It was 2009. A trip leader cancelled at the very last minute. There was no backup (learned that lesson the hard way). I led the beginner creeking trip down the Nantahala. I can honestly say it was the best time teaching I have ever had. I had my hands full with 14 chicks in the group. We boofed and surfed our way down the river. Somewhere about half way down while surfing in a pretty substantial wave for beginners this chick Ashley Cork flipped. After several failed rolls I was just sure she was going to swim. Suddenly she surfaced and yelled out the biggest roar I have ever heard from a woman. I knew right then she was going to be a great boater someday because she absolutely refused to give up. I have never been so proud to not only witness that but that it happened during BCF. Ashley has been at every BCF since then. We have become very close friends over the years.
Fast forward to 2014. My job during the festival is to get the Cheoah happenings going. It is always the one river where we have the most spectators, largest trips, clinics, and the Boater Chick Boater Cross Race. This is an outstanding race to watch and compete in. I tried it a couple of years ago. Thank God I swam at Yardsale because it gave me an excuse for my lousy finish time. I yelled at Charli Kerns the entire time through the race to pass me but all I got back was "I can't! I don't know the lines!" I finally swam and she passed me. "Whew!" I thought, "There is my excuse for getting spanked!" Then I look up to see about 50 people all over the banks. I dumped the boat and finished with my tail tucked. I had been humbled by the race I started! ..as it should be :) I refused to give up too. That same thing happened to me during a World Cup wildwater event many year ago. Same outcome too. I didn't give up then either and I crossed the finish line. Just about every female boater knows that to succeed in anything giving up is not an option. Even if you finish last you finish. We at BCF especially know this to be true.
So I'm at the Cheoah this year about to get the race started and who walks up to grab a BCF Kokatat jersey? None other than Ashley Cork. I could not have been more proud of my friend. I could not have been more proud of this festival. If just one person can benefit from this festival every year then we have done a great job. I've never seen her smile so big. She was scared. A full on 1.7 mile sprint in class IV+ whitewater is no joke. It's hard but it's worth it just to finish. Especially when your right behind the person in front of you. No swims, no flips. The perfect run. Congratulations, Ashley!
Saturday night at the fast and furious gathering we thank everyone, eat some southern grub, give out the awards, and raffle gear from our sponsors. Afterwards a chick came up to me. She had something she wanted to say. She said, "I'm not a great boater. I swim sometimes. Today I swam four times. I've never swam that many times in one trip but today was one of the best days of my life and the best day I've ever had on the river." She never gave up. She started crying and hugged me. This happens every year and every year I tell that person, "That's what BCF is all about. You are what BCF is all about." BCF, while we donate proceeds, is not about raising money, that's just a great bonus which is what makes us a bit different from other festivals. BCF is about teaching female chicks to never give up. We provide relatively free instruction from some of the best boaters and instructors in the business. We are tremendously grateful for the volunteers who believe in the goal of BCF. You can do and be exactly what you want if you never give up. This philosophy is useful in every aspect of a woman's life. It is what makes us strong and BCF celebrates and encourages that strength.
I would like to thank Kokatat for being our biggest sponsor every year and for continuing to support women in whitewater. I would like to thank Mary Anne Grell and Nikki Malatin for their commitment to this project from the very first year BCF existed. Thank you ladies for yanking the mic from me at the festival to give me an award. I can't tell you how much it meant to me to be honored like that. What a special thing we all have here with this awesome festival.
Congratulations to Mary Anne for finally beating Nikki in the Cheoah Chick Boatercross Race! It's about time! You never gave up either, MAGS.
Congratulations to our 7th Boater Chick of the Year Erin Savage! We got several emails plus countless likes and shouts for Erin to be BC of the Year. She is one of the most patient, encouraging, level headed, and humble chicks around both on and off the water. This award is always given to a chick who gives back to the boating community. Erin earned it and her friends knew it. Thank you for being a great leader, for working hard to save the environment, and for helping out with BCF in so many ways. We love you, Erin!
Thanks to all of our wonderful sponsors, volunteers, and attendees who helped put this festival on. You simply showed your support for women in boating and that's what this festival is all about. We also raised a little bit of money for First Descents! The folks at FD are some of the most amazing people I have ever had the pleasure to be friends with. Our donations aren't enormous but we wouldn't think of donating anywhere else. We Boater Chicks have something in common with the survivors at First Descents...they never give up either.
We will see in you May 15-17, 2015 for the biggest BCF ever!