For our newest series of interviews we connect with females who INSPIRE us. For the first one in this series, we chatted with Tara Hines, who was a coach for our first ever race camp on Mt. Hood back in 2011! Now she works as a boat captain for her own commercial fishing business. READ ON AND FEEL INSPIRED!
Please tell us all a little about yourself, Tara: I’m a Montana born ski-racer, turned commercial fisherman. I love to explore outside, but I especially love mountain biking. After getting a degree in mathematics from Westminster College in Utah, I returned to Big Sky, Montana to coach the freeride team and start a math tutoring business. I bought my own commercial fishing boat in Bristol Bay Alaska 4 years ago, and love the adrenaline and non stop learning that comes with my job.
What is your connection to Keely’s Camp? I was lucky enough to work for Keely on Mt. Hood when she first started Keely’s Camp back in 2011.
What was your experience like working at Keely’s Camp the very first summer? Although there were many moments filled with laughter and inspiration that first summer, our first day of dryland training with the girls after skiing always stands out in my mind. We were playing soccer, and at many other camps I had participated in both as a coach and an athlete, typically the female athletes would be timid while playing sports against the boys, insecure about demonstrating their competitiveness and athletic skills. But that day, the girls were fierce! Because of the encouragement they received from their coaches and fellow athletes, they dove, sprinted, and tackled, putting themselves out there like I’d never seen before. I knew right then that Keely’s Camps were providing something really special.
How do you feel connected to the Keely’s Camp mission (to empower, inspire, educate, and connect the next generation of girls in outdoor sports)? As a woman in a male dominated industry (there are probably 10 female boat captains per 1000), I know all too well the importance of being tough, competitive and holding your own as the gender minority. I’ve been lucky enough to have great female mentors both in sports and commercial fishing, and I love that Keely’s Camp provides access to incredible mentorship combined with healthy peer competition. After growing up in a culture that commonly discourages rather than promotes girls athletics, it’s easy for girls to dismiss their abilities and give up on the sports that they love. But when surrounded with other females pushing themselves and succeeding, it’s easier to see yourself doing the exact same thing!
What are you up to these days? In addition to running my own commercial fishing boat in Alaska, I have started a new business this year selling my salmon back to customers, completing the boat to table process. As far as skiing goes, I started skijoring a few years back (timed events combining horses and skiers,) and am having a lot of fun competing again!
How did you get where you are today, and who/what helped you along the way? Ski racing probably shaped me more than anything else growing up. I learned that you had to work hard to get what you want, to be independent, and most importantly I met an amazing group of people who continue to inspire me! I’ve been lucky to have mentors in the fishing industry too – I worked for an incredible female fishing captain Fran Kaul when I first started crewing in Bristol Bay. She started running a boat in Alaska back in 1987, when there were barely any women up there at all!
What motivated you to start your own business? And what was it like to start your own business? When I was a kid, my mom asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and for years all I said was “boss.” Jokes aside, my first business was a lawn mowing and window washing business that I started in order to help pay for skiing in high school. I loved that I was constantly being challenged, and that the harder I worked, the more successful I was and the more freedom I had! Starting a business is intimidating because you are putting yourself out there for others to judge your successes and failures, and more importantly you “don’t know what you don’t know” until you are in the mix of things, but I’ve always felt really proud of what I’ve learned and accomplished on my own.
How many other female boat captains are currently working in Bristol Bay? The female presence in commercial fishing is growing every year – although women still don’t make up much more than 10% of the fishing boat workforce, even less when looking at boat captains. When other girls or women ask me if they could make it in the fishing industry, I say: “Absolutely! To succeed up here all you have to do is work hard, and be tough. The toughest people I know are definitely women, so go for it!”
Fishing boat Captains are known to work extremely long hours making your job both mentally and physically difficult. What keeps you going? Over the years I’ve learned how much success is related to believing in yourself. It sounds silly, but visualization really helps me. So when I get down or frustrated, I visualize my chin being connected to a cloud way up in the sky, and I pick my head up and keep going! I also feel a lot of weight on my shoulders as one of the few women captains in Bristol Bay, so I always get a little extra motivated by my desire to prove that women can be successful there too! Coffee doesn’t hurt on those 23 hour days either.
What are the challenges you face in your day to day? Being a good leader and time management were my challenges of 2019. When you run your own business(es) you are always being pulled in different directions, and I’m learning to manage my time better and remember to take time for myself! Whether it’s a quick mountain bike ride in the morning, or a night time ski tour, we can always make time to get outside and move our bodies.
What advice do you have to empower girls and women to go after their dreams? The feeling of pride you get from putting yourself out there is more powerful than whether or not you “succeed.” Tell your dreams to someone so you are accountable, then put your head down and get to work! Never be too shy to try something new- when you take unexpected opportunities you might not end up exactly where you planned, but you will learn and grow and have a lot of great memories to look back on. Courage over comfort.
And finally, we always like to know, what is your spirit animal and why? A Wolf! They are powerful and independent, but also loyally part of a pack. I love the contradiction.