Freedom Boat Club of Northern Iowa sees increase of women drivers

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(ABC 6 News) – Trying new things can be scary and sometimes that fear might be the thing stopping us. The Freedom Boat Club is the oldest and largest boating club in the nation and it’s looking to put more people out on the water. Specifically, women.

Jessica Qualey, is one of the newer members of the Freedom Boat Club of Northern Iowa. Growing up in a fishing family, it was actually her girlfriends that inspired her to join the club this year. Something she says she wishes she had done sooner.

“The enjoyment on the water. I’m experiencing this enjoyment so differently being able to take out the boat myself with friends. And having the confidence to drive it. And just spending time out on the water,” said Qualey.

Qualey doesn’t think there’s a stereotype that a man should be the one to drive a boat.

“I feel like there’s more of a fear of the unknown,” Qualey said.

Nationally, the Freedom Boat Club has more than 80,000 members with almost 30,000 being women. That breaks down to about 35% of members.

Jake Kopriva, the Owner of the Freedom Boat Club of Northern Iowa attributes the increase to educational opportunities.

“Women are becoming more and more independent and are becoming comfortable. I think that has to do with the education and experience,” said Kopriva.

Experience offered on a more personal level.

“If they go out with their husband or spouse and build their confidence up, if we go out with them and we show them, it builds their confidence level,” said Kopriva.

An opportunity changing fear into confidence.

“The best thing I can advise is to step up, take charge, and get behind the wheel,” added Qualey. “Practice, practice, practice. The more you’re on the water, the more comfortable you feel.”

In 2017, the Freedom Boat Club launched its national Freedom Boat Sisters (previously known as the Freedom Boating Diva program.) A program aimed at empowering women to get out on the water.