Ever wanted to do an overnight excursion, or a 10 day trip around a remote island, but wondered if you had the skills, the planning, and the endurance to make it safe, fun, and an enjoyable experience? Great Lakes Sea Kayak Symposium is offering an Expedition 101 course for paddlers looking to test their mettle.
This course will be a journey from Munising to Grand Marais along Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore over three days. This course will be limited to 12 students based on reserving campsites.
This course will teach the following concepts and skills:
Risk Assessment and Risk Plotting. This covers a framework for go-no-go decisions.
Marine Weather and Forecasting for the Great Lakes
What to bring and how to pack a sea kayak for an expedition.
Paddling Skills for expeditions and journeys. Safe, efficient, and effective paddling with loaded kayaks in conditions on Lake Superior, and close in to cliffs and rocks.
Launching and landing a loaded sea kayak.
Rescues, towing, and Incident Management for expeditions
Group Management and Leadership Concepts for Expeditions
This course will require significant physical effort and fitness. Participants must be prepared to paddle the distance between Munising and Grand Marais.
This course will require a sea kayak with two bulkheads, and full static rescue lines around the kayak.
Drybags to store all your gear, (any last minute needs can be taken care of with Downwind Sports).
Paddle clothing, drysuit, or at minimum drytop/wetsuit combo, Sprayskirt
Paddle and a Spare paddle
Small tent, campsites are small and July will be popular with hikers along the trail.
Sleeping bag, pad,
Campstove, pots, and dishes to eat from, headlamp,
Dry warm shore clothing for 3-4 days
Food for 4 days
This course will run from July 17th- July 19th
The course will begin with a shuttle from Grand Marais to Sand Point. 9 AM July 17th
The course will end on Little Beaver Lake where we will have a vehicle staged with a trailer. Ending on July 19th.
What is provided
This trip will provide an awesome experience for guided discovery learning on sea kayaking while on a journey, the best classroom to take your paddling to the next level. Instruction, planning, and group management will be provided by ACA/BCU instructors.
Camping Permits will be handled by GLSKS.
What is not provided
All of the required gear and food will be needed and NOT provided by GLSKS. While the course will provide instruction it will NOT provide a guided experience, meaning participants will cook and prepare their own meals and set up their own tents and generally be ready to take care of themselves.
If there are any questions on gear, fitness or expectations for this course, please contact email@example.com
The Gichi Gumee Project In the Ojibwe language, Lake Superior is called Gitchi Gumee, meaning big water, or the shining blue sea water.
In July of 2012 the Great Lakes Sea Kayak Symposium created a pilot program to bring inner city youth from Chicago to experience the natural beauty of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and to learn the sport of sea kayaking. Our goal was to immerse our youth into our existing program guiding them through the skills of kayaking, camping, and the kayak community. The experience was an overwhelming success for the organizers as well as the participants. Who do we thank for this last year’s success? Paddle Sports Industry leader Kokatat- who stepped up to the plate and funded a good portion of our pilot program and made these kids dreams possible. Based on last years success we are bringing more kids from Chicago and Detroit up to this years Great Lakes Sea Kayak Symposium! For $100.00 you can sponsor a child and be an integral part of introducing these kids to the life long sport of sea kayaking. To make a tax deductible donation please call 906-226-7112
Are you able to clean and manage a wound such as this? First aid kit, don’t leave home without it! But, what do you really need? What do you know how to use? Where do you carry it? And, what do you pack all that stuff in? Join John Browning for a discussion of first aid kits, focusing on those for the paddler in a wilderness setting. John will also provide an overview of the levels of first aid training available.
Bio info on John Browning
John Browning is an ACA L4 coastal kayak instructor trainer with over 20 years of paddling experience. Additionally, John is an emergency medical technician (EMT) and is a wilderness EMT (WEMT). John works in the urban EMT world in Milwaukee. Besides teaching sea kayaking, John also teaches wilderness first aid with Wilderness Medical Associates, and is on the faculty of an American Heart Association training center where he teaches CPR and first aid, as well as training others as instructors.
