Date: 30 May 2013 Comments: 2 so far
by Christine Burris
Rogue Wave Adventures
The Nurses’ Health Study from Harvard Medical School found that the more friends women had, the less likely they were to develop physical impairments as they aged, and the more likely they were to be happy throughout their life. The outcomes were so significant, the researchers concluded, that not having close friends or confidants was as detrimental to a woman’s health as carrying extra weight or smoking.
A 2001 UCLA study suggested friendships between women are vital. It proposed that women respond to stress with a surge of brain chemicals that cause us to make and maintain friendships with other women. Researchers deduced that women have a larger behavioral inventory than just fight or flight. According to Dr. Klein, it appears that when the hormone oxytocin is released as part of the stress responses in a woman, it buffers the fight or flight response and encourages her to tend to her children and gather with other women instead. When she actually engages in this tending or befriending, studies suggest that more oxytocin is released, which further counters stress and produces a calming effect. This calming response does not occur in men, says Dr. Klein, because testosterone, which men produce in high levels when they’re under stress, seems to reduce the effects of oxytocin. Estrogen, she adds, seems to enhance it.
It is this enhanced oxytocin response in women that’s prompted me to promote and teach women’s only kayaking classes. Not only do women learn differently than men, they often learn faster and more effectively within an exclusively women’s group. To add to that, females have specific learning needs because their bodies fit differently into boats most often designed by and for men. Insert the need for alternative potty practices (see below our version of a Female Urinary Device, carved from Bull Kelp) and you have a great reason for “chick classes.”
Last weekend was not however initiated by me. The planning began several months ago as Jo Lee intended to create a paddle weekend where we could surround a struggling friend with the support of a group of women and some on the water time. She had invited several other girl kayakers and everyone was committed to the event. So when the guest of honor couldn’t attend, we decided to have the retreat anyway. Graciously Lynn Paquett offered Wild Riley’s, an amazing place on Orcas Island with a great house, a guest house, lots of seclusion and a private pond.
We began with girl conversations in small groups during the carpools and the ferry ride. When we arrived, Lynn had already prepared dinner.
After dinner we reviewed options for the three days paddling and discussed currents during the magnificent spring tide.
The first paddle was a crossing, exploration, and circumnavigation of Sucia. We practiced ranging to experience the effect of the current threads across the channel. Seat of the pants navigation became a theme of the weekend. Once across the pace slowed as Jo Anne Moore, a Marine Biologist attempted to answer our myriad of questions about the beautiful rock formations and sea creatures.
We tested out what to do when you forget your “freshet” at home.
The girls’ version of the Female Urinary Device, honed from a bulb of Bull kelp.
We observed the influence that locations like Parker Reef, Danger Reef, and West Bank had on the developing current.
The return trip at about 2 knots was like crossing a 2 mile wide river. The motion parallax created a beautiful dance as we responded to the varying current maintaining our course.
On day two we launched in Deer Harbor exploring the Yellows and Wasp Passage.
Oxytocin and estrogen in full effect
We stopped on Yellow Island to visit with the caretaker and hike the hills through the wildflowers.
During our lunch break Jo Ann spotted a humpback and her calf in San Juan Channel. We saw tail slaps, fluke down dives and pec slaps. It was breathtaking but sad. We watched from the gravel beach as the whale and her calf were surrounded by dozens of powerboats large and small. We finished the paddle eddy hopping against 2.5 kts. around Crane Island.
Back at Wild Rileys Jo Ann tore down to her undies and jumped in the pond for a refreshing swim.
That night we dined at the famed Doe Bay Resort with fabulous local fresh dishes and great conversation.
Our final paddle was through Obstruction and Peavine Pass. Lots of current and a few nice boat wakes made for a good skill development day.
We finished up working on rolling before take out. Our last night after another great dinner we played a card game and Lynn multitasked baking chocolate chip cookies, a unique pairing with Cabernet Sauvignon.
In today’s busy world with so much to do, this weekend was not just about an escape or a kayaking class, or a marine biology exploration. It was about taking time to build relationships. It was about developing life skills.
Taylor, S. E., Klein, L.C., Lewis, B. P., Gruenewald, T. L., Gurung, R. A. R., & Updegraff, J. A. Behaviorial Responses to Stress: Tend and Befriend, Not Fight or Flight” Psychol Rev, 107(3):41-429. (Full text of article in PDF format)
Geary DC, Flinn MV. Sex differences in behavioral and hormonal response to social threat: commentary on Taylor et al. Psychol Rev 2002 Oct;109(4):745-50; discussion 751-3
Cousino Klein L, Corwin EJ. Seeing the unexpected: how sex differences in stress responses may provide a new perspective on the manifestation of psychiatric disorders. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2002 Dec;4(6):441-8.
*For additional information on the studies, you can get reprints of the above referenced journal articles (Taylor, et al., Geary and Finn, Cousino Klein and Corwin) and ask the authors any questions you may have regarding study participants, methodology, etc. In the case of Taylor, et al., , read the abstract online and download the full text PDF of the journal article).