In honor of International Women’s Day 2022, March 8, we want to introduce you to the fabulous women on Aqua Bound’s ProStaff team.
The women on the Aqua Bound team in our Osceola, Wisconsin headquarters.
These ladies live in the US, Canada, Norway and Wales. We hope they inspire girls and women worldwide to try the wonderful world of paddlesports!
Rachel Bott: Kayak Guide and Coach, Wales
I live in Wales' beautiful, wild west—Pembrokeshire. If you've visited the area you'll know that by sitting in a kayak and launching into the blue you unlock a world of magic. I've been sea kayaking for over 12 years and have had the privilege of paddling in numerous venues around the globe. I'm hooked!
As part of my day job I take people kayaking around the unique coastline: alongside great sea cliffs adorned with sea birds and wild offshore islands populated by seals and endless marine life in between.
In terms of working within the outdoors industry as a sea kayak guide and coach I've been very fortunate to receive support and the odd injection of mentorship along the way. We have a brilliant club scene in the UK with centres such as Llandysul Paddlers going out of their way to support young paddlers both male and female.
There are annual sea kayaking festivals, weekends and events geared specifically towards females and developing women in the sport. This has had a great impact within the existing female kayaking community but also provides support for those just getting into the sport in creating role models and examples of where the sport can take women. It's an exciting future for the sport and one that just keeps opening doors to new learning, new friends and new locations seen from a unique perspective.
My advice for anyone of any age or ability thinking about sea kayaking, I’d say just have a go! Find a good provider (I know of one!) and have a tester day out. You won’t regret it!
Elisabeth Hatteberg: Kayak Instructor, Norway
I started kayaking two years ago (in 2020). This spring I’m going to be a certified instructor and I just started a local kayak club. My hope is to share the passion and the physical and mental health benefits with others.
Usually there's a difference between genders when it comes to sports since most men are stronger and faster than women. I feel that in kayaking the lines between the genders do not exist. If two people have the same level of competence they are truly equal at sea. Kayaking is a great way to meet other people, a great sport and there is always something new to learn.
My paddling hero is Birgit Skarstein, from Levanger, Norway. In 2010 Birgit was accidentally injured and paralyzed from the waist down. She picked up rowing in 2012 and has competed in several world cups. In 2020 she won the gold medal in Summer Paralympics for women's single sculls. Birgit has an absolutely amazing mindset, a way of being positive and sharing optimism with others.
My mentor has been Bernt Skeie, in Bergen, Norway. I first met Bernt a year ago when paddling around the island of Tysnes (ca 80 km). Bernt is calm and full of knowledge. He has taught me so much about group dynamic, about safety and technique in general. I admire his way of being a mentor, the way he makes everybody feel safe and his clever way of making sure that everybody wants to learn more.
Molly Hagbrand: Kayak Instructor and Guide, Sweden
I have been kayaking since 2014. I was at first not too impressed, but I saw other people’s passion for the sport and gave it a chance. Today I am grateful for the inspiring people I had around me. That truly is a part of what I am doing today.
Today I work as a sea kayaking instructor and guide, and have the privilege to be traveling with it as my passion and work. I mainly teach for NOLS, taking groups out for longer sea kayaking expeditions, including all-women’s trips. One of my personal favorites is to surf sea kayaks and surf kayaks.
My biggest suggestion for someone wanting to get into the sport is to find an introduction course. That will give you the tools to have fun much faster.
Beth Poliquin: Kayaker/SUPer and Instructor, US
I started paddling as a college student in Virginia, canoeing and kayaking on rivers and lakes. When I moved to Hawaii, I started working for a kayak shop. That is how I became a part of the paddling community. I met other kayakers and was able to grow and explore during the years before becoming a mom. When I moved to Minnesota, and my girls were both in school, I again went to the local canoe/kayak/outdoor shop and found my people.
