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THE SPA IN ME

Interview With Tanya Walker, Austin Chapter, Creator and Owner of Black Women Who Kayak +, LLC

Thanks so much for doing this interview. Our readers would love to get to know you better. Would you share how you became interested in outdoor activities? Also, can you share how you feel when you spend time outdoors?

As a kid, being outdoors and riding my bike was my freedom from my environment. It was the only thing we were told we could do. I always had a love and passion for being outdoors. However, my passion grew when I was exposed to things you didn’t see people in my community doing or even heard of, such as kayaking, skiing, cave exploring (spelunking), wakeboard surfing, archery, sky and cliff diving, and Rockwall climbing, just to name a few. Funny thing is, I was a natural at all of this. When it came to doing any type of outdoor activities, I reacted to the words from Maya Angelo, when she said, “Life loves to be taken by the lapel and told, ‘I’m with you kid. Let’s go!’”. Nature is our greatest teacher. There is no better place that I would rather be than outside.

What are some of your favorite outdoor activities?

My passion is kayaking, and it’s at the top of my list. However, the list is very long. Each activity carries its own substance and it refills me when I’m running on “E” in different ways.

Do your family and friends join you on your outdoor endeavors?  

My boys came with me when I did all of my outdoor activities. They were cliff jumping at nine and eleven. I wanted to make sure that I exposed them to everything that I knew wasn’t just for one race. Yeah, we were the only people of color doing some of the things that we did. But it didn’t bother us. My friends are more introverts, and they’ve joined my business. They are now experiencing some of the activities for the first time, just like the members in my group.

What led you to start Black Women Who Kayak +, L.L.C.?

I had the idea of Black Women Who Kayak+ in 2018. One day, I was out kayaking and just realized that I hardly ever say any people of color kayaking. I brought the idea to my ex-finance and she asked me about starting a group. So, I started Black Women Who Kayak +and only one lady would show up to my events. I was going to shut it down at one time and she said, don’t. We’re now 500 members and growing strong in the Austin location, and building up two other locations in Texas. We have three Chapters. We’ve partnered with large franchise companies, such as REI, The British Swim School, and other local companies, such as The Texas Rowing Center, Whirlpool Caverns, Get Out Girl, Ghisallo Cycling, Houston Association of Sea Kayakers (HASK), 2-1-1, Texas Park and Wildlife Department, Crux Climbing Center, and more. We did our first feature story on KXAN. We have several ladies who took advantage of the amazing opportunity to learn how to swim through our partnership with The British Swim School. We have so many accomplishments. I know starting Black Women Who Kayak+ was my purpose.  

How did you get your first group of women to join? What was your first group activity?

Our first group activity was a kayaking event. I created a Facebook group to plan the event. However, only one lady would always show up and I was still happy to just see one of “us” out there kayaking with me.

I saw members of your group on a cave exploration activity. How did you convince women to explore caves? Please share the women’s reaction to that activity when you proposed it.

Hummm, that’s a great question and I honestly don’t know what I did to convince them to come. The plus in Black Women Who Kayak allows us to basically do anything under the sun. So, when the idea of cave exploring (spelunking) came to mind, I did a search for it in Google and found the listing to Whirlpool Caverns. I was so new at this back then; talking to people about wanting to host an event at their business. Well, I got all the details on what to expect. When I created the event, I didn’t leave anything out. I said, it was 19+ feet below ground. You would need a headlamp, a helmet if you have one, clothes that you could throw away, and that we would be crawling, dragging our bodies, and possibly slouched in some spots for four hours. You see, people can RSVP all day long and not show up at an event, which sucks for the person putting together that event. So, when I arrived at the Whirlpool Caverns, I was thinking that I wouldn’t see anyone. I was okay with that. However, everyone that signed up, showed up, and it was one of our most memorable events for everyone. Before COVID, I was planning another one. However, now, we’ll have to wait for a long time, before we an do it again.

I think it’s amazing that you have partnered with companies to provide swimming lessons. What has it meant for some of your members to learn how to swim? 

This has been one of the biggest achievements for the platform of what Black Women Who Kayak+ is trying to do. Our mission statement is to Empower, Educate, and provide access to bring down those barriers, while defying the myths of what people of color will and won’t do. These ladies are the real, (G.O.A.T - Greatest of All Time) for doing just that! I don’t know what it’s like to not know how to swim. But, to see the look on these ladies faces when they learned how to float, tread water, do the back or forward stroke; it’s the greatest reward and feeling.

How does it make you feel to see more black women embracing activities in the outdoors? 

It makes me feel as if the universe is listening. We’ve shifted into a new creation of believers: Winners, Fighters, Adventurous, Curious, Ambitious.  

Is there a favorite memory you can share about a group outing?

Besides us cave exploring and rowing, the longboarding lessons event is my all-time favorite. Four ladies attended. I could’ve died that day and would’ve left this early shell extremely happy. I bought longboards, helmets, safety gear; all out of pocket to make this event happen and it was amazing! These ladies had never ridden on a skateboard before and it was like teaching them how to walk at first. But, by the end of that event, they were running... Hahahahaha! The pictures and the video are priceless. It shows so much strength.

How do you believe Black Women Who Kayak +, L.L.C. has brought a sense of relief over the past year?  

I feel that it’s an outlet for so many, to finally see what they thought they never would be doing…and seeing that they’re naturals at it. These Queen’s have more power than they know sometimes.

Other than in Austin, Texas, where else is Black Women Who Kayak +, L.L.C. located? How did you choose your locations?

We’re currently in three locations in Texas, our hub: Austin, Dallas and Houston. We have several Chapter’s: Kentucky, Colorado, Washington, West Virginia. All of these are in development, and, hopefully will be up and running soon. Kentucky, however, will have its first kayaking event on July 17th.

What advice would you give to women of color that are curious, but apprehensive, about joining Black Women Who Kayak +, L.L.C.? 

My advice would be that I completely understand. It was ingrained into the roots of us that black people don’t do this or that. That’s why, when you do decide to join us, you won’t be doing it alone. There’ll be other Sista’s there; afraid, apprehensive, questioning why they even showed up, or better yet, why am I acting “white.” But, guess what?? You’ll be a part of the movement. There’s no such thing as a “ONE” race sport. So come on Sis, join us. We’ve been waiting on you.

Business Phone: 512-831-7318 (Hours of operation are Monday - Friday 8 am - 5 pm)

Email:bwwk-atx@bwwk.org

Website:https://blackwomenwhokayak.com/

Facebook Private Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/bwwkatx

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/blackwomenwhokayak

IG: https://www.instagram.com/blackwomenwhokayak

Meetup.com: https://www.meetup.com/black-women-who-kayak-llc/


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