Women’s Only Paddle Sessions

Buffalo Trek June Issue

Support for womens only sporting events is growing. This is great news as the benefits of encouraging females participation in sport (any sport) is evident.

For women and girls the world over there is a strong link between participation in sport and physical activity and their health and general well being.

Being active not only improves health but self worth. There is evidence that mental health can also be improved by becoming involved in sport.

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Barriers to sport are often to blame for lack of participation.  Lack of time, cost, lack of courses and opportunities, a general fear of being physical in front of other people can all have a negative effect on females in sport.

One of the women involved with the Seabirds Network in the United Kingdom shared her own experience of learning a new kayaking discipline and how, once the women decided to train separately from the men, her skill levels improved much more rapidly.

Gender ‘norms’ can lead to a lack of confidence in sport; sometimes participating with other genders can also lead to feelings of inadequacy.

Having mixed courses has tremendous value as both genders can challenge each other to promote learning. Having all female groups however brings a new dynamic to a course. One that naturally lends itself to a less competitive learning environment and is often more suited to potential paddlers who might be a bit unsure of their skills.

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Clearly there’s no shortage of female interest in paddlesport especially paddleboarding which has the largest number of qualified female instructors compared with kayaking and canoeing.

For now, however, kayaking is male-dominated. The 2014 Outdoor Participation Report highlighted that ‘both females and minority groups are significantly underrepresented in every paddlesport category.’

The United Nations created a Sport and Gender: Empowering Women and Girls document and state:

Despite such widespread global recognition of the important empowerment potential of sport for women and girls, and sports’s specific role in attaining the goals of gender equity, the recent UN report on women, gender equality and sport, Women 2000 and Beyond: Women, Gender Equality and Sport, found that the extent of discrimination against women and girls in sport demands further action and successful strategies and programs must be scaled-up and expanded.

I’ve had many women say to me ‘my husband is out paddling, we bought a boat and share it’. I’ve also had others say that ‘my husband/boyfriend is out fishing with his friends and I want to try kayaking’.

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Seabirds International is working in partnership with the NY State Department of Environment and Conservation as part of their Becoming Outdoors Women program in WNY, http://www.dec.ny.gov/education/68.html to provide women’s only kayaking opportunities, www.seabirds.co.

Womens Wednesdays and Seabirds Saturdays will be held throughout the 2015 paddling season culminating in The Big Sea Kayak symposium in England in September, http://www.mount-batten-centre.com/activities/water/.

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Having a female focused activity provides an opportunity to improve paddling skills and learn new ones in a supportive, fun and non-competitive environment. When participants were asked what the best thing about participating in an all-female course was? They responded freely:

  • Similar learning style, no one person was trying to show off
  • Training with like minded people
  • Coaches that understand females
  • It was a more relaxed atmosphere and a more honest learning environment because everyone seemed happy to talk about their strengths and weakness openly.
  • It was empowering and made me feel proud to be a female paddler!
  • Great as a confidence builder as I realized that I am not the only one who has self-doubt, I don’t think that men would verbalize this fact. Can’t learn if you’re fearful!
  • Having the confidence to practice without feeling intimidated.
  • Atmosphere feels supportive and not competitive.
  • I can be me!
  • Considering I was a bit nervous that I wouldn’t be up to standard it’s been far from intimidating, very open and I’ve learned a lot!

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Interested in learning with women and girls in an all female environment? There are plenty of opportunities locally and further afield, Ladies of the Lake, held in Michigan since 2007 is a great opportunity to connect with other female paddlers, learn new techniques and have fun, http://www.ladiesofthelakeseakayaksymposium.com

The WOW (Women on the Water) symposium in Ontario is in its second year and is so popular that it is sold out, http://www.wildwomenexpeditions.com/wow/


Additional resources:







For female runners:


Seabirds International


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