If you go
What: Camp Vela
When: 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 15 through 18
Where: Boulder, Longmont
Cost: $560 for all four days; $150 for a single day
For years Denver resident Kelly Kocher wanted desperately to learn how to whitewater kayak, and last summer she was determined to make it happen.
Kocher, 38, began coaxing her equally adventurous girlfriends into taking a class with her when she discovered that they were much more willing to participate if there was wine involved.
"Women in general have so little time between working, balancing life, husbands and kids, that we tend to put ourselves last as a gender," Kocher said. "At first I was focused more on the adventure, but then, after talking with Heather, we thought it would be great if we could go get a glass of wine after.
"We wanted the pampering at the end to celebrate the accomplishment and have a day that was just for us," she said.
With the promise of wine, Kocher convinced her friend, Heather Fleck, to try whitewater kayaking with her, and soon after Vela Adventures was born.
Kocher and Fleck, both 38, became business partners in September when they launched the Denver-based company that offers adventure day camps for women.
Excursions include instruction for introductory whitewater rafting, rock climbing, dog-sledding, snowshoeing, ice climbing, zip lining, fencing and mountain biking. Founders plan to offer intermediate outings in the future, Kocher said.
Every adventure is followed by a relaxing activity meant to reward participants for trying something new, Kocher said, including spa treatments, yoga, wine and beer tastings and painting.
Adventures begin in the morning and include coffee, equipment, snacks, water and lunch in the price, which averages about $150 per person.
The company also hosts occasional free outings such as a morning hike or an intro to boxing class, which were held early this month.
Bringing it to Boulder County
Following nearly 30 outings in Denver, Vela Adventures is expanding to Boulder County.
On June 28, three women participated in the first Boulder County day camp at McIntosh Lake in Longmont.
The participants spent the morning learning stand-up paddleboarding on the lake with a guide from Boulder. The session was followed by a yoga class in Dawson Park and a reflexology massage and foot soak from Lemongrass Spa, based in Pine, Colorado.
The company will host the first Boulder adventures Tuesday through July 18 during Camp Vela, four consecutive days of excursions that can be purchased separately or as a package. The sessions will include stand-up paddleboarding and yoga, whitewater tubing and beer tasting, mountain biking and painting and outdoor archery and a spa party.
Boulder County's terrain and residents make it a perfect place to expand the adventure-focused business, Kocher said, though it's not the experienced, super athlete that Vela Adventures is catering to.
"We aren't doing this for those women who are already out there doing the crazy adventures," Kocher said. "We're doing it for the ones who want to try it and they want a way that's safe and supportive and comfortable."
Adventure creating community
Denver resident Rachel Van Natta joined the first Longmont excursion looking for more than a paddleboarding lesson.
Van Natta, 25, moved to Denver from Los Angeles in March and was hoping Vela Adventures would help her connect with some like-minded women in her new home.
"It's hard coming to a new place and sometimes you just want to be surrounded by women," Van Natta said. "Being around each other and having that female support and bond is really important and something all women need."
Several friendships have formed through the excursions, Kocher said. Besides creating a safe space where women to feel comfortable trying something new, making friends was one of the main goals for the outings, she said.
"A lot of women we've met have initially done this because they want to make new friends," Kocher said. "We don't realize that it's really difficult for some women to find a venue to make new friends, especially if they're really reserved, and these adventures give them a space to do that on their own terms and something they can immediately bond over."
Denver resident Kate Egan said she was looking for community when she signed up for the Longmont paddleboarding excursion, but the pampering was enticing, too.
"It's not inexpensive and you're taking a day out of your schedule to be with people you don't know and so if there are things you know you'll enjoy it's easier to make the effort," Egan, 40, said. "You know there's some benefit with the yoga and the massage regardless of whether you like the activity that you're trying for the first time or if you don't connect with the other women."
Egan said she enjoyed paddleboarding, got her daily workout in during yoga, felt relaxed after the massage and took home two phone numbers of women she met at the outing. Overall, it was a successful and productive day.
"Why not give it a shot," Egan said. "It's all set up for you, and the quality of lessons and activities were good, so there's just no reason not to do something for yourself for a day."
Contact Longmont Times-Call community reporter Whitney Bryen at 303-684-5274 or firstname.lastname@example.org