Photo courtesy of Outessa Summit.

SUP Women | Finding Your Tribe On The Water

By Casi Rynkowski

The turquoise blue waters of Barbados should be enough to satisfy anyone, but after nine days of paddling and surfing with three guys, I was craving a female companion on the water. This was never more apparent until I sat squeezed on a tiny boat filled with boards, sailing airborne over 4-foot rollers. Mother nature had delivered to us a legit downwinder and we were on route to our launch spot. I so badly wanted to confess my nervousness but didn’t want to show signs of weakness. Instead I swallowed hard, and listened to conversation among the guys, which skirted around any moments of second guessing. This got me thinking…what would the vibe and conversation be like if this were a group of women?


Photo courtesy of Outessa Summit.

Flash forward nine months and for once I am not on a body of water chatting about SUP, but here at a mountain top with a group of women. It's strange to be standing 10,900 feet above sea level bundled in a puffy jacket and gloves, looking out at James Peak with the great Salt Lake while standing on an SUP. Today, I'll be sharing my passion for standup paddleboarding in, of all places, the top of Powder Mountain in Utah. It's the perfect venue for the Outessa Summit, a women's outdoor adventure camp. Outessa's three-day event gives women from all walks of life the opportunity to explore things like paddleboarding, rock climbing, kayaking, mountain biking, hiking and trail running to name a few.

Today Anna Levesque and I are delivering a 'Rise and SUP' morning conversation at 8 am in the biting cold air. This is one of the land presentations that are scheduled throughout the three-day event, as well as our five on-water classes, which are happening at the reservoir many warm degrees below at the base of the mountain.


Photo courtesy of Outessa Summit

I was greeted with stories at the beginning of each SUP class and throughout the many 'chat sessions'. All had a common theme—women searching for their tribe, their people, the like-minded women with shared passions. I met nurses, students, accountants, sales reps, moms, writers, event planners and teachers. Some women arrived with friends. Many came solo, like the young Navy mother looking to make new friends with similar interests and to find new adventures to share with her five-year-old daughter. Others came in groups, some coworkers here for team bonding experience and leadership development. Two hundred diverse women in all, and yet the common thread was so obvious. You could hear it in their stories and even see it on their smiling faces when they listened to each other. They were excited to find their tribe.

"What attracted you to standup paddleboarding at the Outessa Summit?" I've asked some of the participants at the beginning of the on-water class. While I've gotten a variety of answers, the core theme is feeling safe in a supportive female group. They can fall off a board without judgment, feed off the group atmosphere and push harder than they may otherwise. These women were looking for new challenges, something to add balance to their lives. And not all classes serve up glassy paddling conditions. For some, white caps and 12 to 15 mph winds make us work hard to just stand up. None of us are leaving disappointed or upset that things aren't perfect. The challenges alone make them feel victorious.


The sun has finally warmed the bite right out of the air on top of Powder Mountain, and the grassy knoll is now filled with smiling future paddlers holding steaming cups of coffee. You can see the hope that fills their faces and Anna and I know exactly what they're thinking. They hope they've found their tribe. We hope so too, as well as the power and knowledge to get out and explore on their own. Casi Rynkowski


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