In the 1990s women sucked at freestyle kayaking. Why? One theory was that men are taller and stronger. For years men were happy with this state of affairs. We chivalrously loaded our girlfriends’ boats onto our cars and helped portage them past rapids. If our girlfriends were hungry we’d wander off into the bush, snare a rabbit or slay a deer with a river knife to provide for her. It was a primitive existence, and it made men feel good about themselves.
From the woods surrounding the rivers came butchy women with rusty razors. They were carrying placards and whining something about equal rights. They more or less admitted they sucked but they said it was because they didn’t have boats and equipment that fit them properly. This talk spread like Dermatone through the eddies and shuttle roads where women paddlers congregated. Before long, even the splashing of guys launching helixes and landing Roladexes couldn’t drown out the protests:
- My boobs are scrunched.
- This shaft is too long and thick (yes, I actually heard this).
- The hole is too sticky.
- There’s too much volume in my stern (who owns this problem?).
Nothing was ever just right for the disenfranchised Goldie Locks.
In an attempt to forestall legislative action, manufacturers complied. Women now have boats like the Siren that are designed for them. Seven 2 makes the Daisy paddle just for women. PFD companies make models for women that “wrap rather than crush for a perfect fit that ONLY WOMEN can understand.” Shred Ready makes the Vixen helmet. Hell, for some reason Immersion Research makes spray skirts for women—the ‘J Lo’ no less.
Have the pro women caught up to the men? Uh… No. Women haven’t even caught up to where men were in the ’90s. At the last World Freestyle Championships in Australia the men’s scores tripled the women’s.
What women really need is a Venus! Relax folks, this is a family show. I said Venus, as in Venus Williams the tennis superstar. The arrival of Venus and Serena Williams silenced the critics of women’s tennis.
Men used to watch tennis for Kournikova and Hingis—the play was slow but the skirts were short. Women tennis players were considered material for Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue pin-ups. People said the women’s game would never match the men’s play of high-powered serves and fast volleys.
Then on to the court stepped Venus and Serena. No longer was women’s tennis boring. It was high-powered fast action. The game lunged from the swimsuit calendars and smashed back onto the court. Today, the Williams are the biggest names in tennis, easily stealing the hype from the men’s game. I’m not suggesting that women’s boating is too sexy for its own good. If that were the case I’d just keep my mouth shut. I’m just saying that the Williams sisters didn’t excuse themselves with complaints about thick shafts and fuzzy balls: they just kicked ass.
If whitewater had a Venus, men would be a little less, shall we say… cocky.
Ben Aylsworth just released his latest video H2Ho, which is not a family show.
This article first appeared in the Early Summer 2005 issue of Rapid Magazine. For more great content, subscribe to Rapid’s print and digital editions here.