Our talented coaches are starting to commit to another year of coaching at the GLSKS and with that new tours, courses and lunch box lectures are starting to roll in! Check out these new offerings from Jeremy Vore and Lenore Sobota!
Personal Locator Beacons and You:Friday 12:15pm
Does the latest and greatest in rescue technology make paddlers safer or give us a false sense of security? The answer is, “Both, depending on how you use it.” We’ll look at real life examples and demonstrations to learn all about the versatile Personal Locator Beacon, how to add one to your paddling tools safely, and how it should – and should not – influence your decision making.
The Circles of Defense:Saturday 12:15pm
Risk Management is a meaningless buzzword for many of us. We know it’s out there and it’s important, but don’t know how to apply it effectively when we paddle. The Circles of Defense is a clear, simple method of applying Risk Management every time you hit the water. Learn it, use it, and be safe.
“Overcoming Fear: A Work in Progress” — Wind. Waves. Wet exits. Saturday 12:15pm
Sometimes the biggest challenges in paddling are mental more than physical. We might not be able to eliminate our fears, but we can learn to keep them from paralyzing us. Let’s talk about strategies to help ourselves and others move beyond fear.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a stunning jewel on the Lake Superior shore of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Administered by the United States National Park Service, and the U.S. Department of the Interior, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore encompasses some of the most interesting and dynamically beautiful coastline found on the Great Lakes. Although only three miles wide at it’s widest point the park protects more than forty miles of Lake Superior shoreline. These coastal lands are owned by the National Parks Service and form the actual National Park. A second buffer zone has been developed inland from this coastal zone to establish greater protection of the park. This buffer zone consists of lands under a mixture of public and private ownership managed in a manner that will retain the area’s existing character to help support and enhance the coastal National Park zone.
The 15 mile section of sandstone rock cliff that rise directly from Lake Superior northeast of the town of Munising to heights from 50 to 200 feet are the actual pictured rocks for which the park has been named. Here Superior’s waves have sculpted caves, arches and many strange formations into this soft rock. To the Ojibwa Natives of Lake Superior this area was the “Land of Thunder and the Gods”. Traveling along this coastline today one can visualize why the natives came to such a conclusion. The many caves and hollows carved into the cliff wall gurgle and breath with the slightest oscillation of Superiors surface. Add wave action into the mix and the cliff wall becomes a symphony of drums booming and thundering as air and water become compressed into the sea caves and explode outward. There are many tour boats that offer sightseeing excursions along this coast that depart several times a day from Munising but a skilled kayaker will have an exhilarating experience of being up close and personal with the wonders of this shore.
The sandstone being very porous allows for groundwater to seep down these cliff walls. This groundwater draws minerals from the earth and deposits a cavalcade of colours almost like paint in flowing bands down the many layers of the sedimentary sandstone. The rock wall is like an ever – changing artists canvas. There are even bands of blue created by the deposition of the mineral azurite, amazing. Azurite is a blue copper ore. A Superior storm will wash away much of these multi coloured mineral splashes of paint and in time another masterpiece appears. A good friend of mine describes the Pictured Rocks as the place mother nature has fun with graffiti. The colours and vividness of these mineral deposits varies from wet to dry years. Obviously during a dry year there is less ground water to draw out the colourful minerals. Regardless, it’s easy to see how the place got its name.
As you travel east beyond the ramparts of the Pictured Rocks the coastline eases to form what is called Twelve Mile Beach. This long beach showcases the clarity of Lake Superior as you paddle along its shallows on a calm day. The water has such a pure, clearness that you have a feeling of floating along a tropical shore. That topical feel is visual only. When you dip your hand into the clear waters of Superior the coldness snaps you back to reality.
