Monday, June 17, 2013

How to Get Your Girlfriend in to Kayaking

It's no secret that kayaking is a male dominated sport, and I have definitely had many guy friends ask me if I knew any single girls who paddled, or for tips on how to get their girlfriend interested in the sport.  I think men and women tend to learn and experience kayaking in very different ways.  Here are a few tips from a girl who spends a good amount of time paddling with my boyfriend, Zach (who happens to be way better than me) and has stuck with the sport for about six years now.  Hope it helps! (Photo: Me, Johanna and Mallie and the Nolichucky, Credit: Phil Ellis)

1.     Make it Fun
Kayaking is a lot of things.  Brown, gnar, epic, stout.  But most importantly, kayaking should be fun.  The more you manage to make it fun, the more likely she is to enjoy it.  Have a “date night” where you take a picnic, some beer and a kayak to the lake just to paddle around, get comfortable flipping/getting out of the boat, etc.  Paddle something low stress with mutual friends.  Positive association has long been a staple of advertising psychology.  If you want to get a person interested in something, make it a positive experience.

Me at the Kennebec my first year paddling in my Jackson Kayak Fun, with my signature look of sheer terror.  Photo: Rapid Shooters Maine

2.     Take It Slow
The Upper Green isn’t that hard right?  I mean you’ve run the gnarrows like 800 times and the upper only has like two easy rapids. She’ll be fine.  But then she get’s recired at Wanda’s hole, swims four times, and has to carry that stupid heavy boat forever to the parking lot and ends up wondering why anyone even likes this stupid sport.  I know a lot of women who tried paddling and had traumatic experiences early on that turned them off to paddling.  On top of that, most of us want to make the person we’re with happy, so that adds another level of pressure.  For any beginner kayaker, the more comfortable you feel with basics, i.e. eddies, ferries, rolling, strokes, the more confident you will feel navigating a river and handling the inevitable difficult situations that are inherent to kayaking.

 3. Encourage Her to Have Other Paddling Friends
It’s raining and the Scary Fork of the Dark Prong is running.  Zach is super pumped.  He loves the Scary Fork of the Dark Prong.  It’s his favorite river!  I have about as much interest in running the Scary Fork of the Dark Prong as I do in pulling out my own teeth.  Luckily, I have my own group of paddling friends, and we are all going to Fairy Boof Land.  Encourage your girlfriend to have her own paddling friends.  Not only will you get to go to the Scary Fork of the Dark Prong, but having your own crew gets you paddling with people of all levels, which can be a nice change from always paddling with someone way better than you. (Photo: Hanging out at the Ocoee.  Credit: Phil Ellis)

4.     Use Your Words
So your girlfriend just swam out of her kayak, she’s upset, maybe even crying, and you have no idea what to do.  So you decide to do what you would for any of your bros (though they would definitely not be crying), keep your mouth shut and give her some space.  This is NOT a good idea.  Let me repeat: NOT a good idea.  Because while you are silently giving her space, this is what she is thinking, “OMG why isn’t he saying anything?  He’s mad.  I’d bet he’s mad.  He probably doesn’t want to kayak with me anymore.  I hate this sport.  Why isn’t he saying anything?”  So let me save you some drama.  Go over, give her a hug, tell her that everything is ok, and continue to say nice things while you help her bail out her boat.  For most women, this shows caring and acceptance despite a “failure” of swimming, and will help her move on and not dwell on it.  This also goes the other way.   Giving compliments.  The other day Zach told me I looked really solid, and it inspired me to go run Section 4 at 2.4’, the highest I’ve ever run it.   A few positive words can go a long way.

5. Listen and Communicate
So you think your girlfriend is totally ready to run the Big Hole Slide Drop, but even though you told her like six times she’d be totally fine she’s still going to walk it.  What gives?  And earlier, she totally freaked out at you because you peeled out of an eddy and didn’t wait for her.  Women.  They’re all drama.  The reality is that following someone down a new run requires a huge amount of trust.  As with any boating partner (and probably any sort of relationship period), it’s important to communicate what you need, listen to the other person, and listen to each other.  If she doesn’t want to run something, don’t push her.  If she wants you to wait, wait.  When I run something new with Zach, I tell him that I want to follow him pretty closely through the big rapids, if I feel overwhelmed I signal to eddy out, and if I don’t want to run something I don’t run it.  Talking about all of this beforehand can take some of the stress out of the intimidating experience of paddling, not to mention prevent a fight or two.   (Photo: Zach and I after a sunny day on the Horsepasture, Credit: Andy Perkel)

Jackson Kayak
This Post Published There