Girls Gone Rogue
Fun for everyone! Fun is fond and foolish, frivolous and free. It’s part of The Funk Hunters and Fungineers. It is reason enough. The wonderful weirdos of the whitewater world are natural experts at fun-loving, and that’s led me to wonder what it does for us, and why.
The California Women’s Watersport Collective had great fun in June on our grand road trip, combining the North Fork Championship in Banks, Idaho, with our annual Holistic Paddling Clinic on the Rogue River in southern Oregon. We were four girls, traversing three states, in one former prison van packed to the brim with everything we would need over the next two weeks. Sorry, hitchhikers!
Upon arrival in Banks, we paddled the sweet and splashy Main Payette, and then met up with local safety kayaker and instructor Lauren Megaw for a lap on the Staircase section of the South Fork Payette. While the run was a step-up for me, it was easy to follow Lauren, with her precise beta and positive attitude.
The following days were a whirlwind of paddling and parties, re-connecting with friends across space and time. There is a special joy in taking in the neon colors, wigs, and other adornments that kayakers will don, given the chance. Then there were the races themselves, this year’s “World Championship” of whitewater kayaking and the first to feature a women’s division.
The high level of paddling was impressive and engaging to watch, and it felt particularly gratifying to see the girls out there, and to cheer ourselves hoarse for Coloma local Anna Wagner when she was named “Red Bull Rider of the Year Runner-Up” at the Whitewater Awards ceremony on the first night.
Coming down from the hyper-stimulation of the NFC, we had a tranquil afternoon at one of the many natural hot springs of the Boise National Forest,
and then it was off to the Rogue for four days of camping and kayak instruction, in collaboration with Sundance Kayak School. Our 14 students were ranged from ages 24 to 68, first-time kayakers and former Class V paddlers; we split into groups during the day and re-convened in the afternoons for yoga, massage, dinner, costumes, stories, and laughter. My mom flew out from Vermont to join (somehow we hadn’t scared her off on our Chilean adventure last December), and debuted our new Alpacka pack raft, which she proclaimed the “gateway drug” to whitewater. She admitted to me later that she had been nervous going into the clinic. “But I’m so glad I did it, because it was so much fun! I hadn’t realized how much I just needed to have fun.”
On our final morning, we gathered in the water and had a short ceremony for Lori Turbes, a kayaker who passed away in May. The girls who had known her spoke of her bright energy and the encouragement she had given over the years. For those of us who did not know her, it felt as though we did. I mention this because community, whether new amigos or decades-old compadres, is an integral part of whitewater, and much of that sense of connectivity comes from the fun moments shared on and off the river, in addition to the trust gained by facing fears together. And while we know that life can’t always be pleasant or amusing (for the sake of contrast, if nothing else), we also know that we have each other to turn to, with the promise of more fun times to come.
All words and images copyright California Women’s Watersport Collective 2019. All rights reserved.