Women in Charge: Green River Takeover

The annual women's paddle down North Carolina's Class V Green River

The Narrows ladies at Sunshine Rock. Photo: Gareth Tate
The Narrows ladies at Sunshine Rock. Photo: Gareth Tate

By Melina Coogan

On Saturday, August 29, the second annual Women in Charge: Green River Takeover returns to its namesake river in Saluda, North Carolina. Dozens of ladies will sail down the Class III rapids of the Upper Green and bomb down the venerated, steep-creek drops of the Green River Narrows in a powerful tableau of community, empowerment, and friendship forged within the male-dominated world of whitewater kayaking.

The Takeover is the brainchild of Laura Farrell, a Dagger sponsored athlete and one of the most renowned and talented female kayakers in the world. In 2014, while paddling the Narrows with a group of friends, it suddenly occurred to her that she was the only woman in site. “I just thought, where are all the women? We run this all the time, but we hardly ever see each other.”

Every paddler in this photo is a woman. Colonel Dicks rapid. Photo: Gareth Tate.
Every paddler in this photo is a woman. Colonel Dicks rapid. Photo: Gareth Tate.

In that moment, Farrell realized the need for an event that would bring the female kayaking community together in mass numbers. “I wanted a day where women took over,” she explains. “I was inspired by the idea that we could be the majority out there.”

Farrell teamed up with fellow Dagger paddlers Emily Shanblatt and Anna Levesque, the founder of Girls at Play who had recently created the Shannon Christy Memorial Fund. The three kayakers have run hundreds of miles of hardcore, Class V whitewater between them, and share a passion for instilling in other women the confidence and skills it takes to get out on the water.

Laura Farrell and Emily Shanblatt. Photo: Nunatak Designs
Laura Farrell and Emily Shanblatt. Photo: Nunatak Designs

Together they envisioned an event that would continue the legacy of Shannon Christy, a cherished friend and accomplished paddler who died in 2013 on Great Falls. “We want to remember Shannon, and to feel the energy and love for the river and for each other in the same way that Shannon felt it,” says Shanblatt.

The inaugural Green River Takeover far exceeded the expectations of the event organizers and sponsors. Fifty-two ladies from across the Southeast converged on the Upper Green, with twenty-four continuing down the Narrows, and only one swim throughout the entire day. Local businesses donated shuttle vehicles, trailers and raffle prizes, and a horde of male paddlers showed their support by driving shuttle and serving beer. (Kayaking legend Chris Gragtmans, dressed in a pink rabbit suit and ears, claimed the title as ‘lead shuttle bunny.’)

The  "Shuttle Bunnies." Photo: Gareth Tate.
The “Shuttle Bunnies.” Photo: Gareth Tate.

Imagine the stoke of running Pinball with twenty five women cheering you on from upriver, and another two dozen waiting to high-five you in the eddy below. And this year, organizers are gunning for an even greater turnout. Participants will meet at the Fishtops parking lot, then proceed together down the Upper Green with a number of experienced kayakers setting the pace.

At the Upper takeout, paddlers can hike out or continue down the Class V Narrows. The day will conclude back at the parking lot with food, plenty of free beer and sweet raffle prizes from Astral Designs, AT Paddles, Seal Sprayskirts, Mountain Khakis and more. Proceeds from the raffle will benefit the Shannon Christy Memorial Fund.

The Green River Takeover is not intended to be an instructional event, and while all women boaters who are comfortable running Class II/III are encouraged to join, it’s recommended that you are already somewhat familiar with the lines. “We’re not teaching or guiding, it’s more about community, about realizing the power of being together on the river,” says Shanblatt. “It’s like, of course I can do this, because 50 women surrounding me believe I can, and I trust them.”

–For more information and to RSVP, check out the Women in Charge: Green River Takeover Facebook page.

The group after the Upper Green. Photo: Gareth Tate.
The group after the Upper Green. Photo: Gareth Tate.