Women are Welcome Sight in Outdoor Sports

More women are participating in outdoor sports.

CANNON BEACH, Oregon--Nikki Rice strode across the parking lot at Oswald West State Park with a surfboard under one arm, her baby in her backpack and her husband on her other arm.

Rice, from Victoria, British Columbia, also sported the blissed-out smile of a surfed-out surfer.

"We surfed this morning, and we're hiking this afternoon," Rice said as she stowed surfboards and wetsuits and dug out hiking gear. "It's a great day."

Rice wasn't the only female surfer at Oswald West--one of the northwest's most popular surf spots.

Dozens of women rode the glassy, 4-foot waves rolling into the giant, tree-lined cove on Saturday. Male surfers outnumbered female surfers--but not by much.

Women paddled out to the lineup, caught waves, laughed and talked surfing.

The beach has never been so much fun.

Things have really changed since I learned how to surf at Malibu Beach in Southern California in the early 1970s.

Back in those days, guys surfed and most girls stayed on the beach and kept their Farrah Fawcett-Majors hairdos dry and fluffy.

Sure, a few women were in the lineup, but they were almost as rare as a cougar in downtown Olympia.

I've spent most of my life kicking around the outdoors, and more and more women are showing up out there. It's wonderful to see.

Women have always been all over the ski slopes, sailboarding spots and hiking trails, but I've noticed a sharp increase in women flyflishing, hunting, surfing, skateboarding and other outdoor sports that were male-dominated for years.

I started thinking about all this last winter--when I saw plenty of women ripping the surf on Maui's Honolua Bay.

Honolua Bay was cranking out big, meaty waves, but these women were getting their share of waves--and carving and slashing on their rides. I couldn't--and wouldn't--have ridden those waves.

Then I noticed how many great female snowboarders and skiers rip on Northwest slopes. There are just as many women as men on Crystal Mountain's knee-knocker, black-diamond runs and in the terrain parks at Snoqualmie Summit and Mount Hood Meadows.

Then the Northwest surf season rolled around, and dozens of happy, smiling women were in the lineups at Westport.

Then I had to go back down to Southern California, and women were in the lineup at Malibu--that same surfing hotspot where they were so rare 30 years ago.

All these outdoor women bring grace and a new outlook to sports that were a little too drenched in testosterone.

I know all this is not completely new. Women today aren't afraid of getting their hair wet or sand in their ears.

Female surfers, such as pro Keala Kennedy, who has charged the big waves around the planet for years, are great role models.

My 17-year-old daughter, Courtney, is a surfer, and she wouldn't understand a world where no women were in the lineup.

Courtney is a dancer and snowboarder and angler and hiker and surfer. She smiles through all those sports, but she glows on a surfboard.

And a day riding waves with Courtney--such as Saturday at Oswald West--are golden ones for me.

So, I guess I would no longer understand a world where it is rare to see a woman cast a plastic worm--or a fly. It's not a surprise to see women shooting trap or stalking game. I can't imagine not seeing women shredding the snow at Crystal Mountain or gliding down the line on Westport's waves.

The outdoors needs all the friends it can get these days, and women belong out there. They have always belonged out there.

I know that more women are on the way. I know because Nikki Rice took her baby--and her surfboard--to the beach last weekend.

I know because my fashionista, dancer daughter laughs when sand cakes in her hair.

And I know because I watched two women teaching their daughters how to surf Saturday afternoon.

And all those women were laughing with the pure joy of it all.

Chester Allen's Outdoors column appears Tuesdays in The Olympian. Allen can be reached at 360-754-4226 or callen@theolympian.com .

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Copyright (c) 2007, The Olympian, Olympia, Washington

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