“The project originated out of a need to connect people with one another, and in solidarity, build a network for safer spaces to learn and celebrate Queer Joy.” – Elliot Higger
The outdoors have never been equitable—having access to gear, transportation, and a supportive community is a privilege that is often overlooked. As a way to help rewrite this narrative, HIOBS Instructor e/Elliot h/Higger created Kayak Quinn, a project generating access to safer learning environments through solidarity and community for LGBTQAI2S+ sea kayakers in Maine.
Read our interview with elliot below to learn all about how they started the project, the classes and events planned for 2024, and how to stay connected.
What prompted you to start Kayak Quinn?
Throughout my four years as an Outward Bound instructor, I have worked for five of the six schools on the East Coast. In 2022, I moved to Maine to be close to family, started growing community and roots here, and began my journey at Hurricane Island Outward Bound School. All of the Outward Bound schools I’ve worked at have a common focus on physical and emotional safety amongst staff and students, and as an instructor, a large and rewarding part of my role is to facilitate these experiences with students and co-instructors.
I have been sea kayaking since my youth but only recently started taking it more seriously. Sea kayaking can feel like a place of retreat, immersion, presence, and connection to what moves us symbiotically (mutualistically) as people and planet, metaphorically and physically. However, something was amiss for me that stunted my feeling of belonging in the sea kayaking community, and in turn, dwindled my ability to learn. I may have found home in sea kayaking, but did sea kayaking have a home for me as a Queer, non-binary paddler?
Last summer I acquired my first sea kayak, (a Valley Aquanaut I named Quinn!) and have been contemplating what I need to feel safer on the water as a Queer and non-binary paddler. I realized I needed community. It left me searching: how can I connect with other Queer and Trans sea kayakers in Maine and how can our connection foster a shared sense of belonging and safety? I reached out to community threads to assess the interest and needs of other LGBTQAI2S+ paddlers, and it turns out I wasn’t alone. So, I started a project called Kayak Quinn.
What are you hoping participants will gain from this project?
Kayak Quinn is all about generating access and community for Queer & Trans sea kayakers in Maine. The project originated out of a need to connect people with one another, and in solidarity, build a network for safer spaces to learn and celebrate Queer Joy.
In order to help build that community network, Kayak Quinn plans to offer low/no cost rentals, events, and classes during the summer of 2024. For example, something we are working to raise funds for now is a special event where we will offer 55 free sea kayak rentals to commemorate the 55 years since the Stonewall Uprising. These rentals will introduce Queer and Trans folx who have not met before through a one-hour facilitated land portion prior to the rental, followed by a self-guided group rental on the water.
Further donations from community partners will go toward free classes such as paddling 101, rescues, chart and compass use, navigation on the water, etc.—and all experience levels are welcome! A goal of the project is to host these events at different locations along the Maine coast, deepening connections in local communities where people can paddle together and/or serve as an introduction to the sport in an accessible way.
How can folx stay connected and learn more about Kayak Quinn?
I believe community work should be mutualistic and responsive. I’m hoping LGBTQAI2S+ people in Maine will shape this project alongside me by contributing ideas, hopes, and dreams for what Kayak Quinn is and can become and by sharing what needs people have that this project can meet. In true Outward Bound fashion, all feedback is welcome, and I’d love to hear from everyone. Folx can reach me or join the mailing list by visiting the Kayak Quinn website.
In addition, I am currently in the process of reaching out to community partners and collaborators to establish relationships, locations we may organize rentals through, ways to host events and classes, and avenues for fundraising. And for anyone interested, I’ll start opening doors for individual donations in 2024 as well. So, there is a lot of planning happening right now, and I’ll be sharing more by email and through our Instagram account as things develop further!
For more information on Kayak Quinn, or to join the mailing list, visit www.kayakquinn.com.