Rock Crawl Fans of the Female Persuasion

Why we love it, why we love you, and our ultimate plans to take your sport over

Sep. 01, 2006 By Katrina Ramser
Female-rock craw fans
The type of female fan I first envisioned at an off-road event like rock crawling was the type of woman who could tear the top off a beer bottle with her teeth. I pictured someone crass and dirty, with nerves of steel and skin of leather. Since my involvement both personally and professionally as a writer for the sport, most of the women involved with a rock crawl team emulate an incomparable sense of dedication, intelligence, and bravery. These are women who pull 16-hour driving shifts through several time zones, put their children to sleep in strange places, and give up diets and showers for road food and bird baths – all in order to make sure their significant other ends up at Tech Inspection on time. They pass out water bottles, climb steep rocks, and take pictures of loved ones as they flip dangerously over in vehicles. They don’t look leathery. They don’t have to be crass. I would say most of us do get extremely dusty and dirty. These women reach beyond fan status: They are idea-makers, angels, and often times yearning to be in the driver’s seat.

When you strip away the fair-weathered groupies and dolled-up locals and really listen to what female rock crawl fans have to say, you discover their motives for involvement fall into certain categories. Some see an opportunity to use their current skills to progress the sport. Others offer an off-road history that translates into validation and confidence for their team of choice. There are also the female fans that watch every move the drivers and spotters make, plotting their own emergence into the game.

I don’t normally report my stories from an editorial perspective, but it’s time to get close and personal with the audience that plays a significant role in attempting to build the sport of professional rock crawling: The Female Fan.

 

The Budding Entrepreneur

Female fan Analeslie Fernandez initially contacted me via email with a press release about Team Billy Goat. I found Analeslie daring and professional and we agreed to meet at W.E. ROCK Event #4 at Donner Ski Ranch. Annaleslie confessed she had no idea rock crawl existed until a few months earlier when she met current boyfriend, driver Bill Kreisel. She knew she had to do some research to get up-to-speed, especially when one of Kreisel’s first questions to her was, How are you on long car trips? Then on their third date, Kreisel told her to get in the buggy and drive around on some rocks.

“I would never ask someone to give up their hobbies that they love so much,” she said, when asked how the life of rock crawl was rubbing off on her. Annaleslie herself is a professional pool player and has to hit the road for her sport. She mentioned something about society forgetting how to be a couple. “When I come out to these events and see girlfriends and spouses taking pictures and dusting off rigs, it puts a warm spot in my heart because you see other people actually caring about one another.”

Lindsay Waggoner and baby

Like so many others – male or female – one of the first things she noticed about the sport was the camaraderie. “These teams are competing against one another, but they really help one another out.” She defined helping the team through publicity efforts, such as the press release, as a new experience and one she could see herself pursuing. I ended our conversation by telling Analeslie she really should meet Lindsay Waggoner, of Team Waggoner Racing, if she was interested in doing more publicity for her team. I told Analeslie that Lindsay represented one of the first female fans to evolve into something of a personalized off-road team publicist.

I first spoke to Lindsay Waggoner when I was conducting an interview over the phone with her husband Cody Waggoner, both of San Juan Capistrano, California. When Cody revealed she was the designer of the team Website – an actual self-taught Web designer – I wanted to ask her some questions about her involvement. Every single week Lindsay maintains www.teamwaggonerracing.com. She spends as much as eight hours downloading information after a team event. She described her role as a “supporter, encourager, and pretty much all-around cheerleader.” I knew Lindsay had given birth to her first baby about a week prior to our interview. I asked her if that would slow her down. “I don’t think things are going to change,” she had stated. “She’s not an inconvenience, just another addition to the team.”

At events, you can see Lindsay climbing rocks, clutching water bottles, and making sure little Charley’s head doesn’t get jostled around too much in the process. Even when she doesn’t feel well (dehydration or sleep deprivation), you can still see Lindsay on the courses and smiling – a consummate professional in her cleanly pressed TWR shirt.

Immediately after Cody’s win 2006 W.E. ROCK Event #4 win at Donner, I received a timely press release from Lindsay about the victorious accomplishment. Lindsay also sent my article link on the event to her network of over 400 email addresses. This strengthens rock crawling, my ability to provide media coverage on the sport, and gets the word out about Team Waggoner. Like any other business venture, it pays to network in this sport.

