THE WOMEN’S FREERIDE MOVEMENT
While mainstream mountain bike media seems to have set a low standard for covering women’s specific riding, there is a momentous uptake by the riders themselves to change the way the female riders are portrayed.
Specifically, the Women’s Freeride Movement: Lisa Mason, Carolyn Kavanagh and Berny Jacques. Impressively, all three hold down full-time jobs and don’t earn a penny running WFM in their spare time; this is how they give back to the sisterhood of shred. Each pillar of WFM does something a little bit different. Their Facebook group is the hub of activity, a curated crowd sourced collection of all things rad and female in extreme sports, with a focus on riding. The new website - which was designed by Jacques and launched last August - showcases the girls’ own writing and videography. For Mason, who does most of the writing, it’s all about using her words to make people laugh. They have also hosted three ladies nights at the Air Dome in Whistler in an attempt to fill the void left when Crankworx Women’s Worx was cancelled. Within six months of the first Air Dome night in 2011, the WFM Facebook group had over 450 active members. The group continued to grow in size and narrow its focus. “We try and inspire women to do different activities or different genres of biking by showcasing what women can do, and thereby empower them to do it themselves, or push further,” said Mason. What all three of the ladies behind the WFM bring to the table is an insatiable desire to shred. Mason started riding when she was 25 and hasn’t stopped for the last 10 years. “I started [riding] in Whistler so I get to see a lot of women, and get to see all of the best women. I think that it really gave me a drive early on to try to ride my hardest,” said Mason. Her first riding experience sums up her dedication to riding. “We were riding Train Wreck, this Whistler classic trail and we came across a root that was way skinner than my arm. I turned to my friend and said ‘You want me to go over that?’ and he turned to me and said ‘You suck way worse than I thought you would,’ Ever since then I was like, time to shred. I’m not going to let this guy tell me I suck.”
Kavanagh, now 42, has been riding since 1999. She started out with cantilever brakes on old school North Shore gnar. “It was kind of lonely at first because I didn’t know anybody, but I knew I liked the sport and I wanted to be better at it and persistence paid off,” she said. In the midst of what she calls a major 40-year-old’s crisis, Kavanagh spent her 40th birthday on Crabapple hits as one of three women that represented at the Unofficial Whip Off for Crankworx 2012. She spends a good majority of her spare time with her chainsaw, repairing long forgotten and neglected trails on Cypress Mountain in North Vancouver. Jacques was lucky enough to start riding the North Shore at 10 years old. Since then she has upgraded from her first bike, a Wal-Mart special, and raced the B.C. Cup circuit. In 2013, Jacques raced her first season as a professional. “I did actually stop mountain biking for two years because I didn’t know anyone that would go with me when my friends moved away. Then I joined an extreme sports club and I was the only girl out of 15 guys. From there I was like ‘I can show these guys that I can do it.’ ” Knowing the WFM is working towards goals similar to her own gives Santa Cruz journalist Joh Rathbun the inspiration she needs to keep pitching stories about women in sport. So far it has been an uphill battle trying to get women the
Lisa, Berny and Carolyn (front to back) Lisa Mason, Berny Jacques and Carolyn Kavanagh each bring their own strengths to the WFM project, but on the trail it’s hard to say the same. All three ladies are extremely well rounded riders who can take on some of the most technical trails in Whistler and the North Shore. They don’t shy away from the jumps or the speed either.