club, yes. Bar, no. That doesn’t mean don’t go—but make sure you are with friends if you do so. Do not try being a bar fly on your own; it will be taken the wrong way—even if all you intended was to have a glass of wine before going to your room for the night.

And above all, remember that television supersedes you. Take care not to play into the preconceived notions that certain cultures have about women from your culture. Take the time to do your homework before traveling to learn the faux pas of your destination’s culture. And remember that you are an emissary for all the women that will travel after you.

Rowan Stuart: ERA Junior Instructor

| Posted in Kids Outdoors, Women Outdoors |


We would like to introduce you to Rowan Stuart: junior member of the ERA team!

Junior Team Member Rowan Stuart 

In reality, Rowan is a junior junior team member as we already have several juniors on our team. We look to the junior junior position as a way to help encourage a young paddler who fits the following criteria:

1. Extremely enthusiastic about paddling
2. Makes a good ambassador for Endless River Adventures both on and off the water
3. Is too young to be a full staff member but is willing to be a team player in order to pursue this crazy passion of whitewater kayaking
4. Has some specific–and ambitious goals for paddling
5. Fits in with our crew!

We are proud to include Rowan as part of our line-up of 2011 staff.

Rowan will be another junior journalist for us this summer.  We add her blog to our list of junior paddlers who are sharing their dreams; joining the likes of Haley Popp – who is headed to Europe this month for Wildwater Nationals.

Sweet Briar Kayakers Place Third!

| Posted in Women Outdoors |


Hats off to the women of Sweet Briar College!

From Laura, director of the outdoor program (SWEBOP) at Sweet Briar:

Yes We did it!!!!!  We have lots of good stories and tales to tell about  the  American Canoe Association Collegiate Canoe and Kayak  championships for Virgina Schools! We are on to Nationals in October.

Lauren Morgan took 3rd place in open boat single paddler division
Keri Falk took 3rd in the exhibition race through the class 2 + rapids
Then  the exciting race of today was the relay race and we took 2nd place  beating the very impressive Hollins who took 3rd place…it was quite  the upset..(but we still had dinner together and Krispy Cream hot donuts  the night before for a little sister school camaraderie in our  competition.)

SO drum roll please, out of 5 VA schools Sweet Briar won 3rd place overall and they have a trophy to prove it!

The River Maidens

| Posted in Women Outdoors |


WNC Magazine’s article on women boaters in western North Carolina.
Ride the waves with WNC’s leading female kayakers in this engaging article….
Written by: Sharon McNeill. Photographs by: Sharon McNeill.


Prizes for 2011 Nan Open Already Coming In!!

| Posted in Endless River Adventures Newsroom, Women Outdoors |


What makes the annual Nantahala Open such a success is a) it is a fun non-competitive event; b) great people come from all over to support the event; c) Team Wave Sport comes with all sorts of enthusiasm and…..

the manufacturers’ support of the event is first class!!

The 2011 Nantahala Open will be no exception. Already lined up to give their support to the event is a cast of veteran Nantahala Open Supporters:

Shred Ready Helmets

Snap Dragon Skirts




These friends not only support all of us with their great white water gear, but they support events such as the Nantahala Open–an event for the “normal” paddler out just having fun!

Stay tuned for more!