As I expected, the annual Moosefest near Old Forge, NY was a treat. The weather was bitterly cold, and it snowed both days, which just added to the fun of the whole event. There was certainly no question as to whether it was drysuit time. Both Saturday and Sunday I bundled up under my drysuit and zipped up. The resulting cold hands and face were well worth the incredible whitewater.
The Moose was a step up for me. I am far more of a play-boater, and much more comfortable in my play-boat over my longer, less agile, creek-boat. So I spent nearly five anxious hours in the car to reach some of the best creeking that New York has to offer.
Overall, the river was incredible, and the rapids challenging in their own unique way. But what I think I will remember most from this trip is the ratio of men to women. Any woman that kayaks will agree that they are certainly outnumbered on the river by men. I have never had a problem with that, and still don’t.
But it is glaring to me how, as the rivers get more difficult, the field of women decreases exponentially. On local Class II/III runs such as the Deerfield, there are a wonderful group of women, and I’m sure that’s true for most paddling communities. Events like River Divas Day in early July attracts a large group of the local badass women of paddling.
However, when the difficulty of the whitewater increases, that strong community of women seems to disappear. Before going to Moosefest, I stopped by Fall Creek, a narrow river that runs by dam release in the late fall. It was a challenging river, but when I went to put on, I was aware of how outnumbered I was.
Eight adult men, who were just stoked to be creeking. And there I was, seventeen, and a young woman. I have to admit, it was on my mind the entire run. It was like the community of women had vanished and now I was suddenly on this shallow, dangerous creek with no women, just eight men.
Perhaps it’s a sign of my somewhat daring nature to be still following what the boys do, I’ve done it my whole life. In hockey, I stuck with playing with the boys way longer than any of the other girls. In soccer, most boys didn’t want to kick with me because of how intense I was about how I played.
But I wish that it didn’t have to be a minority/majority relationship. At Moosefest, the first day I was with one other woman, Orli, who certainly can hold her own on difficult whitewater. However, it was us and a dozen guys on the river. And it bothered me. Ever since I started paddling, I have not found another girl of my age group who paddles at the same level here in the Northeast. I’ve certainly met young girls that get out there and paddle, but not anyone who has also had their life consumed by paddling whitewater.
The third day, it was again, six men and me. I’ve begun to revel in it. Sure, I don’t run everything that they run, and I probably let my fear guide my decisions more often than they do. But I keep up, and because of that I’m proud to say I’m a boater chick.
But I suppose the point of this blog is to send out a boater bat signal to all the women out there. Women are awesome, and when women and men paddle together, it’s even more awesome. I wouldn’t say that I’m tired of always being outnumbered on the river, but I think it would do all paddling communities good to see some more badass women out there.
And to the ladies who already are killing it, keep on keeping on!
See you on the river