 

The Dedicated Partner

It goes without saying that being a dedicated partner is most commonly the initial introduction for a female into the sport of professional rock crawling. Most of the women I’ve interviewed or spoken to in rock crawling began branching off at some point to make their own mark and identity beyond Super-Fan – or they began branching off to remain at home. However, there are some female fans that understand their sole role is to validate their team’s confidence. It is this type of fan that is the most supportive and passionate because their endless dedication comes equally from the love they have for rock crawl and for their partner. Simply stated, you cannot love all the rocks you have to go through at these events unless you actually love the rocks themselves. Your love and the rocks become one, so to speak.

A huge part of my dedication and sustainability with following rock crawling has to do with Jaime McCarthy, fiancée to Peter Mazzoni of Hardline Motorsports, and Kerry Mazzoni, mother to Peter. It’s their loyal support in light of tragedy that has helped the entire team – family – journey through the ups and downs of their dedication and confidence with the sport. It was the fall of 2004, during Supercrawl III at the Rock Mountain Raceway in Utah, Nevada, when Peter ran over his then-spotter, Nick Socha. Almost causing the first fatality in the sport, it was a time where you were grateful it wasn’t happening to you. But it happened to Jaime and Peter and his entire family and team.

This was an easy time to say, Let’s stop. It’s just not worth it. The team’s confidence was challenged, but the dedication from Jaime and Kerry triumphed. I now see my own boyfriend in place of Pete’s previous spotter. I do see things that make me nervous and scared. I know no matter what happens, there is a family – dedication – in place to see us through. You dedicate yourself until your love for one another and the rocks becomes hard to separate.

It’s easy for me to understand how rock crawling became an integrated part of Jaime’s life, since she and Peter are high school sweethearts. “Peter and I used to come up to Tahoe when we were in high school,” reminisced Jaime in a recent conversation. “I remember Pete watching rock crawling and saying he wanted to do it.” Jaime had then paused. “I love the butterflies I get in my stomach when I watch Peter go up something tough.”

“You still get nervous?” Peter has asked.

“I still get nervous,” Jaime confessed. “I just don’t have trouble watching you as much.” Knowing that Jaime often got a kick out of driving Peter’s Diablo II buggy, I asked Jaime if she ever would compete professionally. “For awhile I did, but it takes a toll on you.”

“No one if going to call your name out in glory unless you are willing to put yourself out there,” a friend called out.

Peter was thinking about the comment, about the shouts from the crowd. “It reminds you that you’re living,” said Pete. No one said anything for a moment.

“I think I would have trouble shifting the gears,” contemplated Jaime.

 

The Future Competitor

Becca cheers a team on
A woman who has no trouble shifting gears from spectator to professional competitor is Red Bull’s Becca Webster. With husband and spotter Dustin apparently dropping out of most of his Unlimited events for the 2006 rock crawl season, all focus has been on the driving ambitions of Becca.

I got to know more about Becca’s story at Supercrawl III, when she became the first person as well as the first female to ever make it over the infamous man-made Matterhorn obstacle. What a thrill for Becca to stand on top of her vehicle (after safely getting off the mountain), jump up and down on the hood and wave her fists in victory over her accomplishment.

Becca is a world champion cliff diver. She’s a thrill seeker. But when rock crawling first came into her life, she stated it didn’t excite her at all “because the only thing I knew about rock crawling was that my husband was doing it and taking the jeep and bringing it back broken.” It was then that Dustin signed his wife up for the women’s nationals and characteristically omitted to tell her until they were miles into the road trip. With a little pre-event practice in the parking lot, Becca discovered it was “a really cool” sport and she hasn’t looked back since. She’s a Future Competitor in the sense she’s opening the door for more women to take the wheel. She’s also got a lot to contend with in talent, sponsors, and in machinery: The Red Bull RockHer II will soon be revealed.

Stephanie Zachary

Those female fans that are watching quietly aren’t just observing. When I asked a random female fan by the name of Stephanie Zachary if watching rock crawling made her want to compete, there was no hesitation in her answer. With a tattoo that read “PRINCESS” on her back, it was easy to imagine her in what she described as a “pink-colored” truck, tearing it up on the courses. I can recall Lindsay saying something about running a women’s event. Annaleslie got to drive boyfriend Kreisel’s vehicle in Cedar City a bit. Jaime jumps at a chance to drive around the parking lot. That means all the women I’ve interviewed for this story have at one point driven or displayed angst to drive a rock crawl vehicle.

As a journalism graduate with a minor in Environmentalism from the very earthy (and very crunchy) Humboldt State University, I originally planned to write stories about preserving the earth, not driving all over it. After understanding the lives of these female rock crawl fans, there shouldn’t be much question to what changed my mind to chase cars rather than spotted owls: The passion the sport exhibits from its crafty, dedicated and competitive-hopeful females fans makes me feel like the most exciting place to be in natural is right there on the rocks.


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