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Paddling into the sunset with Wild Women

Shifting Gears and The Community Boating Centers’ partnership commences

Paddling Event attendees circle around a kayak and instructor who shows them how to hold a paddle at the Community Boating Center [CBC] in Fairhaven, Wash. on Feb. 3. The CBC and Shifting Gears have partnered to create free kayaking events for women and non-binary individuals. // Photo courtesy of the Community Boating Center

Shifting Gears and the Community Boating Center have begun partnering with one another to create free kayaking events for women and non-binary individuals. The partnership commenced during Shifting Gears this March 1-8, in honor of International Women’s Day. 

Shifting Gears is a nonprofit with the mission to foster welcoming spaces for growth, confidence and joy, according to the organization’s website

Kari Humphreys, one of the co-founders and current president of Shifting Gears explained that the organization was born out of a conversation she had on a hike with two of her friends. 

“We realized we had some similarities in our experiences,” Humphreys said. “Especially when we started talking about things that we aspired to do or had aspired to do in the past and the barriers that made us nervous about approaching that thing. We realized we had a lot of passion about having those barriers not exist for other people.”

The CBC opened in 2007 and is a nonprofit with the mission to create safe spaces for the community to explore and appreciate the Bellingham Bay, according to the center’s website

Sara Welsh, CBC director for education and outreach, said she was first introduced to water sports at Western Washington University when studying at the College of the Environment. 

“I realized how important water recreation is for everybody, it is such a great way to unwind from the day and also to appreciate our natural environment,” Welsh said. 

Humphreys said she and Welsh reconnected over beers a few months ago after having met in college. They shared their individual goals for their nonprofits and their intentions to break down barriers in outdoor recreation. This meeting spurred the first free event for women and non-binary individuals through their partnership.

“It felt like a really great opportunity to get people on the water and build confidence,” Welsh said. “The first paddle we did, it was nice and calm and there was a beautiful sunset, and just looking out at all these women paddling, it was just a badass moment.”

Since this first event, the CBC has hosted two more. One of the attendees, Niko Alexander loved the event. 

“I felt really empowered to be there,” Alexander said. “There was a moment when we were getting the kayaks down, and typically at an event like that, you feel scared to do things, but it was the permission to do what I wanted and be in the space that made me feel confident in myself.” 

Kristi Kucera is the owner of Moondance Sea Kayak Adventures and has been working in water sports for 10 years. She said Bellingham is a unique spot to learn a water sport. 

“It’s a good place to learn, but we also have really cold water compared to other places,” Kucera said. “It may be less forgiving than other places. If you know where you’re going in the bay there’s enough protection. You should always have someone to paddle with.” 

The CBC and Shifting Gears plan to host more free events in the future. To find and register for these events, follow the Community Boating Center on Instagram.


Ani Lowe

Ani Lowe (she/they) is reporting for City Life for The Front. They enjoy going on hikes with their dog, bouldering and making art. 

You can contact them at anilowe.thefront@gmail.com.


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