Today marks the beginning of my fourth week in the Southeast, interning with Girls at Play. These past weeks have been full to the brim of paddling along with Creek Week and working on technique, exploring new rivers, meeting unforgettable women, and being inspired. My body is sore from paddling, laughing, and learning!
I am currently in my last quarter of undergrad at California Polytechnic State University, studying Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Administration. Our final quarter requirements consist of interning for a company that we can see ourselves being a part of after graduation. This is a great chance for my peers and I to search far and wide in the outdoor industry in order to broaden our horizons and make new connections! I cannot say enough about how thankful and humbled I am already by my experience with Girls at Play.
Chasing water and gravity on both sides of freezing has always been a major hobby for my family. I got hooked on whitewater kayaking by learning from my dad and brother; I’m the third child of three, and have never wanted to be left out or left behind! However, it wasn’t until I saw another woman on the river when my mentality switched. I had always been really afraid of paddling… But when I saw another girl on the water, and saw how much fun she was having, I realized that we don’t kayak for survival, we kayak to have fun! No matter what race or gender, we are all paddlers when we’re on the water.
The confidence, humility, empowerment and excitement that I have experienced on the water has helped shape me into the person that I am today. So, when it was time for me to find an internship for my last quarter of college, I wanted to find a company to work for that I was passionate about, that I could contribute to, and that would introduce me to an environment where I could continue to learn and grow. This is one of the reasons why I was so attracted to Girls at Play.
Anna Levesque, Emily Shanblatt, and Stefanie McArdle are three powerhouse women that come together to make any Girls at Play program into an awesome and rare experience. Creek Week is a five-day all-women clinic on a completely different level than any intermediate or advanced whitewater lesson/clinic that I have been a part of. These women have the logistics of these weeks dialed, and their teaching and instruction makes an intimidating sport extremely approachable, manageable, and fun. Something that I want to carry with me in everything that I lead, do, or be a part of, is Anna’s energy. She is very positive and enthusiastic, but also very calming, patient, and relatable. She is incredibly safe and reassuring, which makes for an amazing learning environment. The way that Emily explains skills is straightforward and easy to understand. Whenever she gave instructions, or led her group down a rapid, her confidence was contagious and empowering. Stef was the photographer for both of the weeks, but contributed way more than just photos. Her knowledge and practice of safety techniques, paddling skills, and her positive and encouraging outlook on both life and paddling were great for the clients, and myself! Anna, Emily, and Stef are great examples of solid female paddlers who are inspiring both in their kayaking skills and desire to pass their knowledge and life experiences forward.
A lesson that I have been learning since I have gotten here is that we are all on a journey. Perfect technique doesn’t magically happen over night, and smooth lines are hard worked for. It’s not all hard work, though, because the friends that we make along the way, the rivers that we get to paddle, and the moments that we spend on the water are ones that make life so special.