Water Women

Three women show how they take a plunge

In the spirit of summer adventure, we went looking for Wilmington women who have found their own way to live on the water, not just around it. So dust off the sand and get into the water! 


Kay Lynn Plummer-Hernandez – Surfer and Environmental Educator

KAY LYNN PLUMMER-HERNANDEZ is the manager for Cape Fear River Watch’s environmental and educational programs, and oversees the busy summer eco-camps and children’s programs. The nonprofit also offers a full schedule of free adult seminars, clean-ups, and paddle tours of the river. Plummer-Hernandez has an extensive wildlife background, from research to population and parks management, and though she spends her work day teaching other people to enjoy nature, she was a latecomer to her particular passion.

“My favorite activity is surfing, but I discovered that after moving to Wilmington. So I’ve been surfing for about a decade now. Even though I love the Cape Fear River, I love the ocean. It helps me keep up my athletic skills, but also be on the ocean where I feel most at home and closest to God,” she says.

She got her love of nature from growing up in Arkansas with an amateur naturalist: her father. She remembers early on, in college, she would find herself frequently camping alone with her dog. That kind of early independence has ensured she never misses an adventure.

“I normally just go by myself. I’ve never let the fact that other people may not be able to meet me stop me from doing what I love,” she says.

For more information about CFRW’s programs, camps, and scholarship opportunities, contact Plummer- Hernandez at kaylynn@cfrw.us


 Jenna Blackburn – Stand-Up Paddleboard Competitor

JENNA BLACKBURN was in fifth grade when she found her passion for water sports. The fifteen-year-old Junior Elite Paddler now competes in stand-up paddleboard races around the country, and is sponsored by Hobie. She came to stand-up paddleboarding, a sport with a quickly growing base of passionate devotees, through her family.

“I was doing travel soccer before,” Blackburn says. “And I told my dad if I didn’t make the top team for that year, I would try out what he was doing. My sister and my dad were doing paddleboarding. I tried it out and just loved it.”

Blackburn paddles out of Wrightsville SUP, a paddle shop run by Jarrod Covington which rents out, and teaches classes in, stand-up paddleboarding, outrigger canoes, and kayaks. Every Monday, Wednesday, and most weekends, she can be seen practicing with the junior team, where she acts as a mentor and teacher for kids as young as 8. In addition to the thrill of competition, Blackburn says her favorite part about traveling to races is the diversity of people from around the world that come in to race. But even in her daily paddles, she sees global travelers.

“In California, we saw a whale. Here, the coolest things I’ve seen are sea turtles and dolphins. All around Harbor Island at Wrightsville Beach there are always dolphins,” she says.  

Sue Mobley – Diver and Underwater Photographer 

SUE MOBLEY found her love of SCUBA diving and underwater photography in her thirties. After moving here from Florida, she took dive lessons and knew she loved it immediately. Now, years later, Sue is still waking up early to go out with Aquatic Safaris, a dive shop on Wrightsville Beach.

“I like to be first in, last out. When you go to a dive locally, you know, everyone goes in, they all come out. If you wait, things start coming back. Sharks start coming back. Rays start coming back,” she says.

The photography came naturally, and now Mobley says she can’t imagine diving without a camera. Her journeys have taken her all around the world, from the Galapagos to Indonesia to Botswana this spring. She’s seen creatures as big as a whale shark, and others as small as your fingernail.

“The first time I saw a bobtail squid, I couldn’t believe how beautiful that guy was. It was in the Philippines, on a night dive, and the thing is only as big as a dime, and they’re fluorescent green and blue with little black dots. But to spot something that tiny in the water at night is just as thrilling as something big.”

“It’s very fulfilling to put myself in that environment. If I find one thing I’m interested in photographing, I’m happy,” she adds. “I don’t expect everything to be perfect every time I go. But you know how some people get runner’s high? I get diver’s high.”  

To view more of photographer T.J. Drechsel’s work, visit http://www.tjdrechselphotography.com

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Categories: Women to Watch