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This is an event that we are sure you do not want to miss. Here is our thought behind the event: get more women out there racing. For those that have no interest in racing, we have included one group that just wants to get out there and learn the lines better on the Russell Fork.

Racing Instructors

Paddle In Pink is incredibly proud to present your two main instructors for this event: Chris Hipgrave (Pyranha) and Tara Blair (Dagger).

Chris Hipgrave really doesn’t need much of an introduction, chances are you have seen him on your local river or at a paddling event. What you might not know about Chris is some of the many achievements in his diverse paddling career. He has quite literally traveled the world in search of adventure. Traveling as far as Bhutan, South America, Asia, and the Antarctic Peninsula to paddle in some of the most inhospitable environments. Exploration paddling isn’t the only cornerstone of his career. Racing is another of Chris’s passions, participating in dozens of both organized and grassroots events both in whitewater and surfski every year.

What makes Chris perfect for the Lady of the Fork Paddle and Race prep isn’t just his resume, it is what he embodies as an athlete in this sport. Chris is quoted as saying “Winning medals is good; racing is better; loving the sport is best” and it’s for that reason that we have asked him to share his knowledge at this event; because racing should be about participating, having fun, and encouraging each other…placing is a bonus.

Tara has spent the past few years traveling around the US and internationally chasing some of the best kayaking destinations, and Russell Fork season is always one of the highlights of her year. “The whitewater, the scenery, and the community always bring me back to this special place. I’ve been racing here since 2020 and have made an effort to make as many release days as my schedule allows. I’m excited to share my passion for this river and encourage other ladies to get out there!”

Gorge Exploratory Group

Hi Everyone! My name is Eleanor “Ellie” Ansback or Funkyriverwater (IG). I am a Kentucky girl who moved to Asheville in 2016 to teach whitewater kayaking at a girls summer camp. The Russell Fork River is one of my favorite places in the whole wide world. The people, the mountains, the river, and the vastness are all so beautiful to me. I love paddling in October when the leaves are turning colors. I started paddling the Upper in 2009 and started boating the Gorge in 2011. I would come out during the off-season and paddle ELF or high-flow laps. Crazy to think about how much time I’ve had in the Gorge under whatever weather conditions. I can’t wait to meet everyone and share with you my passion for the Russell Fork Gorge.

Lesley ran Russell Fork Gorge for the first time in 2019. Since then she’s been back for multiple days every October, leading first-timer groups, studying the rapids, and experimenting with different lines. Lesley will be supporting Ellie’s group this year.