It may be one of the most amazing compliments to be told by a young female customer “You’re a feminist icon, Rosie”. As one of the female guides of Abel Tasman Canyons, I am just doing my job – running up and down the canyon, setting up the technical side of things and making sure everyone is having a great time. I was quite surprised at the time of the comment, I mean I’m no Maya Angelou or Emily Davison (who threw herself in front of a horse for the right to vote) but then I had a little think…
We are lucky enough at Abel Tasman Canyons to have had a number of female guides and office staff: The wonderful Eva who has been here right from the get-go, and finally achieved her goal of the 8m jump this year. Diana who was our first female guide, she could never sit still so after a big day in the canyon she would spend her evenings crochet-ing Abel Tasman Canyons Crew beanies. Chatterbox Dee was famous for her cheesy jokes. Lana guided full time last year, and now fits the female multi-tasking cliché of managing the office and a spot of guiding. Not to mention Tess – an amazing young lady who at the age of 16 has already competed in a number of adventure races and spent each night out on a yacht in Anchorage after her work experience in the canyon. As such, we girls don’t feel particularly different, we all do the same job as the guys (especially when it comes to washing wetsuits at the end of the day)… But maybe that is just the thing – a feminist is someone who fights for equality across the sexes, and this is something that we just practice every day. So perhaps we are feminists at heart.
How often do males and females act as equals, we are fundamentally different after all. Maybe the key is to embrace our differences. We have different guiding styles, often males use the give-it-a-go attitude, while a female guide may take a more gentle approach.
Working together allows us to use all of our strengths to make a well-rounded trip that supports and challenges everyone as they take on their day of adventure. You’ll definitely see the guys challenging themselves and the clients on the next front-flip more often than you’ll catch me doing it! While I am always there to pick up the pieces, I am also likely to be there chatting away with that person who needs a boost of confidence to jump out of their comfort zone, be it a 1meter or 8meter jump.
We all aspire to give others an experience they will never forget, something that they might look back on when they reach another challenge, and think – “Actually if I can do that, then I can do this too”.
Being a guide, or any female, in the male-dominated adventure sports world, doesn’t mean you can’t still be feminine… Lana loves to wear pretty earrings and ridiculous skirts, putting her stamp of femininity in the workplace! And both of our mountain bikes and riding kit are shockingly co-ordinated, in the colours of blue and purple… my canyoning wetsuit is bright pink, so who says you can’t celebrate being a woman?!
As more women come canyoning with Abel Tasman Canyons and see us guiding I hope they will be inspired! So ladies #beboldforchange. Realise your own potential… Apply for that new job, start that new hobby; or even just get your partners to do the dishes more often!
By Rosie Hadfield
Want to learn more about becoming a canyoning guide? Have a look at the New Zealand Canyoning School.