Taking to the Water

Women Paddlers Brave the Bay in Cal Adventures' Kayaking Class

by Kathleen Scalise

The best place to meet guys at Berkeley, a roommate of mine once said, is in a Cal Adventures course. When you're tired of Sierra Club singles hikes and can't find straight guys at the comedy clubs, she said, a fly fishing or rock climbing class will never fail you. She would be crushed to know Cal Adventures held a sea kayaking class last month without a man in sight. And it was planned that way as part of a new series of courses for women only.

Run by Intercollegiate Athletics and Recreational Sports, Cal Adventures is an affordable way to enjoy the wilds and waters of California while learning skills in such sports as mountaineering, rafting, sailing and skiing. Classes are open to the public.

Traditionally, Cal Adventures classes tend to be 60 to 70 per cent men. To balance the program, courses were designed and launched this year to provide a more supportive atmosphere for women.

Sea kayaking comprehensive debuted in May and white water kayaking starts June 19. A climbing class is scheduled for fall.

"There is a real difference in the way women learn sports and men learn sports," said Steve McInaney, paddling coordinator. "Men tend to jump right in and women want to watch ...and ask questions first. Women can feel pushed to do it the way men do it, but that isn't necessary."

Most of the dozen women who arrived for the course said the gender deal wasn't a big part of their decision. One woman, a spunky red head in jeans and possibly senior in the group which spanned several generations, said, "I've waited years to do this. I just want the serenity of this and the peace and the control."

Several women nodded in agreement. "I just want to get to the point where I can experience midnight on Bodega Bay," said another.

But Tamara Lange, a new Boalt graduate with a steely gaze à la Clint Eastwood, said it made a difference to have the class focus on women.

"I don't like how easy it is for a stressful kind of gender competition to develop," she said. "Needless to say, I'm very competitive."

"You don't know. Just you wait," responded a fellow classmate, whom Tamara promptly challenged to an arm wrestling match.

Joking aside, though, the camaraderie in this group was decidedly different than in other classes, said the instructors. "The people seemed friendlier," said instructor Matt Craig, a physics graduate student.

One more thing he hadn't planned for: the class needed a lot of short boats, being long on short people.

His fellow instructor, Jane Magid, said the enthusiasm reminded her of her "first paddle." She gave herself a sea kayaking class for her 30th birthday. "I had a basic Jesus complex," she said. "Ever since I was a little girl I always wanted to walk on water. Kayaking was the perfect way to do it."

For information on Cal Adventures classes, call 642-4000.


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