Women sharpen outdoor skills

First Posted: 8/15/2009

Raven Knob Scout Reservation often is filled with Boy Scouts enjoying the summer camp season, but on Saturday about 30 women of all ages were there instead to experience a variety of outdoor activities.
From early morning through late afternoon, they got a chance to improve their skills in such sports as archery, canoeing and kayaking, climbing and rappelling, handgun and rifle shooting, horseback riding and hiking.
It was all part of the Women in the Outdoors program sponsored by the Surry Longspurs Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation. Saturday marked the 10th anniversary of the program, according to Tina Swaim of the local chapter, who coordinated the event.
Paying a relatively small fee allowed the participants to receive expert training in the various activities offered, which was provided by about 25 to 30 volunteer instructors who also supplied the equipment needed for each.
As a result, Swaim said, the women who could choose to participate in several events on the list got to experience activities they probably never would without such a program.
For example, she added, no one has a rappelling tower in their backyard like the one at the reservation. Where in the world are you going to have that opportunity? Swaim said of the climbing-related sport that typically involves using a rope to descend from a mountain in a controlled manner.
Rebecca Moore, 33, of Thurmond, was one of the 11 women who gathered up the nerve to sign up for the rappelling training led by a Raven Knob instructor. After reaching the ground from the top of the tower high in the air, Moore reported that her first time rappelling was awesome.
It was a little scary, admitted Moore, who said she was comforted by the instructors emphasis on safety. Still, many people would not want to risk their lives with such a dangerous activity, and Moore said she did because its just challenging. She is a teachers assistant at Elkin Elementary School who also is attending Appalachian State University in order to become a pre-school teacher.
While her first time rappelling was on Saturday, Moore said she has participated in the Women in the Outdoors program for three years. I just feel like this gives women an opportunity to be in the outdoors and learn to appreciate outdoor sports, she said.
Over at the archery range in another area of the reservation, Susan Freeman of Dobson was busy shooting arrow after arrow into targets placed strategically on the grounds. Freeman, a program participant for eight years, said she appreciated its approach for several reasons.
I guess the best thing is for a woman who doesnt have all this equipment, its all provided for you, Freeman said, along with expert instructors in various sports. Holding up her archery equipment, she added, I wouldnt know what to go out and buy.
Freeman and others taking advantage of Saturdays Women in the Outdoors program said females dont have many opportunities to learn about firearms or archery or other events in such a structured and supportive atmosphere.
Sandra Swaim of Dobson, another participant who is Tina Swaims mother-in-law, said some women are uncomfortable being taught by people who are close to them, such as husbands or boyfriends. Theyre not coming into this instruction with a history, she explained, mentioning that the training is provided in a laid-back manner with no one making judgments about the womens expertise in various sports.
The handgun instruction appeared to be one of the more popular activities of the program. Horseback riding, being offered for the first time this year, also was a top choice among the women.
Others, such as Belinda Lamm, chose to take to the water in a kayak on the serene Lake Sobotta at Raven Knob Scout Reservation. I do this every year its a great thing, Lamm said of the special program for women as she reached the shore. It just gives them an opportunity to do things they probably never did before.
Were very happy with the turnout, said Tina Swaim, which she added included not only participants from Surry County and Winston-Salem, but two from South Carolina. Another program she is involved in, Women on Target provided through the National Rifle Association will be offering a firearms clinic in late September.
While many women at Saturdays event were busy soaking up knowledge about the various sports being taught, first-time participant Buffy Inscore of Pilot Mountain also took a broader view while surveying the beautiful lake and surrounding mountains displaying summer greenery.
I enjoy being outside, Inscore said.
Contact Tom Joyce at [email protected] or at 719-1924.

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