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Five Ways to Embrace Your Inner Boater Chick

Embrace your inner boater chick by following these five simple rules.

Women and men are different on and off the river. That’s more than okay; it’s awesome. Here are five paddling moments and ways to embrace your inner boater chick.

1. Guys will offer to carry your boat

Sometimes let them. Some women want total independence as paddlers. They fear a guy offers to carry her boat because he thinks she needs him. He doesn’t think he’s taking your independence, though, just your boat.

I’m not saying let them to placate their masculinity; I’m saying let them because sometimes the boat is just damn heavy (anyone got a Wavesport Recon or Blackly Option?). You don’t need to carry a heavy boat to prove you’re tough to your friend; he’s already turned around and left.

I sucked it up one day during a steep portage in the south Sierras. A buddy had run the rapid and, while the others were scouting, he got out of his boat, ran back to me, and offered to carry my canoe. Carrying it myself would have held up the team on an already long 17-mile run. So I said sure. Boating is a team sport; friends want to paddle with you because they believe you’re competent (and maybe even fun). They will not deny your throw rope when they’re swimming in a nasty hole because at some point they helped carry your boat.

2. You may have flashbacks, which “hold you back”

You and a buddy get worked in the same rapid one day. The next day he fires it up and runs a clean line while you watch from shore as you portage. Be careful here, or you could fall into a self-defeating trap. Though a team sport, paddling is an individual passion. What goals you set are independent of others’ goals, so don’t worry how fast someone else advances. The only one who feels “held back” is you. Your friends—guys and gals alike—are stoked to paddle with you on the water. Those who don’t? That’s more about their character than your skill.

3. Guys will hit on you

You are a butterfly among moths … many many moths. Our rarity in paddling gives us what economists call scarcity value, where an item’s price is based on its relatively low supply. One of my buddies adds to that idea what he calls river scale: a woman who in normal circumstances might be a two or three in attractiveness becomes a six or seven when she’s a paddler. Don’t get indignant, ladies; you give the dude a once over, too. We can just afford to be picky.

4. You can say no

More than likely you will date a paddler at least once in your river life. A boater boyfriend may have even introduced you to the sport you love today. More than likely you will also get a major beatdown on a river above your ability because said paddling boyfriend encouraged you to run it.

The boyfriend isn’t malicious. He just really believes in you. He was stoked you hit your first combat roll or dry-hair Class IV run, and he wants to be part of your progression to the next level. Often in his own excitement he can fail to realize you want more time on the water before stepping up. That’s cool; just tell him.

5. Have a ladies weekendpaddler2

My confidence and skill thrived during my first all-women whitewater trip, and I learned many women share the same experience.

The achievement goal theory can explain this experience. People are either ego-oriented learners—measuring success based on how performance compared to others—or task-oriented learners—measuring success based on some pre-determined standard. Paddling fosters ego-oriented learning. An instructor typically moves to the next lesson once he sees people grasped the concept, unintentionally encouraging people to progress at the same speed. Those who learn by task-orientation may struggle, physically or mentally. Guess which learners men and women are.

People reach their full potential when learning in the best environment for their learning style. So similar learners, i.e. most women, tend to learn best from other women. Better learning begets greater confidence and more fun. Book a cabin, load your gear and beer/wine into the car, pick up your girlfriends and hit the river.

Men and women are different. Men and women’s views differ about the river’s risks and challenges and how we approach them. We encourage our teammates differently. That’s part of the fun of being a boater chick. Go out and embrace it.

Meet fellow female paddlers through Girls at Play or at the Boater Chick Festival.

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