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Adaptation, Resilience & the Love of Water

a little girl riding on the back of a boat

With the advent of Coronavirus, life seemed to dive into uncertainty both for the world at large and in my own personal realm. Many questions abounded, including wondering if we were even going to be able to operate this season. And as an organization that centers around getting people together, I was understandably a bit nervous. As time progressed and I started canceling our classes, the whole situation became very real and scary.

Now I’m not a person to let outside forces dictate my destiny, so I figured it was time to make something out of the hand we were dealt. I wanted to find a way to stay connected and still provide a service to our students, fans and crew. So, in the same fashion in which I founded Cali Collective, I got a few of my friends together (virtually of course) — who just also so happened to be some of the best kayakers in the world — and created an Online Coaching Series. World champions and renowned expedition paddlers, such as Darcy Gaechter, Anna Levesque and Mariann Saether, presented topics ranging from paddle technique to yoga to the psychology of kayaking. With sometimes as many as four webinars in a week, it turned out people were STOKED to hangout online and talk about paddling, gear and, well, just see each other’s smiling faces. I learned that we can still keep building community even if we couldn’t physically be together.

And then the news hit: we could open and teach on the water! The season commenced in mid-June with our 5th Annual Womxn’s Holistic Paddling Clinic on the Rogue. With an all-star crew, great weather, perfect flows and armed with our new protocols to help mitigate the risks of COVID-19, we ended up having four fabulous days getting back in the teaching groove with even more folks fired up on kayaking.

“We had a large campsite…so it was easy to self-isolate and stay yards away from each other if we chose…The pandemic protocols detracted nothing from the experience. I felt safe and supported.” Nancy Soares, CWC student

We returned from the Rogue to our home base on the South Fork American River and hit the ground running. With more scheduled clinics and private classes than in previous seasons, including our new youth program, plus all the new protocols, we were both excited and nervous at the same time. Our program began to see lots of families and “quarenteams” who were looking for a fun way to spend time with each other in the outdoors and away from the crowds. With the addition of light, durable and comfortable inflatable packrafts, we opened the doors even wider to everyone to come paddle with us, even if they didn’t want to get in a hardshell kayak.

Taking the momentum another loop forward, we welcomed playboating powerhouses Sage Donnelly and Brooke Hess to the coaching staff to begin building our new freestyle program. So whether someone wanted to learn the basics or throw a pan am, we had them covered.

We held our first Teens & Tweens Whitewater Clinics this summer which were an overwhelming success. We introduced some awesome new kids to the sport and stepped up the skills for the next generation of boaters. We partnered with whitewater legend Julie Munger and Sierra Rescue to offer kids river rescue courses to expand on it even further and in an effort to help raise responsible new paddlers.

“The highly skilled coaches knew how to make learning fun. The overall atmosphere of the whole clinic was friendly and welcoming.” Hannah Musgrove, student, Teens & Tweens Whitewater Clinic

But then as all things have their ups and downs, we had to make the very sad decision to cancel our 2nd Annual Community Celebration which benefits our Outreach Project. We would have loved to get everyone together to race down the river, eat, drink and dance the night away, but we had to make the responsible call. Thankfully though, our Outreach was still in force this season through our scholarship and ambassador programs, as well as free outdoor community yoga classes. In lieu of the Celebration this year, we are currently developing an online silent auction, with 100% of the proceeds to benefit the Outreach Project.

With summer winding down, we are shifting gears to focus on our blossoming Saltwater Program based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Under the direction of Laura Zulliger, we are pumped to offer regular classes in sea and surf kayaking from beginner to advanced paddlers, ranging from relaxed bioluminescence trips to rock gardening workshops along the iconic NorCal coastline.

“I haven’t had such a fulfilling and recharging season in years…Thank you for helping me find the love again.” Gail Cho, CWC student

While we are amist very challenging times, I am beyond grateful for the community in which I live, the extraordinary crew of coaches I work with and the fact that I can share my passion for paddling and the outdoors. With such serious things going on in the world, I am happy to provide a safe space filled with laughter, support and good vibes. We have adapted, stayed connected and inspired even more people to join our growing paddling community.

Love & light,



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