My group is next to last to launch into the cool water of the Upper Green River in Saluda, NC. As I slide into the water in my creek boat, I smile at the thought of the almost 70 women ahead of me. It's a bright morning on August 27, and a total of 78 women have joined together to paddle in the Green River Takeover in honor of a friend of ours who passed several years ago, Shannon Christy.
This is the third year Laura Farrell and Emily Shanblatt have organized this event, and it's the biggest one yet. I feel lucky to finally get to be a part of something I've heard so much about. The passion and love Laura and Emily share for this community of badass, female paddlers shows in their faces as they run around organizing groups, finalizing logistics, and encouraging everyone they meet in their path.
My group of six amazing women–some of whom I know and others that I’ve just met–moves smoothly down the river. The first rapid, Bayless Boof, appears on the horizon. Women are everywhere, in eddies waiting to go, in eddies at the bottom cheering each other on, and on the rocks in the sun taking photos. I wait at the top while everyone has great lines, then glide down the left side and into the eddy where the rest of my group is gathered.
One would think that having 78 women on the same stretch of river at one time would cause bottlenecking and chaos. But thanks to Laura and Emily's tedious planning, the ten small groups cruise downstream smoothly, with no hang-ups or waiting. In fact, from Bayless Boof until we get to the last big rapid, Pinball, we don't see anyone else.
At Pinball, all the groups are gathered in a large eddy with a giant sunning rock. Everyone is eating lunch and cheering as we celebrate our smooth run and collective love for the sport. There are several mother-daughter teams, a twelve-year-old getting her first Upper Green lap, best friends and new friends.
The next section of river, the Green River Narrows, is a Class IV-V section only 32 of us will continue down. Men in pink bunny ear headbands are waiting at the takeout for the Upper to help carry boats out, and the rest of us gather for a few minutes to break into new groups before taking off down the Narrows. The same men helped shuttle us from the takeout to the put-in earlier in the day, driving vans and trailers donated from local outfitters.
I haven't been on the Narrows in months, but my nerves calm after the first rapid, Bride of Frankenstein, when I realize everyone is supporting each other and paying careful attention to safety. The Narrows lap is smooth like butter. Safety is set at all the right rapids, a handful of women run Gorilla with beautiful lines, and we all move downstream in separate groups connected by a love for this sport, river, and community.
At the end of the day, everyone gathers around tables full of food (supplied by Dagger) and prizes. As expected, beers get cracked open and a variety of sundresses and trucker hats come out on display. Everyone is mingling, meeting new paddlers and catching up with people they've met at previous Green River Takeovers.
Laura Farrell is glowing during the raffle. She thanks all the sponsors who made this event possible, and excitedly reports that the event has raised more than the goal set. The proceeds all benefit the Shannon Christy Memorial Fund, which helps get women out on the water. The prize table is overflowing with swag donated from big names in the industry, and a Dagger Nomad is raffled off last.
Laura and Emily's original idea was to create an event where the women took over the Green River. Every time I entered an eddy and looked around to see women behind and in front of me, I saw their vision a reality. The few men we saw were the minority. And women everywhere glowed with empowerment and confidence.
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