I have kayaked white water rivers, the ocean, Lake Superior, and have won SUP races. I am just as grateful to be able to share something I love (being on the water) with others. I have found most paddlers to be welcoming and inclusive. I wouldn't be the paddler I am without the people around me I've learned from and adventured with.
Being on the water means interacting with something so beautiful and powerful. It's inspiring, at times intimidating and humbling, but also empowering. And it's for whoever wants to experience it. I strongly believe one should never stop learning, so look for classes or clubs, because it's not too late to start.
Maurita Gibson: Kayak Operations Manager and Guide, Canada
I work as a guide and operations manager with an overnight guided sea kayaking tour company. After graduating university, and completely new to sea kayaking, I took the Canadian Outdoor Leadership (COLT) Program at Strathcona Park Lodge, where I obtained my entry-level Assistant Overnight Guide certification through the Sea Kayak Guides Alliance of BC.
In my experience, the sea kayaking industry has been such a welcoming and empowering community for women, largely thanks to the many hardworking instructors, inclusive company owners, and dedicated guides that have paved the way for me.
It can be intimidating at first, and often we can be our own worst critics, so I think it’s important to be ok with being new and learning to be kind to ourselves as we practice boat handling, navigation and group management skills.
If you’re a beginner, don’t be afraid to ask to paddle with people who are better than you are, and for those seasoned paddlers, remember to take the time to include someone new and show them why you love the sport. It’s a great way to meet people and have fun! Here’s to strong women and strong paddlers!
Dee Kaminski: Owner and Guide of Reel Kayak Fishing Charters, US
At a young age, I learned to fish out of a canoe with my parents who were avid fishermen, fishing the lakes of Canada on vacations. After moving to Florida in 2007, I learned to fish saltwater from land but I felt frustrated because I was not able to get to where the big fish were so I decided to buy my first kayak.
I decided to start my own kayak fishing charter business, Reel Kayak Fishing Charters, after doing some research about women kayak fishing guides. I found none. This was back in 2008. I had found my niche and am a successful guide into present day.
I teach to young and old, covering everything from basic paddling skills, kayak rigging, and techniques specific to fishing from a kayak. Also covered is fishing techniques, lure lure choices, fish habits, how to locate fish and how to handle fish properly.
Even if you don’t land a fish, just being in the outdoors, getting up close and personal with nature can be very relaxing and calming. It takes you away from the hustle and bustle of busy lives. It also teaches us lessons in persistence and tenacity. You’re not always going to get what you want, in fishing or in life.
Laila Johanne Reigstad: Kayak Instructor and Guide, Norway
Now in 2022 it is actually 20 years since I tried kayaking for the first time! Kayaking was a hobby for many years and was always in the background when I took my doctoral degree in molecular biology and gave birth to my two kids.
Kayaking became a place I could go to to relax, think and ground myself, so when my scientist contract ended in 2015 I decided to kayak for 6 months. I went to Greenland, kayaking with orcas in northern Norway, enjoyed kayaking in the long Norwegian fjords and even in caves along parts of Mallorca. I never came back to Academia as kayaking gave me so much, on so many levels.
This year is the 7th year I am living full-time, all year around, from kayaking. I am a kayak instructor in the Norwegian Paddling Association and love to teach beginners classes in ocean kayaking. I also run kayaking expeditions to Greenland, and host many shorter overnight trips from my base west of Bergen on the Norwegian west coast.
95% of the persons joining my trips and courses are women, often at an age where their kids are old enough so that mummy can get some time off. I meet so many strong women from all kinds of professions and all ages. The happiness and enthusiasm they discover through kayaking fuels both their and my energy!
This January I became the first woman to be the editor of the Norwegian magazine Paddling and the associated webpages. So exciting! The content of the first magazine issue has a deadline exactly March 8th. I think that's a good sign! Happy International Women’s Day to all of you! And remember, you can do it all!
Do you have paddle questions our friendly Customer Service Team can help you with today? Contact them: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]
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