Saturday, August 7, 2010

Sex and the single paddler

   OK, the title of this post is a little misleading. We just wanted to see how it would affect our analytics. But this is a post about sex -- the female sex -- and the issue of all-women's classes and symposia.

Ladies of the Lake, the spirited midwestern all-women's symposium, begins shortly.
   Over the years, Sharon and Hannah have taught a number of classes that are specifically billed as women-only. We've written about this before in greater depth, but in our experience, women-only classes offer opportunities to address:
  • woman-specific paddling issues, such as having less upper-body strength and more upper-body bulk than most male paddlers (not to mention how to pee while on the water);
  • woman-specific insecurities, such as dealing with a male paddling partner who is faster/stronger/bossier or has a different set of expectations for a day on the water; 
  • woman-specific strengths, including our ability to encourage one another while we overcome our fears and learn new skills.
   Some symposia have a women's track or some women-only classes. But the upcoming Ladies of the Lake (now in its seventh year), sponsored by Downwind Sports, is a women-only symposium.
   Just because this is a women's symposium doesn't mean it isn't every bit as exciting and challenging as a mixed-gender symposium. We work on strokes, rolling, braces, navigation and incident-management, and if the surf's up, we go out and catch the waves. And just because it's a women's symposium doesn't mean we think we can only have this kind of fun with women. In fact, many of us instructors love paddling with men, learning from men, teaching men and even competing with men. We're sure the same is true of many of our students.
   But there is something very powerful about gender camaraderie, especially for a gender that has historically been discouraged from pursuing physically challenging activities. And if registration numbers for this year's Ladies of the Lake symposium are any indication, the appeal of women-specific kayak classes is still strong.


Anonymous said...

Ladies of the Lake is a unique event - the only one I know of for women.

Attended my third Ladies. The quality of instruction is as high as any other Midwest symposium, which means as high as any in the country.

Altho individuals differ, generally women's techniques for teaching/learning differ from men. Generally men will answer first, speak up more, and volunteer first, so they dominate mixed gender classes.

Unless a woman is an alpha (raising hand LOL) she often doesn't get prime attention or the best opportunities.

There are other subtleties too. A young married woman, her first time at LOL, told me regarding her husband..."when we take a class together it's distracting...I'm not focusing enough on me learning, I'm watching him for his reaction and checking out how he's doing."

IMO if a man and woman kayak together it's a good idea to take rescue practices together... because they kayak together, not because of their gender.

Ladies of the Lake give all women a chance to blossom on their own pace and in their own way. If she needs extra reassurance, it's there. If she needs to be challenged, that's there as well.

Downwind Sports does an extraordinary job w. this symposium and has injected fresh energy into GLSKS at Grand Marais.
They clearly understand how to keep the focus on skills - trips to test and use skills, classes to finetune and acquire them.

I went to both this year and thoroughly enjoyed myself - as a single paddler LOL

bpfamily said...

Thanks for your wonderful observations! This year's LOL was, indeed, spectacular. We're glad you were able to attend.