This blog was written by a Backcountry Babes Scholarship Recipient, Hannah Breslin. Thanks to Hannah for sharing.
To the Backcountry Babes that came before me…
Thank you for all that you have done to pave the way to make it just a little bit easier for me to dip my toe in the water at a beach filled with men with scruffy facial hair and perfectly undone ponytails. That small dip of my toe left me wanting more. The rest of my foot followed, and before I knew it I was up to my knees. Then I ventured as deep as my waist, cautiously hesitating when I found myself up to my collarbones.
The hesitation did not last long and because before I knew it I was submerged… in the bliss, in the weightlessness, in the glee that being outside brings. Whether it is the ocean, the mountains, the high desert, the or the redwood forest…we all know the feeling– it is razor sharp, both in memory, but also in physicality.
It is the jagged intake of breath you have upon contact with the swiftly flowing, ice cold snowmelt of the Truckee River.
It is the wind that cuts your cheeks when you are skiing down a summit in the Sierras; it is the small flecks of ice that sting the small bit of skin just barely peeking out beneath your goggles but just above the collar of your jacket.
It is the sting of a small jellyfish, barely visible to the eye, that you swam past freediving, leaving you extremely uncomfortable, but not enough to get out of the water.
It is the pricks that fill your fingers and toes after hours of paddling through the ice cold waters of the Colorado River in May, slightly submerged, because your pack raft was punctured on a rock upstream.
It is these small discomforts that make the experiences as cherished as they are. They leave you feeling breathless, giggly, and with a smile so wide you can feel the corners of your eyes crinkling. It is the physical exertion, the wind getting knocked out of you, the waves throwing you around, the sheer act of trying your hardest at something challenging, that is so rewarding.
So thank you to the Backcountry Babes that came before me. Thank you for making it normal, though rare, to see a woman padding out to the lineup. Thank you for having the same effect on the other women I have passed on countless trails, that you have had on me; you’ve given me a warm face to share a smile and nod with as I pass. Thank you for the cheers of encouragement from the chairlift as I find my footing on face runs. Thank you for throwing shakas from your driver side window as I bike alongside the road.
Thank you for raising other girls that like to shred, rip and tear… down the slopes, rivers and mountains… and ultimately the walls the hold us out of the industry in which we so desperately belong.
To the Backcountry Babes treading and shredding alongside me in the ocean and mountains…
Don’t hesitate to reach out to me for cheers, to lean on me for support, to turn to me when you’ve been boxed out by the “boys’ trips” and “men’s clubs.” I will stand by your side and charge through the barriers alongside you.
We will pave our own paths, climb our own mountains, keep pushing and not let our boyfriends say “I can’t wait to do this with [insert generic male name here].” We will gain the skills needed to be not only their partner in the household but also on the mountain, in the ocean, on the river, and on the walls
Or better yet, we will gain the skills and confidence to seek our own partners. And we will look to our mother, sisters, aunts, and daughters to do so. So next time it will be us that say “Me and [insert generic female name here] are going to ski that next winter. And it is going to be rad.”
But it doesn’t stop there… to the Backcountry Babes that come after me…
Once we are done breaking down the barriers between genders, we will need to break down the barrier between colors, sizes, and sexualities in the outdoors.
It should not only be the blonde, bronzed woman with not an ounce of belly fat that wants to surf. Or the muscular, Patagonia clad woman that wants to shred. It should be those women, but next to them there needs to be a brown girl, with long, curled hair and cellulite on her thighs, and next to her, an indigenous woman with a shaved head and hair on her legs, and next to her a black, queer girl that prefers to wear board shorts to bikinis and next to her, a curvacious latinx woman that has never been to a national park, and next to her a young racially ambiguous girl with not a name brand in sight.
The point is, the outdoors does not have any, one look. It is beautiful, rich and colorful like the outdoors that we are constantly in pursuit of.
Now that we have begun to prove ourselves in the fight for ourselves (and those that look like us) we also need to fight for and elevate the women that have not had a chance on the slope, wave or wall. We need to support all women.
It is only then that we will have truly won.