I woke up at 10 a.m. today. Don’t act surprised. I’m a night owl. And on top of that I’ve been on a whirlwind kayak binge in Bend, Ore. It was time to crash. I imagine this is what visitors to Park City feel when they go aggro over outdoor rec for three days in a row and have been sitting behind a desk for months leading up to the trip. Oh, don’t bag on me for not sitting behind a desk all my life. You get my meaning.
I pulled into Tumalo Creek Canoe and Kayak shop at 5 p.m. Friday after a ten-hour drive from Utah…by myself. No, I haven’t taught the dog to steer yet. His paws won’t reach. The shop everything you could ask for in waterplay- SUPs, tubes, clothes, dog float coats, touring kayaks and whitewater kayak gear. They also do lessons and excursions to places around Bend. In fact, the shop sits on the Deschutes riverbank.
I had just enough time to unload my boat and the dog before the SheJumps introductions and quick pool session to get us acquainted with paddling gear. SheJumps is a nonprofit based here in Utah but rockstar women from all stretches of the U.S. comprise its core. They are dedicated to growing female participation in outdoor sports by running women-specific events. It’s no easy task when most women are good at making excuses for not playing- kids, time, injuries, shopping, partner who whines. Most active women will confess that they got involved with_____ (fill in the blank with skiing, rockclimbing, canyoneering, kayaking, etc) because a guy took them. SheJumps doesn’t want you to wait for “some guy.” They offer basic, technical skills workshops to help women discover the outdoors on their own. The sports may sound extreme but they are perfectly approachable with knowledgeable caring guides, hosts and peers.
When other women and girls are ‘doing’, you don’t have the same excuses you’d make in a group of guys. ‘They’re acting crazy, they’re more experienced, I can’t do that.’ When your peers are surrounding you, you think, “I can do that too.” Whether it’s a bike maintenance, avalanche or fly fishing clinic, the lessons come from nurturing supportive coaches.
The gaggle of six, mostly Oregon-based chicks was immediately introduced to our guides for the weekend- Mo, Lauren and Cait (our SheJumps representative). Cait had attended a women’s whitewater conference and wanted to bring a similar event to Bend. I had seen the Facebook post on SheJumps and immediately wanted in. What’s a 10-hour drive when you can have expert instruction from women, not men? Guys might take offense and think there’s no difference but when a girl’s about to cry out of frustration I need to hear “hang in there” rather than “suck it up”. I can only imagine what male kayakers would think after yesterday’s final day when one girl left her sprayskirt at the shop (a two-hour drive back), another lost the keys to the van and people were swimming right and left!
We spent Friday evening learning about gear and practicing bow rescues in a small portable pool.
Saturday, we paddled upstream (for hours) on the Deschutes to discuss proper kayak posture, paddle strokes and ferrying from one side of the river to the other. Because of my late nights, I barely had the energy for the tiny section of whitewater at the end of the day. Big mistake. All the other girls not only rocked it but relished in repeating the ferrying drills. My arms were jello so I watched.
Saturday’s drills were meant to prep us for the final day on the McKenzie River; a class II+ whitewater section. Boy, was I excited. I even tried to get more sleep….