Kayaking; while not a popular sport to begin with, is even less popular in the female population. However, at this past weekend’s triple crown, the women rocked the competition. The competition was relatively scarce, but intense.
The five women that participated were, Hailey Thompson, Jesse Stone, Elaine Campbell, Barrett Phillips, and myself. Instead of talking endlessly about the details of the races, I’m going to talk about the amazing woman that participated, because I feel like it would be a disservice to the paddling community to not express how inspiring and amazing each of these women are.
The champion, Jesse Stone, is a doctor, professional kayaker, and one of the most caring people you could ever come across on river. For most of the year, Jesse spends her time in Uganda helping to treat people who are stricken with malaria and educating people on disease and birth control. Because of this, her presence on the river is strong, both as a competitor and a friend. This weekend I was fortunate enough to watch her take first place in all of the events. Since I met her a few years ago I have witnessed her paddling finesse and strength. To me, as the youngest woman in the field, I felt as though I was paddling with an icon. Congratulations Jesse on an awesome weekend.
Now, to someone that I feel is like my sister, Hailey Thompson. If you ever meet Hailey on the river you’ll automatically be put into a better mood. She has the most bubbly personality out of anyone you’ll ever meet and she seems to make the sun come out whenever you’re on the river. My favorite part of the weekend was when she accidentally floated down into pencil sharpener and got tossed around for a little bit, and then rolled back up and gave an unmistakable cheer, which put a smile on my face. Every time I paddle with Hailey, I feel a little more optimistic about life. And that’s not something you would expect to come out of a girl that kicks major butt at the Coast Guard Academy.
Thirdly, is the young but incredibly talented Barrett Phillips. Though she may have felt a little out of her league in the freestyle game, Barrett is one of the most technically perfect slalom paddlers that I have ever seen. It makes me feel so much happier to see a woman being so badass at slalom to show the boys who’s who. I have so much that I could learn from her to become a better paddler, and I hope that we get to spend some time together on the river the summer. A big congrats to her as well for working so hard this weekend.
Lastly, one of my biggest role models in whitewater, Elaine Campbell. Her attitude towards kayaking is so inspiring and also so entertaining at the same time that I think she makes one of the best female boaters out there. If I could describe Elaine in one sentence it would be, ‘a badass, cool chick with the cool dog and a funny husband, who can also kayak like a champ.’ I think that pretty much sums her up.
I could’ve chosen to focus on the details and the soreness that I’m feeling after the race. But I think it’s more important to show people that women have just as much ability to tackle the river as men do. And although there’s not as many of us, we still make the same impact.
And what about myself? I found myself among these incredible woman all weekend, absorbing tidbits of their incredible knowledge and skill while at the same time paddling my heart out. I placed third at the end of the event, but I felt like I gained so much more than just a medal around my neck to show for it all.
I just hope that the five of us can impact the sport and get more young girls into the sport. Enough of the men dominating this sport. Kayak chicks rule!
Photo credits: Jake Gosnell, Amy Sullivan, Steve Silk, Karen Green