Story by Keri Porter, Discover 4×4 Adventures
Photos by Keri Porter, Paul Porter, John Powell, Becky Thorsby, and Kylie Courter
Current statistics show humanity is 49.6% female and 50.4% male. Although that statistic is nearly half and half, women involved in motorsports are substantially less than half of their male counterparts. Statistics for women involved in motorsports is lacking, but I’ve been around off-road for 15 years, and I’ll tell you what I’ve seen over the years.
Before social media was even a thing, I was introduced to the #jeeplife, and the only female off-roader I knew was the one who introduced me to the sport. With the onset of social media, the start of production of the 4- door Jeep Wrangler JKU in 2007, and then the four-seater side by side by Polaris in 2010, the platform to encourage more women into the sport was born. Social media has allowed us to watch trailblazers, like Jessi Combs, make a name for herself and planted seeds for thoughts like, “If she can do this, so can I.” This growing trend in the industry has also opened the eyes of many foundational businesses and organizations who recognize there is an entire demographic that’s hungry for adventure and education.
On May 1, 2021, I had the opportunity to attend the first-ever National Women’s Off-Road Day event at the Badlands Off-Road Park in Attica, Indiana. We arrived Friday afternoon to an almost full campground, and the energy and excitement were palpable. I had arranged a weekend trip with the ladies of our local club. Once everyone got into town and settled, we enjoyed an evening dinner around the campfire and chatted late into the evening. The park helped build the energy for the Saturday event by hosting a concert Friday evening with Trey Hughes opening and Rough Country as the main attraction.
The first-ever National Women’s Off-Road Day offered many attractions, including a vendor area, food trucks, scheduled trail rides, concerts, and an opportunity to win a custom Polaris RZR. The vendor area showcased vendors from all over the US, including Super ATV, Lady Owned Toyotas, Off-road Vixens, Wranglher, Polaris, 4 Wheel Parts, Rigid Industries, and Discover 4×4 Adventures.
While the event was women-focused, there were plenty of supportive men in attendance. The park owner, Kyle Krause, and his two daughters hosted the event. The positive energy that the three of them displayed was an encouragement to all. While gearing up for the event, I got a chance to talk with Kyle and his daughter Kendall. Kyle told me, “I personally love the family time and adventures we get to have together! Specifically, on this event, I wanted my girls to experience the camaraderie of the off-road community and truly how small it is but huge at the same time! It was super cool for them to see women coming from all over. We had some ladies come all the way from Washington; that was a two and half day trip.”
Event participant John Powell, father to 15-year-old Mikayla, I wondered what compelled him to bring his daughter to the event. “I took Mikayla so that she could work on being comfortable behind the wheel as well as to tune in her listening and focusing skills; having to rely on someone else to direct you when you can not see the obstacles outside of the vehicle while driving is a different task all in itself. She made my weekend just showing up and trying! Trying is sometimes the hardest part.” Mikayla told me, “Having female trail guides during National Women’s Off-Road Day made me think about how much women can impact a certain thing. It was an amazing experience for me, and I will definitely be back next year!”
Trail rides were led by women and scheduled for morning and afternoon. The energy and excitement reminded me of a reunion of friends. Many of these women have interacted with each other on social media but have never had the opportunity to hit the trail together. There’s something magical about being spotted over obstacles by women that you’ve looked up to. Jeep owner of 3 years, Kylie Courter, states, “My favorite part of the weekend was the guided trail rides. I loved being able to meet and wheel with other women wheelers and I have new ones I can look up to. I am sure I have made a few good friends to wheel with and challenge me on future trails. I have already made plans to go back. I am so happy I was able to be involved in this event! So empowering.”
National Women’s Off-Road Day was the third time new off-road enthusiast Rachael Ehlert had aired down her tires and hit the trails. Her thoughts on the weekend, “The Woman’s weekend definitely left an impression on me. So often in life, women don’t support each other or celebrate each other’s victories. The women I got to know that weekend were quite the opposite. The willingness to share their time, knowledge, and skills with me blew me away. Stepping out of my day-to-day, trying new things with new people has been so empowering and fulfilling. I’m grateful to have these opportunities.”
One didn’t need to be an inexperienced wheeler to feel encouragement from the weekend’s events. There is sheer joy in watching someone grow as a wheeler. As a local leader and trail trainer/guide with Discover 4×4 Adventures, I’ve been able to watch women transform from the timid caterpillar to the confident butterfly. It’s one of the most rewarding feelings I’ve experienced on the trail, and this weekend was no different. In talking with other trail leaders, I quickly realized that I was not alone in my feelings. Hollie Fowler, driver for HCF Motorsports and owner of Mischief Maker, expressed similar sentiments from the weekend. “I was absolutely thrilled to volunteer in support of Badlands Off-Road Park’s first Annual Women’s National Off-Road Day. The turnout and positive energy, and atmosphere made for such an amazing experience. I’m eager to see how this event evolves and hope I can contribute to its growth in the years to come.” When asked how women supporting events played a role in her off-road career, Hollie stated, “In my opinion, events like these are important. They once provided me with the op
portunity to meet the female drivers who motivated me to become a better driver, and I’m grateful for any opportunity to pay forward the kindness and inspiration I received from those extremely talented ladies.”
I considered finding an inspiring quote about women inspiring women and lifting each other up in conclusion. But to be honest, that’s not enough. There’s more to events like this than just women inspiring women; it takes the entire village. I believe the offroad industry sees the hunger and desire in women to get behind the wheel and under their hoods. It’s created an energy and exciting buzz that industry leaders want to be a part of. In my life, support has come in all forms, and for that, I am very thankful. So, let me say this: If you’ve ever been that person to take the extra time to teach, encourage and support women in offroad, thank you. Thank you for fueling passion and desire in my fellow female drivers. Thank you to Kyle and the staff of the Badlands Off-Road Park for hosting the first annual National Women’s Off-Road Day Event. We’ll see you next year!