The off-road industry has seen some of the biggest growth in a single year this past season. More families have chosen to live their lives outside in a variety of ways. As a result, the industry finds itself flush with more female riders than ever and a community that is tailor made to welcome them.
International Female Ride Day® (IFRD) is a globally synchronized ride day celebrating women riders and their passion for powersports. Covering six continents and in over 120 countries, IFRD has become a powerful movement and will be celebrated on May 7th this year.
IFRD and the “Just Ride” call-to-action were created in 2007 to focus on motorcycle riders. As female ridership grows within the powersports industry IFRD welcomes female riders of all types of powersports, including off-road vehicles and snowmobiles.
Polaris joined the IFRD movement and encouraged all females to “Just Ride!” Additionally, Polaris created the Empowersports Women’s Riding Council; 12 powerful women from all backgrounds to aid and usher diversity into the off-road community.
The Empowersports Women’s Riding Council is composed of distinguished riders, adventurers, leaders, and entrepreneurs who bring unique perspectives and insights to the powersports space. They are champions for advocacy, empowering women, building community, sparking adventure, and fostering safety. They include:
- Michelle Barraza – RZR Racer
- Carrie Barton – Klim & Timbersled Brand Ambassador, Dirt Bike Racer & Tour of Idaho Finisher
- Julie-Ann Chapman – She Shreds Mountain Adventures Founder & Professional Snowmobiler, Team Polaris Athlete
- Amy David – Professional Mountain Athlete, Skier, Guide, Polaris Snowmobile Ambassador & Content Creator
- Gevin Fax – Actor, Musician, Educator & Speakers Bureau Ambassador
- Vicki Gray – International Female Ride Day & Motoress.com Founder, Road & Race Instructor
- Lisa Lockhart – Rodeo Champion, Rancher & Polaris Ranger Ambassador
- Kristen Matlock – Professional RZR racer & SCORE Baja 1000 Champ
- Jody Perewitz – Racer & Sturgis Motorcycle Hall of Famer
- Porsche Taylor – Black Girls Ride Magazine Founder and Cross-Country Rider
- Kelly Yazdi – Wild Gypsy Tour Creator, Polaris Adventures Ambassador, Actor & Host
Jolene Van Vugt – Stuntwoman, Nitro Circus Action Sports Athlete, Canadian Women’s National Motocross Champion & RZR Ambassador
Jolene Van Vugt is one of the recognizable faces in the action sports community. She is famously known as the first CMRC Women’s Canadian Motocross National Champion, first woman to backflip a full-sized dirt bike, holder of multiple Guinness World Records and one of the most badass members of the Nitro Circus crew.
“You have to learn to say yes to new adventures in life,” said Van Vugt. “Even if they are intimidating, you build a plan and you go for it. You never know where that decision will lead to. I have always wanted to show by example that you can push yourself and get to a place you didn’t think was possible. Having world records and traveling the world is awesome, but inspiring a new generation is the best part of what I have been able to accomplish. I’ve always thrived on encouraging others to push themselves and not be afraid of trying to attain their dream. I view myself as somebody that had a dream.
At a young age, I didn’t know how to get there but through following a deep passion for what I loved and always giving 110%. I was able to make my own path and bring those dreams to life beyond what I could have ever imagined as a kid. A journey that has had many highs and just as many lows. From success in MX racing, attaining multiple world records, being part of the Nitro Circus and becoming a Hollywood stunt woman to just as many failures, moments of defeat, times I had to dig deep, injuries, surgeries and dancing a little too close to the place you don’t come back from. I never gave up on what I wanted, surrounding myself with like-minded, amazing people that supported me, guided me, and pushed me. Plus, I worked my ass off!”
The name picked for these ladies was chosen carefully. They are the Empowersports Women’s Riding Council, and while the play on words is not lost, being empowered to chase dreams and be the best individual you can be is one of the messages Van Vugt wants you to learn.
“You can be someone who is passionate and driven, but sometimes that platform for you to fully blossom into the best you might not be there. I can use this platform to grow those areas and give others the opportunity to grow and let them discover how to empower themselves. To help someone realize their goals is so important to me. Helping someone to unveil a goal or a dream that they didn’t even know was their goal or passion is a feeling unmatched. Being a part of this council allows me to get out there and do what I love. Getting and giving love and support across the board! I strive to have fun, encourage others to push themselves, take a deep breath, grab some adrenaline, and enjoy the ride! You never know where it may lead.”
While still a legend on two wheels, Van Vugt is a magician behind the wheel of a RZR and can’t wait to see all the new drivers out on the trails.
“Driving a RZR and being a part of this community is the best. Growing up around dirt bikes and racing, you learn about the value of community and being a part of something more. When you race, everyone is there to support you even though you might be competing against them. It is the same with the RZR community. No matter what it is, be it racing or just driving around, you are a part of a community that wants to support each other. From mellow rides to pushing the machine to the limits it was built for, driving a RZR opens up the world. I love introducing people to it. When I ask them if they have ever been in a RZR and they tell me no, I get giddy. Being a part of the off-road community is the best.”
“My favorite places so far to rip my Polaris RZR are Johnson Valley and the Big Bear Mountains. Along with 4 others, my brother Billy Van Vugt, sister-in-law Alyssa Roenigk, close friends Tim and Becky Clark, we recently purchased ‘The Outpost’ in Big Bear and now people can come stay in our awesome cabins and we have space for rigs and trailers of our guests. We are close to trailheads and many places you can trailer your RZR to, to go on rides.”
If you don’t own your own RZR but want the adventure and get the RZR experience, Happy Trails Rentals, a Polaris Adventure partner, is just a quick 35 minute drive down the mountain. “The Outpost” does not offer ride packages, but Polaris Adventures recently rented out the facility to introduce riding to a group of brand-new riders a taste of the RZR lifestyle. Jolene hosted the group and got them behind the wheel with some help from Happy Trails Rentals.
“I enjoy pushing people to new limits, giving them an experience they have never had before; something they will remember and carry with them. The best is when you open a whole new world to someone that didn’t even know what was really coming. Life changing experiences are my favorite! I fell in love with RZR’s from the first moment I got behind the wheel many, many years ago…
As I grew, some solid companies in the UTV industry recognized my authenticity of that love and have been great supporters of me and my true enjoyment of these machines. Giving me the best products to go out and have fun with everything I need. Polaris, Muc-Off, Assault Industries, Vision Wheels, BFGoodrich, Rugged Radios, KC Hilites, Pro Eagle Jacks, Desert Squadron Trauma Kits, Impact Helmets and UTV Wolfpack custom cages.”
As Jolene continues her journey as an ambassador, she is always looking to teach the next generation of drivers.
“Go push the limits but have fun but be safe. If you’re out for a chill ride or going to get a little wild, always wear your belts and helmets. And never put your arms outside the unit if something goes wrong.”
“I want to continue to lead by example. By showing women that it’s more accessible and inclusive than they may know. The RZR lifestyle is definitely something you can get out there and enjoy with your partner, your family or your friends. Or all of the above! If you can drive a car, you can drive a RZR.”