“Who wants to run down the river with Hala team rider Melanie Seiler?!”
The call went out via Facebook, as all the RVA Swim Team requests do. Seiler was in Richmond racing — and coming in second — at the SUP cross event at Dominion Riverrock.
SUP, or stand up paddleboarding, is not a new sport, but riding a boards through whitewater rapids is still a bit of an anomaly. However, Richmond has a growing whitewater SUP community thanks to our world-class urban whitewater and Bic pro rider Ben Moore, who has helped fostered the sport here in town. (Click here to see his involvement with Richmond’s – and the world’s – only high school whitewater SUP team anywhere.) The local community of whitewater SUPers, who playfully call themselves the RVA Swim Team, eagerly joined in to ride the rapids with Seiler recently.
Seiler hails from West Virginia, where she recently began working for a new nonprofit, Active Southern West Virginia, modeled after Active RVA. She represents Hala Gear, maker of inflatable SUP boards. Seiler also hosts a SUP race in September on the Gauley River in West Virginia, featuring an attainment section and a downriver race through three rapids.
Seiler has been active in the whitewater SUP community for a number of years. “I love to encourage as many women to get out as possible. It’s a small crowd but it’s growing. It takes a lot of support and pulling friends in and saying you can do it.”
She says that women often want more instruction. They aren’t necessarily going to just jump in and do it. For her, it’s about “getting friends to help friends to get more women into the sport.”
She wanted to stay after the Riverrock races to meet with anyone who could get out on the river while she was in town. “It was wonderful!” she said of the day out with the Richmond locals.