Meet Our Instructors


Founder/Director Anna Levesque

IMG_3356Anna Levesque is the leading expert on kayak instruction for women and yoga for paddling, including SUP Yoga. Named one of the most inspirational paddlers alive by Canoe and Kayak Magazine, Anna’s twenty-plus years of experience as an accomplished international competitor and instructor has landed her in mainstream publications such as TIME, SHAPE and SELF magazine.

She is the founder/director of Girls at Play and Mind Body Paddle and has taught thousands of paddlers in the US, Canada, Mexico, Chile and Costa Rica. Anna has produced 4 instructional kayaking DVDs for women, a Yoga for Kayaking DVD and short downloadable yoga for kayaking segments on Vimeo that have sold over 6500 copies combined.

Anna boasts the rare and unique combination of being an American Canoe Association (ACA) WhitewaterIMG_8674 Kayak Instructor Trainer, Stand Up Paddleboard Instructor Trainer AND a 500 RYT (500 hour Registered Yoga Teacher) with Yoga Alliance. She is a Level 4 certified ACA whitewater kayak Instructor Trainer, a Level 5 certified ACA whitewater kayak instructor, a Level 2 certified ACA stand up paddleboard Instructor Trainer, an ACA SUP Yoga Teacher Trainer and a member of the ACA SUP Standards Committee. She is also a 500 hr Registered Yoga Teacher with Yoga Alliance and is a former teacher at the Asheville Yoga Center.


As an athlete Anna was a member of the Canadian Freestyle Whitewater Kayak Team from 1999 to 2003 and earned a bronze medal at the Freestyle Kayak World Championships in 2001. She placed in the top 3 in several freestyle competitions and extreme races during that time and has paddled in over 12 countries around the world.

She is a brand ambassador for Dagger Kayaks, Kokatat Watersports Wear, Werner Paddles and InReach GPS.

Girls at Play turns 10 in 2014 – read Anna’s article about what she has learned in the last 10 years!

Emily Shanblatt

Born and raised in East Lansing, Michigan, Emily did not discover her love for whitewater kayaking until she moved to the Southeast in 2006 to attend Warren Wilson College. She was introduced to whitewater paddling through a NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) course where she canoed the Rio Grande for 14 days. After dedicating herself to kayaking in 2007, she progressed quickly and soon began instructing. Simultaneously, Emily began focusing on getting more women involved in the sport, a passion which she still drives her today. 

Em doesn’t think there is a better way to spend a day than on a beautiful river with friends. She sees kayaking as one of the most positive forces in her life. It provides her with constant challenges, accomplishments, and an incredibly supportive community of people. Kayaking has taken her places around the world, and has made her dream of places she hopes to someday visit. She spends most of her free days on her local run, the Green River Narrows. When she’s not paddling, Em enjoys mountain biking, skiing, playing the piano, writing, and is a Vipassana meditator.

For eleven consecutive years she attended/worked at an all-girls wilderness adventure summer camp, providing her with countless transformative experiences with other women, and growing her passion for empowerment and discovery in the outdoors. She finds experiences with other women to be not only rewarding and liberating, but fun and inspirational as well. Combining her love for kayaking and women’s specific activities, working with Girls at Play is truly a dream come true!

Em has been teaching programs for Girls at Play since the Summer of 2011. Since that time she has acquired her ACA (American Canoe Association) Level 4 Whitewater Kayaking instructor certification, as well as her Level 2 Stand Up Paddleboard instructor certification. She has touched countless women’s lives through trips, instruction, and clinics, and hopes to continue empowering women on and off the water for years to come.

Emily Yuratovac

10917157_10103821014827558_2976430025011300410_oEmily first discovered whitewater kayaking through an introductory course while attending college at Ohio University. In the following years she spent much time traveling to Pennsylvania and West Virginia to hone her skills. She has worked as a river guide on the Kern River in California, a safety kayaker on six different rivers in Costa Rica, and a Video Kayaker on the New and Gauley Rivers. Her interest in teaching more of the things she loved led her to get a Level 4 ACA Kayak Instructor certification and become a Registered Yoga Teacher with Yoga Alliance.

Emily currently resides in Boone, NC where she teaches Yoga and works as a whitewater kayaking instructor at Appalachian State University. She has been teaching for Girls at Play since 2014 and is grateful for the experience of being on the river with lots of amazing women. Paddling has enhanced her life in many ways and through her teaching she hopes to shed some light on the sport so that others can experience all that the water has to offer.

Angela Como

A native of the Milwaukee area, Angela discovered her love for kayaking on the Wolf River in north central Wisconsin. Her first day ever in a whitewater boat happened at the Women’s Whitewater Kayaking Festival at Bear Paw Outdoors on the Wolf, an annual event led by Jamee Peters and Anna Levesque, when she was 16. She found 11412072_1165535670130500_8465051333718741114_oherself back at the festival the following year, and by her third Women’s Fest, she was working as an assistant instructor. Living three hours away from the closest whitewater
spurred Angela to move up to the Wolf River as soon as she graduated high school, and she spent an amazing summer learning to teach kayaking. She earned her L4 ACA Whitewater Kayaking instructor certification at the beginning of the following summer, and spent another memorable season as head instructor at Bear Paw Outdoor Adventure Resort. She decided to venture down to Asheville, NC for the summer of 2015, to work as an intern and kayak instructor for Anna at Girls at Play.

Whitewater kayaking enchanted Angela from day 1 because it allowed her to establish a close relationship with a very powerful aspect of the natural world. The act of paddling herself into a river feature, that humans would describe as chaotic, and trying to achieve certain moves that require mental calmness and a deep internal peace became the ultimate challenge. Most importantly, Angela found the river to be incredibly humbling; it was constantly allowing her to learn about herself.

Angela feels incredibly blessed to be able to share her passions with others. She received only the best care and instruction as she was learning to paddle, and hopes to pay it forward to all of her students at Girls at Play! She thrives on the sense of community that paddling fosters, and is grateful to have met so many incredible friends through the sport.

Angela is studying biology, environmental science and creative writing at Lawrence University in Appleton, WI. She figures that she’ll grow up to be a scientist, a writer, a paddler…or, most likely, some crazy combination of the three. When not on the river, she spends her time dabbling in poetry, playing violin, trail running, and backpacking.

Anna Wagner