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Athletes & Explorers

Mar 08, 2019

International Women’s Day: You Do Not Need Facial Hair to be “Outdoorsy”

When you think of an "outdoorsy" person, what comes to mind? There is still a necessity to challenge stereotypes.

WRITTEN BY

Brooke Hess

Last week, I had a conversation with a stranger that completely caught me off-guard. I was sitting in a cafe, typing on my laptop, when the middle-aged man seated next to me started up a conversation. It went like this…

Stranger: What are you studying there?

Me: Oh I am not studying, I am working.

Stranger: What kind of work do you do?

Me: I am a staff writer for The Outdoor Journal. I write articles about outdoor adventure sports.

Stranger: An outdoor adventure sports writer… shouldn’t you be an outdoorsy person to do that job?

Me: I am an outdoorsy person.

Stranger: You don’t look like an outdoorsy person.

Me: Well, what does an outdoorsy person look like?

Stranger: I don’t know… bushy mustache, sideburns, beard… you look more like a ballerina!

Me: You don’t have to be a man to be outdoorsy.

The conversation ended there and I went back to work. 

The man was clearly not an outdoorsy person himself. Prior to this conversation, he had told me all about his life in Chicago, where he had lived for the past 40-something years. He did not know anything about the outdoor industry, except that, apparently, one must have facial hair and a penis in order to enjoy the outdoors.

Being that I was on skis before I could walk, in a climbing harness before I could read, and in a kayak before I could drive, I know one thing – this man was extremely misinformed.

“One must have facial hair and a penis in order to enjoy the outdoors.”

It was my mom who put me on skis as soon as I was able to stand by myself. It was my older sister who taught me to be tough and keep hiking even when my legs felt so tired that I wished they would fall off. It was watching Alley Fontenot and Cheyenne Rogers kayaking at the local whitewater park and making it look easy, that inspired me to hop in a boat and try it out. It was Erin Clancey who gave me my first ever surf lesson and taught me how to catch a wave in my kayak. It was Hannah Kertesz, the only other high school-aged girl I had ever seen in a kayak, who taught me how to throw my first freestyle trick, then convinced me to enter my first ever competition. It was also Hannah who became one of my best friends and is still one of my favorite paddling and skiing partners 10 years later. It was Natalie Anderson who encouraged me to paddle onto the biggest wave of my life, then taught me how to use the edges of the boat to throw tricks, rather than simply trying to muscle my way through it. It was the girls at The Climbing Academy who taught me how to try hard on the rock, how to accept failure, and how to stay motivated even when you don’t succeed. It was Claire O’Hara who taught me how to be happy for the women who beat you in competition, even if you are unhappy with your own paddling that day. It was Sydney Nixon who taught me that there is no point in going kayaking unless you are smiling and laughing the entire time. It was Crista Wiles and Nicole Mansfield who taught me how to appreciate every day and every moment you get to spend outside, no matter what else is going on in your life at the time.

All of these women have had a significant impact on me becoming an “outdoorsy” person. All of them are outdoorsy. None of them have mustaches, sideburns, or a beard.

Cover Photo: U.S. Freestyle Kayak Team members, Brooke Hess and Anna Bruno, driving to the river for a training session before the 2017 Freestyle Kayak World Championships