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Black Women Who Kayak+ making waves in central Texas waters

The founder of the group, Tanya Walker, almost had to fold the organization. Then, she offered her members swim lessons and it made all the difference.

AUSTIN, Texas — On any given Saturday at Ladybird Lake, you'll find a group of women without a worry in the world.

Some of them are friends.

Some of them are meeting for the first time.

What's bringing them together is a shared experience of the outdoors.

Together, they're trailblazers.

"We're changing the way people think," Tanya Walker said about her group, Black Women Who Kayak+.

Walker started the group a few years ago.

"Black Women Who Kayak+ was started in 2018. I didn't see many people like us, that looked like me, that were doing it," she said.

She said that's because the barriers are generational.

"It wasn't a priority for most African American families to get their kids to learn how to kayak or hike or camp," she said. "The families that were like mine didn't think this was a priority. Food on the table and clothes and shelter was."

Walker knows those barriers have been tough to tear down. In fact they almost derailed her entire organization.

"I was trying to figure out why there weren't many people coming out," she said. "I knew I would have to do something to try to help them face that fear."

Walker made a call that ultimately saved the organization.

"She called us one day and said, 'Hey I've got a bunch of ladies who are kayaking, but they don't know how to swim,'" Brian Borchardt, president of British Swim School of Austin, said. "We teach lessons in a safe, fun manner. That's what we do and so we worked out a special price for them to help them learn."

RELATED: The hand she's been dealt: Olympic swimmer finds peace in the pool with help from former UT star

This partnership in the pool has changed lives.

"I took lessons when I was young but I hadn't really learned how to swim. I was still afraid of the water," Katina Rudley said.

"Even just within my family there's a lot of trauma related to water," Malaysia English added.

"A lot of us may come from backgrounds where we may not have been taught how to swim, or... we may not have had access all the time," Rebecca Trulove said.

Rudley, English and Trulove are just a few of the many success stories.

Their worries, as they sit here now on Lady Bird Lake, are out the window.

"Empowering. I feel very empowered," Rudley said.


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