Rounding Au Sable Point and passing the Au Sable Lighthouse we see the spectacular Grand Sable Dunes. Rising to points almost 500 feet above the lake. These dunes have grown due to wind erosion that piled sand up onto the banks from original glacial deposits 10,000 years ago. Arguably Grand Sable Dune is one of the biggest dune structures on the Great Lakes. There is a four square mile area of wind deposited sand between Grand Sable Lake and Lake Superior. You get a feeling of being somewhere on the Sahara Dessert in North Africa when you experience this area.
Just to the east of the park is the town of Grand Marais Michigan. Grand Marais is the host base of the largest and oldest Sea Kayaking Symposium within the Great Lakes Basin. The kayak symposium is held each July. The town offers Woodland Park for camping, various tourist accommodations and boaters can anchor in the harbour.
It was because of this symposium that I was introduced to these Pictured Rocks, Grand Island and all the beauty of the Michigan shore of Lake Superior between Grand Marais and Munising. Good friends and symposium founders, Stan and Emma Chladek had pressed me to participate and help out as an instructor from the outset over 25 years ago. Stan and I had joined forces during many kayak adventures over the years. Some of our adventures were epic experiences I shall never forget.
To be honest I had developed a bias preference for the wilder wilderness experienced on Canadian side of the lake. Until seeing the Pictured Rocks region I had falsely imagined the American side to be tame. What I discovered, thanks to the symposium, was that the border dividing Lake Superior is merely a man made fabrication. The lake itself is one amazing entity and no one side has exclusivity over the other when it comes to the beauty, wonderment and magic.
The kayak symposium has its roots connected with the pioneers of the sport of Sea Kayaking. Modern sea kayaking and specific modern sea kayak designs came on stream in the mid 1970’s. Before that, as far as the Great Lakes goes I can testify some paddlers did venture out on open water venues outside the comfort zone of an open canoe in decked kayaks. These touring models resembled larger versions of slalom kayaks with less hull rocker to add forward directional stability and tracking. Only when Sam Cook a keen kayak enthusiast approached Frank Goodman a British kayak builder and owner of Valley Canoe Products in Nottingham England about designing a modern sea – touring kayak with specific features to meet the riggers of a true coastal expedition did a serious new concept develop. Sam Cook had proposed a 400 – mile expedition up the coast of Norway to the northern tip of continental Europe. That northern point of land is called the Nordcapp. When Sam and Frank sat down to layout needs and desires of modern kayak adventures the first modern commercial sea touring design became available. The kayak was named the Nordkapp. The 1975 Nordkapp expedition was a success and the Nordkapp sea kayak was placed into the Greenwich Maritime Museum in the United Kingdom as the pivotal design introduction to modern sea kayaking.
Frank Goodman had been building a Greenland Inuit inspired design under license called the Anas Acuta, (pintail in Latin). The history of the Anas Acuta is linked to West Greenland and an Inuit kayak builder named Emmanuel Korniliussen. Inuit kayaks had been around for millennia but by 1959 Emmanuel was one of the last kayak builders in the village of Igdlorssuit Greenland. Kenneth Taylor, a kayaker and student of Glasgow University was persuaded by Harald Drever, a professor at St. Andrews University in Scotland to combine his studies with his paddling interests and go investigate the Greenland kayak and its place in Inuit Culture. Harald Drever and Ken Tayor had both been members of Scotland’s Hostellers’ Canoe Club. Emmanuelle Korniliussen had built a kayak for Harald Drever back in 1937.
In 1959 Ken spent three months in Greenland. During this time Emmanuelle also built Ken a sealskin – covered kayak, complete with hunting equipment. This kayak returned to Scotland with Ken.
In1964 Ken moved to the United States. His kayak was left in the care of Joe Reid and Duncan R. Winning. They took measurements and did drawings of the hull. These drawings gave rise to the building of many semi-replicas built by do-it-yourselfers. In the late 1960’s Duncan Winning gave a set of his drawings of Ken’s kayak to English paddler Geoffrey Blackford. Geoffrey Blackford lengthened the kayak 9.75 inches from the original and modified the ends to suit plywood construction and fitted the deck and cockpit to accommodate larger paddlers. This kayak became the Anas Acuta.
