Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Additional Detail for C&K Female Kayaker of the Year

Weighing in Again! I can’t help it. The ladies included in Canoe and Kayak’s top female kayakers of the year absolutely blew me away. Please click here for the full list. It’s an incredible selection of amazing paddlers. And although many people poo-poo this as a popularity contest, I totally disagree. A single vote for any of these ladies is a vote for all female kayakers trying to better this grand sport.

I feel bad though, I do have some comments to make…

Nicole Mansfield’s description was pathetic. To simply list this lady’s expeditions is so far off the mark of who Nicole is and her contributions to this sport.  

Let me start right off with a quote from Nouria Newman, the lady I’ve already defined as the most accomplished male or female kayaker ever (please click here for that post):

“Nicole isn't just one of the very best paddler I know, she is an amazing person. I feel incredibly lucky to be her friend because she is always there for her friends. When things get sketchy, she is right there to grab your lifejacket before you have time to yell help. When you're having a bad day, she will always find a way to cheer you up and make you laugh. 
On the river she has a steezy style and she can go very fast, but she is too humble to even realize it. She values adventures with friends, quality whitewater and overnight missions over any competition. She loves kayaking and she is always willing to share her passion for the sport and take people down the river. 
I believe that being a great kayaker isn't just about winning races and running the gnarliest rapids. It's also about having a positive attitude on the river, making safe decisions for you and your team, watching out for others, having the most fun...Nicole's got it all!”

Let me grab onto one of the main comments Nouria made, “She is always willing to share her passion for the sport and take people down the river.” I don’t know Nicole super well. I float on the skirts of this elite group of White Salmon boaters, but when I find myself standing next to her, she makes me want to train for the Little White race. And let me clarify something—I have absolutely no desire to run the Little White. But Nicole’s love for the river, her ability to guide people through rapids, and her incredible attitude makes this old washed up slalom racer want to get back on the river every day and start getting better again. Nicole clearly believes this is not an exclusive sport for only an elite few. She makes every person she paddles with believe they can one day be as good as the best in the sport. She is not only going big and often, she is inspiring and helping others do the same. And as Nouria has so often and so beautifully pointed out, inspiring and encouraging others is also true greatness.

And it’s not just Nouria and I that feel this way about Nicole. To find more proof I went to Jo Kemper, another elite female boater, and asked her a few random questions. Please note Jo had no idea I was writing this piece or even asking about Nicole.

Sarah’s Question: “Who is responsible for teaching you the lines on the Little White? And really helping you become confident on that run?” 
Jo’s Answer: “Nicole definitely took me down and gave me the beta several times. I’ve only gone a few times without her.”
Sarah’s Follow-up Question: “How many people do you think say the same about her on both the Truss and the Little White?” 
Jo’s Answer: “A lot, she’s so rad about taking people down!”

Enough with the fluff, not only is Nicole fostering other boaters, she is also a technician with beautiful lines and perfect strokes. However I will say that if she made a training plan now and worked on finding more power in her forward stroke, she might be able to take Nouria down at the Little White Race. Come on Nicole, you can’t let a little French girl beat you;)

Need proof on Nicole—click here for an awesome clip on her and her buddies doing what they do best. Charging the Little White, making it look easy, and most importantly, making everyone want to go paddle (at 3 mins you can see those perfect strokes I'm talking about).

Now I should close out this post, but I can’t. There is another female kayaker on this list that I want to talk about, Ashley Nee. And let me be clear, with this one I’m a 100% bias. My earliest memories of Ashley is her paddling up the feeder canal on the Potomac River barely able to see over her cockpit rim, but already this little punk charging and training as hard as the boys. Every time I think about her going to the Olympics, I get all teary eyed. Ashley has pushed through so many injuries, so much political garbage, and so so so many workouts. Finally this incredible athlete will be walking in the Opening Ceremonies at the Olympic Games. But like Nicole, Ashley is so much more than just an athlete. She has been a camp counselor, an instructor and a motivational figure for so many girls in the sport of kayaking. Ashley is now a woman and married, but to me, she will always be that little punk kid that paddled so hard she’d turn beat red at the end of every full length. I truly hope that every boater in this country will join me in cheering for her at the Olympics because I promise you, she’s just like all of us—a kid who loves the river.

Bottom line: Voting ends tomorrow for Canoe and Kayak’s Female Boater of the Year. Vote for one of these amazing women on this incredible list, as a vote for one of them is a vote for all female kayakers. Click here to be taken to Canoe and Kayak’s female kayaker of the year vote.

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