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Lady of the Fork

Making Memories on the Fork

When hosting a new event, you never really know what to expect. Unless you have hosted a large event before, there is a lot that happens behind the scenes. Most events take nearly a year to plan out and this one came together in a matter of months.

Sarah Stine reached out to me with this idea to run a “clinic” style event to pique the interest of women to learn more about racing. Seeing as I am not much of a racer, this wasn’t my realm. Stine, however, has recently gotten into racing and this was her jam.

As plans came together, two names stuck out to us to help lead the event – Chris Hipgrave (Pyranha) and Dane Jackson (Jackson Kayak). I know some thought “Why are two guys leading an all-female event?” The answer – because we asked them to. And I could not be more thankful to them for donating their time. Personally speaking, I could care less who wants to make me a better kayaker – just make me a better kayaker!

While the event didn’t go exactly as we had planned, the event was a huge success. With a cold morning start, a number of women filled the pavilion at Ratliff for a 30-minute yoga session with Katie Houston. She focused the session on shoulders, back and hips and I learned how incredibly inflexible I am which has me motivated to do more yoga on my own.

Stine had breakfast catered in and women socialized before we rallied for the river. We had 19 women put on the upper, 2 more met us at the gorge and 12 carried through to learn the lines and get racing advice.

The number of smiles and support was unparalleled. Chris and Dane complimented each other well with Dane taking the lead and Chris reaching out more on a one-on-way basis. As a teacher, I enjoyed listening to their communication with each other. True leadership.

The support didn’t just come from within. Taking to the Russell Fork the next day, I had a number of kayakers approach me about the event and how they loved seeing the number of women come through the gorge and all the positivity surrounding the event. I also heard from a number of women that expressed how they hoped we would continue this event so they can be part of it next year. That sort of encouragement is what takes over the negativity that can surround the social media environment and propel growth.

Here is my list of gratitude: to Chris and Dane as the amount of advice given was priceless. To the guys that ran sweep – while you didn’t need to spring into action, the peace of mind you gave to increase confidence was invaluable. To Sarah Stine for creating an entire event to get me to the Russell Fork (inside story there!). Seriously though, Sarah did so much to make this a success. Last but not least, to all you rad, amazing women that signed up, accepted growth within the sport and helped spread the badassness that women bring to this sport!

Stay tuned for next year ladies!

Crystal.Gustin

I started kayaking in Wisconsin of all places, because this is where I am from. I then moved to San Diego and took on kayak surfing along with heading to the Kern River when water was available. I then made the move to Asheville, NC and have been hooked on this sport since my Wisconsin days. With whatever it is that you do, do it because you love it, not because society tells you should or for other outside factors. Don't simply exist, live!

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