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Alessandra the Brave

I am now two for two in attendance at the Kirkwood Outessa event, both times with Oru Kayak as an ambassador. This is one of my favorite events to attend, and there are so many reasons. The women come to Outessa looking for an escape, looking for answers, to learn new skills, to have bonding time with friends, and to make new friends. Those are just some of the reasons.

Learning to kayak

By Elena Pressprich

I am now two for two in attendance at the Kirkwood Outessa event, both times with Oru Kayak as an ambassador. This is one of my favorite events to attend, and there are so many reasons. The women come to Outessa looking for an escape, looking for answers, to learn new skills, to have bonding time with friends, and to make new friends. Those are just some of the reasons.

The Outessa event is basically a giant women’s summer camp getaway; but there’s wine, beer and no curfew. The weather for Kirkwood & Silver Lake was looking perfect for the weekend, low 80’s as an average; the perfect temperature to take frequent lake dips. I also had plans to meet up and hang out with several ladies, most of which I have never met in real life, only through the computer world. I was really excited to finally see these ladies in real life.

When I landed at the Reno airport I met up with Steph, my fellow Oru rep, as well as our friend Meghan Young, two ladies that really inspire me and make me happy. We spent the next two hours driving and making small pit stops to get crappy smoothies, floppy hats and exuberant socks. When we made it to Kirkwood, we dropped Meghan off and went straight to Silver Lake, where the paddling would take place over the weekend. When we arrived, we found that the twelve Oru kayaks had already been set up by the guides, and everything was in order and ready to go for the weekend. Kayaks, PFDs, and paddles; check, check and check. It’s pretty amazing how 12 kayaks can fit in a small shed stacked on top of each other without hurting themselves at all. Other kayaks couldn't pull this off.

Floating in a kayak

Storing your kayak

After settling in, we were able to link up with our other friend Alex, ate a large dinner and stuffed our faces with s’mores and beer around a campfire while we watched the sunset paint the surrounding mountains. Is this real life? This is rad.

Sunset kayak

Kayak snacks

The weekend flew by. Most days looked like this: Grab a large coffee, fill our bellies with breakfast and book it straight to the lake. The classes were filled with ladies excited to learn more kayaking skills. Although some had kayaking experience before, they still wanted to learn proper techniques. Plus, very few had ever heard of, seen or been in an Oru Kayak. That was the most exciting part of our job. Blowing people's minds when we would explain the story of Oru and how such a small box turns into a really stable and easy to paddle kayak.

Learning to kayak

Kayaking with friends

Swimming and kayaking

There were so many incredible stories from the participants over the weekend but there was one story that I will never ever forget. On the last day, Sunday, as we sat down to breakfast, we noticed a middle-aged woman sit down near us but was all alone. Her name was Alessandra. We started asking her about her weekend: what classes has she done? What’s been the best part? What are you doing for the last day? She responded with some pretty amazing answers. Although terrified of heights, she went rock climbing for the first time. Despite spending much time on a bike, she signed up for the mountain biking class. Alessandra explained that she didn't grow up with a lot of opportunity for outdoor exploration or education, and her reason for being there was simple and brave: it’s never too late to try new things, even if you’re terrified. Despite her lack of experience on the water,  she had also signed up for a morning kayaking class that day. Steph and I were excited to see her face her fears on the water.

Once at the lake, the REI guides went over basic safety and technique. I stepped over to our morning breakfast friend (Alessandra) to check in with her and how she was feeling. She was still really nervous, but excited to get out on a kayak. While the rest of the ladies shuffled into their boats, one of the instructors noticed that Alessandra was feeling timid and decided to stay back with her to make her more comfortable. After a few minutes feeling out her boat on shore, the guide asked her if she was ready to push off. Alessandra was close to ready, but not quite. The guide asked her to name her boat, and she responded with a beautiful Spanish name, her mother's name. She was now ready.

Putting kayak in the water

 

Oru Kayak

An hour later, everyone was coming in. Smiles all over the place, including a huge grin from Alessandra. I asked her how her time on the water was and she said that she was so happy to have done it and had really enjoyed her time. After the ladies had all left, the next group had shown up and we started talking about our favorite moments of the weekend so far. The guide that had just spent her entire lesson with Alessandra shared her story. What she added next made me choke and tear up. Remember when I told you she named her boat after her mother? Well, she did that because her mother drowned when she was only three years old. Talk about a brave woman. Not only did she conquer the physical fear of heights, the challenges of being new to mountain bike riding this weekend (among so many other feats this weekend challenges you to do), she conquered such a major (and very rational) fear of the water.

Talk about being brave so you can go live a fuller and happier life. Inspired, yep. This is a story I will always remember and remind myself when i have doubts about trying something new or scary. Thank you Alessandra for being so brave and sharing your story with us.

Kayaking paddling basics