James River Women (JRW) is dedicated to supporting and promoting the inclusion of female and femme-identifying people within the river paddling community. Currently, JRW operates under the umbrella of the James River Outdoor Coalition (JROC), whose mission revolves around park improvement and education. James River Women expand access to the James River Park System, and more specifically, the James River, by supporting access to water paddling sports to those who may not otherwise have the means or support to get involved.
The James River Women started with a group of friends in 2015, as a way to support each other’s endeavors on the river. The following grew over subsequent years, as new women entered the sport. Officially, the group took a hiatus between 2018 and 2020, as the founders moved onto different career pursuits, but informal paddles continued.
In July 2020, with the prompting of a member, a group of 12 women met up to paddle socially distant, of course. After that paddle, there was a collective, “we should do this more often.” Thanks to the urging of Jen Jimenez and Berkley Nestler, the reins of JRW were handed over and weekly paddles have been a regular occurrence for the last two years. JRW also host roll clinics, skills clinics and out of town trips for women looking to improve their skills and paddle new rivers.
In 2021, Tom Wilcox, from the Department of Wildlife Resources, contacted the James River Women to gauge interest in applying for the Virginia Wildlife Grant Program (VWGP) that would go directly to supporting our work. In the winter of 2021, we found out we had been awarded the grant! Kayaking, specifically whitewater kayaking, is largely a legacy sport, meaning that new people usually get into the sport through a relative, friend or partner. A very small percentage of the people who learn to kayak do so of their own accord. Our goal is to provide a space for women and femme-identifying people to enter the sport on their own.
JOIN A LAP
While the mission of JRW is to increase femme and femme identifying participation in the sport, anyone of any gender is welcome to join. Individuals wishing to join a lap must complete the online waiver and photo release form and the lap participation form. The waiver and photo release only have to be done one time a year. The lap participation form must be completed every time participants plan to join a lap. All participants must be at least 18 years of age. If a participant is under 18, their parent or guardian must complete the waiver and photo release form and be present at the drop off and pick up of the child or have spoken to someone at JRW ahead of time to make different arrangements.
We need at least 48 hours notice to lend gear so that transportation can be arranged. Gear will be leased out using a lottery system. You will receive a confirmation email if we are able to provide your requested gear. That email will be sent at least two days before the lap. You will be required to confirm you are still attending within 24 hours, otherwise you will forfeit your gear reservation and we will move to the next person on the list. If you fail to confirm your reservation, cancel at the last minute or no call no show, you may not be eligible to borrow gear in the future. Please only request to borrow gear if you are certain you will be able to attend.
As part of our commitment to building an inclusive and diverse paddling community, it is necessary for us to collect demographic information for our funders and partners. These questions are on our waiver form. This information will be used to report out on our impact and our efforts to achieve our vision. Personal information will never be shared. While the questions are required, participants can choose “Prefer Not to Say”, although we encourage you to provide this information to help us support our work.