Share this article

print logo

Wild Women Unite and celebrate

A woman walks into a mega-department store chain and tells a young male clerk that she wants to buy a shotgun. He comes back a minute later and puts a BB rifle in her hands, telling her that would be more her speed.

A female kayak instructor and her husband head to a sporting goods shop because she wants to buy a new kayak. The male sales clerk addresses the husband, even though the wife is asking the questions.

A young woman wants to learn how to fish, so she and her boyfriend buy time on a charter boat. Her boyfriend barely listens to the charter captain because he thinks he knows enough already; the girlfriend catches more fish.

It’s enough to make a woman angry – and the premise behind a Wild Women Unite weekend on Grand Island the first weekend in October.

Many women want to know more about outdoor fitness and sporting activities, according Yvonne Folck, lead organizer of the women-only outdoor festival, but sometimes trying to step into zones once completely dominated by men can cause discomfort – and annoyance.

“This will be a space where you can come and take a weekend for yourself, celebrate the strength of women,” Folck said. “You can come here one weekend and try some things, and you’ll know if you want to learn more.”

Women make up only about 15 percent of those who enjoy physically demanding outdoor activities, Folck said, and she hopes to bolster that percentage in Western New York with a slate of workshops and activities led by female-friendly instructors. The Buffalo News is among the sponsors.

The festival slate serves as a reminder of some of the outdoor group activities available to women throughout the region, including:

Archery: Eight ranges across Western New York can help men and women learn how to better shoot a bow and arrow. The list can be found at the Range Locations tab at An official from compound bow maker Parker Bows will lead the Wild Women Unite workshop.

Hiking: What do you need to bring when you head out for a hike? What should you wear? How do you avoid losing your way and just how do you, well, do your business when out in the woods? Those are some of the questions Amy Moritz, a Buffalo News sports writer, looks to answer in her backpacking and hiking workshop. She recommends the following websites to find group outings and maps of local trails: and the Adirondack Mountain Club (Niagara Frontier Chapter) at

Biking: Women make up a growing part of the Western New York biking community, whether it be competitive or group racing. Those interested in competitive racing can visit or, or ask at their local bike shop. Local bike shop group outings take place at 9 a.m. Sundays, and 6:15 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays from Tom’s Pro Bike Shop, 3687 Walden Ave., Lancaster (double-check tour days at the shop’s Facebook page or website,, or call 651-9995); and 6 p.m. Tuesdays from Campus WheelWorks (, 744 Elmwood Ave.

Drumming: “I meet up with a lot of women who are burned out, who say, ‘I have a beautiful house, I have this family, I have this job. Why am I so miserable?’ ” “You followed all the rules, but you never really listened to your heart,” said Emmy Carges, of Hamburg, owner of; she leads drum and dance circles as ways to help women dig deeper into their spiritual lives.

Fishing: “Women are very teachable; they listen. Men can be know-it-alls,” said Tim Braun, a licensed charter captain who has fished for three decades for small mouth bass on Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and the Niagara River. He said about one-quarter of his Outdoors Bass Charters and Guide Service customers are women who come out with their husbands or boyfriends. Men and women alike can learn more about how to find fishing hot spots, rigging and use of artificial bait, knot-tying and boat control on a charter. Many women discover they are much more successful than while out with their usual partner, too, Braun said. “I’ve taken out seasoned fishermen from all over the country who’ve been out on Lake Erie and had a hard time,” he said. “They come out with me and they love it. They learn new tricks.” For ideas on how to book a fishing charter, visit, check out, and the Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Niagara River and Chautauqua Lake sections of

Kayaking: Tina Spencer, a state parks environmental education assistant who lives in the Town of Niagara, said a growing number of women are taking free kayak tours she leads as a way to try out the sport and do something with a group. “If you’re more informed about it going in,” she said, “you tend to look at kayaking a little differently.” She and her students will set out through this month from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursdays at Beaver Island State Park on Grand Island and 10 a.m. to noon and 2 to 4 p.m. Sundays at Wilson-Tuscarora State Park on West Lake Road (Route 18) in Wilson; you’ll need to bring your own kayak. Call 285-0516 for more info.

Mindfulness: “When you say meditation, many people get a little nervous with that and I think it’s important for people to understand that there’s many ways to meditate: prayer, walking, gardening art, anything that quiets the mind,” said Judy Harris, a former women’s sports coach, college professor and West Seneca schools athletic director who teaches meditation and visual imagery. Meditation and breathing exercises are a worthwhile pursuit for both men and women, Harris said, and lower blood pressure, reduce stress and ease both emotional and physical pain. “It’s easier to pop a pill or get a drink instead of getting to the heart of the matter,” Harris said, but those are short-term fixes for symptoms, not part of a long-term strategy for better health or wellness. She recommended the website for those wishing to learn more mindfulness.

Obstacle races: Those who host obstacle races across the country also are among those to see a greater number of women competitors who want to test their bodies and their wills, said Al Staton, who with his partner, Mitterand “Mitch” Ilunga, helps train some of them in their business, Maximum Performance Sports Training in Williamsville. The 5K Foam Fest and Insane Inflatable races – the latter of the two is new to the region and takes place today at Knox Farm State Park in East Aurora – help hook obstacle competitors, many of whom then move on to longer races including the 4-mile Finn McCool, which takes place Sept. 13 at Kissing Bridge Ski Resort, and the 10-plus-mile Tough Mudder, which has held a local contest in July during the last two years in Allegany County.

Sailing: Capt. Pierre Wallinder has seen a roughly 35 percent increase in female students since he started teaching sailing a decade ago at Sail Buffalo Sailing School at the tip of the Outer Harbor. “We have a steady flow every year of complete beginners and it’s quite common that we have couples, or women buying sailing certification as a gift to their partner,” said Wallinder, director of programs and operations at the school ( Most of the vessels on his property are 25-footers better handled by at least two sailors, he said, so it’s in the best interest of safety, and fun, to have female passengers who have a feel for the waters off the Queen City. He and one of his neighbors, Seven Seas Sailing Center (, offer lessons to children and adults, as well as Stand-Up Paddleboard classes.

Self-protection: Women, as well as men over 50, have made up the bulk of those who attend classes in Western New York with Kathysue Dorey, of Williamsville, a certified master instructor in Pure Krav Maga and owner of Chain of Defense. The form of self-defense she teaches is used by the Israeli Defense Force to size up danger, avoid confrontations and strike when threatened to immobilize attackers. Her training includes the targeting of pressure points. “People find it fascinating how many there are,” Dorey said. Learn more on her LinkedIn page or Chain of Defense Facebook page.

Yoga: Yoga and its cousin, tai chi, are “empowering and authentic lifelong practices” designed to strengthen core muscles and enhance functional movement for women, and men, of all ages, said Monica Zucco, who teaches both. “Mind-body practices of yoga and tai chi also offer a multitude of health benefits, including stress reduction and improved balance, with an emphases on moving within one’s physical limits,” Zucco said. She will focus on yoga for seniors at Wild Women Unite and Darby Ann Balling, a yoga and spirtdance instructor who is studying somatic movement therapy, will teach “wild yoga.” For a listing of classes across the region, see the Refresh calendar on Page 14.