Carel Quaife, a British Canoe Union development officer, produced a mold for fiberglass construction. Alan Byde, a popular coach and author later refined the mold before Frank Goodman took up commercial production.
Stan Chladek had a connection to Frank Goodman due to the nature and links within the competitive canoe and kayak racing community within Europe. My connection with Stan originally evolved from a kayak racing background also.
When Stan and Emma Chladek moved to the United States and settled in Southeast Michigan their connections opened the new modern sport of Sea Kayaking, access to the latest innovative kayak designs and the teaching and coaching structure of the British Canoe Union, (BCU) to the regions American and Canadian paddlers. The Chladek’s became a bridge link between the paddling communities of Great Brittan and Europe with a community of paddlers at the Heart of the Great Lakes in both the United States and Canada.
It worked out that paddlers near this heart of the North American Continent from the Detroit Michigan and Windsor Ontario regions had access to true sea kayaks before many folks living on either ocean coast did.
The development of the Great Lakes Sea Kayak Symposium grew in momentum and size over the first ten to fifteen years. The venue and proximity to the exhilarating coastline of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore proved a huge draw. The initial development of high quality instruction added to the events reputation of offering the best teaching and coaching standards available. By the mid 1990’s all the instructors had become BCU certified. In fact the location became the gathering place for many North American’s wanting to take part in BCU Instructor Training. Often courses, assessment and testing of skills and teaching began to be conducted the full week prior to the actual symposium. By 1998 a BCU Coach Four Course was offered for the first time in North America at Grand Marais.
But aside from the historic links the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore themselves became the overriding draw. The beauty of the Lake Superior shoreline here helped with the recruitment of lecturer’s and icons of the sport. Everyone wanted to paddle here and be part of this symposium.
Symposium organizers were clever to capitalize on the venue and offered a variety of tours to fit every skill level. At times up to seven tour options, each with assigned certified leader and safety team would set out from various points along the coast. The trips ranged in length from a novice outing inside Grand Marais Harbour to a 25 mile circumnavigation of Grand Island.
I still remember the excitement and anticipation of participants and volunteer staff as kayakers from all points of the globe gathered for the opening Thursday sign in for each years weekend symposium. Some folk traveled a very long way but still gathered on the beach of Grand Marais West Bayshore Park around the communal bonfire. Friday was always trip day and as the community of kayakers grew into crowds of hundreds on each welcoming first night there was a sort of energy like a charge of electricity in the air. It was good.
I had paddled every inch of each offered tour over the years. All the shoreline is stunning in its own way but my favorite section is the Pictured Rocks Tour from Miner’s Castle Beach to Chapel Beach and return. I have done this 18-mile round trip over a dozen times, often assigned as trip leader. This tour passes along some of the most interesting sea caves, arches and tallest cliff walls of the park. The highlight is the Grand Portal at Grand Portal Point. I don’t think there is any place more stunning to see and experience than the Grand Portal on all the Great Lakes. The portal is a huge carved out tunnel chamber. Passage through the portal in a kayak is an experience never to be forgotten.
I must be honest some of my fondest memories of my involvement in the sport seem to always swing back to Grand Marais and the Pictured Rocks. It was here that I had the good fortune to paddle side by side with the pioneers of the sport, Frank Goodman, Sam Cook, Derek Hutchinson, Nigel Dennis and Bill Taylor from the U.K. The conversations shared with each of these individuals stay with me today. The time shared on the water with them still brings a smile. There was a day during a week of BCU training before the actual symposium when we took a group of candidates up along my favorite shore east of Miner’s castle Beach. There is a natural arch along this wonderful coast. Sam Cook was paddling next to me in conditions not conducive to a relaxed tour. The waves had grown to a size of substance and along the cliff wall confused seas and reflective waves created a challenge. The surf blasted through this arch. Sam looked over at me and I could read his mind. He took the lead and together we surfed our kayaks under the arch. I saw the exhilaration of joy on the face of a grown man several years my senior having uninhibited fun. I got it. That freedom to let go and fully enjoy life is something I hold onto.
