Dear Mountain Mama,

For months I pleaded with my girlfriend to try kayaking. She finally agreed to go, and two years later she’s hooked. I love to spend time with her outdoors and couldn’t be happier to have a partner who supports my kayaking habit. But I wonder if I’ve created a monster – she always wants to go kayaking together. Some days I want to get on harder water than she’s comfortable paddling.
How do I get her to paddle without me so I can get in my Class-V-fix?

Thanks,
Needing Class V

Dear Needing Class V,

It sounds like your girlfriend feels safe with you. Since she’s been paddling, you’re probably her go-to person for reassurance or help with lines. When she swims, your probably the person that rescues her. Heck, you might even carry her boat.

That’s all well and good, but there’s a lot to be said for all-girl days on the river. Start paddling with other couples. Then suggest that the ladies try a run they feel really comfortable on without the guys. The first time or two you might even offer to run their shuttle.

In the process, she’ll make paddling her own. She’s come to rely on you to figure out the shuttle directions, to tie down boats, or even to plan where to paddle. Paddling with other women will encourage her to take a more active role in figuring out the kayaking logistics, and in doing so, she’ll take ownership of the sport. Many women feel a real sense of accomplishment knowing that they are capable to paddle without their boyfriends.

Besides, other women push each other. Women on the water have encouraged me in ways that a significant other never could have. When I see a female friend dominate a wave or nail a line, I am inspired that I can do the same. Female paddlers are often more comparable to me in terms of body size and strength. When I see that they can make a certain move, I often believe more in my own ability to pull off the same move. When I hear a woman shout, “you got it,” I somehow believe it at a different level.

Paddling with all women groups has also helped to develop my ability to look after people on the water. I used to assume that the guys on a kayak trip will chase down a swimmer and boat. But when I’m paddling with all women, I take a more active roll in helping to resolve any mishaps. I’m willing to bet your girlfriend will start taking more responsibility for her own safety and others when she starts paddling without you.

Paddling with other women also means taking turns getting out front. Leading through the rapids plays a huge role in developing water reading skills. As scary as it might feel for your girlfriend to be out in front, she’ll love the unobstructed view. It’ll feel like it’s just her and the water.

Besides, women laugh and chat more. While guys tend to brag about their kayaking resumes and tell epic stories, we women tend to swap tales about our personal lives. I have decided to date a guy, quit jobs, buy houses, move across the country, and take other risks while paddling with my favorite lady paddlers. I’ve also ended several paddles with sore abs not from the paddling, but from laughing so hard.

Needing Class V, encourage your girlfriend to paddle with other women. Giver her huge props when she does paddle without you. You both will probably enjoy kayaking more if you sometimes get to enjoy the river on your own terms.

Happy Paddling,
Mountain Mama