It’s been some years since I have been involved in the Great Lakes Sea Kayak Symposium. Time and focus on other far off destinations and adventures to feed my spirit needed to be satisfied. Stan and I have long gone in separate directions. It’s been over a decade since we spoke.
His kayak distribution and retail business along with the establishment of the Great Lakes Sea Kayaking Club based in Michigan had been the driving force of the symposium.
There had been questions about what will become of the Great Lakes Sea Kayak Symposium after the Chladek’s involvement. Talk was heard of the site being moved down to Michigan’s Thumb region on Lake Huron.
From my understanding Down Wind Sports a local outdoor gear retailer and kayak shop www.downwindsports.com has stepped up to keep the symposium alive and well.
I understand the American Canoe Association, (ACA) instruction program and classes are offered now. I also have seen some of the names of fine paddlers that had taken part in some of my instruction years ago are now guest speakers sharing their skills and knowledge. I feel good about that. I am happy to hear many good things about the Grand Marais Great Lakes Sea Kayak Symposium.
During my paddling carrier The Pictured Rocks, Grand Marais Michigan and the Great Lakes Sea Kayak Symposium have always been a sort of compass point I swing back to. I need to thank Stan Chladek for pulling me in that direction so very long ago. I wish nothing but the best to Down Wind Sports and the volunteers now keeping the event alive and thriving.
It may be time to follow that compass again and return.
Steve Lutsch lives in Windsor Ontario. Steve was involved with the Great Lakes Sea Kayak Symposium and the BCU instructors training for many years as a senior instructor, tour leader, lecturer, slide show presenter and even the evening program master of ceremonies. He feels the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is one of the prime kayaking destinations anywhere.
Registration is now officially open for the 2013 GLSKS! The GLSKS is the oldest sea kayaking symposium on the Great Lakes and this year we are offering an updated class schedule, a few new trips and a few big surprises! Sign up today and start planning for a fun filled learning experience this summer!
Registration Fee includes:
- All on water instruction
- All dry-land instruction
- Raffle ticket
- Boat Demos
- Slide Shows
- Socials/Wine and Cheese Party
- Night Paddle
- Trips on Lake Superior
- Pasty Dinner
- Discounts on gear and boats at Down Wind Sports
Registered by May 1st 2013 – $239.99 Registered May 2nd- June 1st 2013 – $299.99 Registered after June 1st 2013- $325.00
Register today by calling 906-226-7112
*There are no refunds after signing up for the event. If you are unable to attend after signing up your registration fee will be applied to the 2014 GLSKS. If you have any questions about this policy please do not hesitate to call us at 906.226.7112
The Gichi Gumee Project In the Ojibwe language, Lake Superior is called Gitchi Gumee, meaning big water, or the shining blue sea water.
In July of 2012 the Great Lakes Sea Kayak Symposium created a pilot program to bring inner city youth from Chicago to experience the natural beauty of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and to learn the sport of sea kayaking. Our goal was to immerse our youth into our existing program guiding them through the skills of kayaking, camping, and the kayak community. The experience was an overwhelming success for the organizers as well as the participants. Who do we thank for this year’s success? Paddle Sports Industry leader Kokatat- who stepped up to the plate and funded a good portion of our pilot program and made these kids dreams possible!
Chicago Adventure Therapy (CAT) directly engages urban youth in outdoor activities, using the underutilized outdoor resources in Chicago to help youth have a lasting positive impact on their communities and become healthy adults. We use sea kayaking, climbing, navigation and cycling, as well as camping and a few winter sports programs, to build life skills. We particularly concentrate on communication skills, accountability and reliability, problem-solving skills and decision-making skills. We see young people face deep-seated fears and develop increased self confidence. We have also seen an increase in empathy in the young people we have a chance to work with over a longer period of time.
Adventure Works strives to assist at-risk youth in becoming healthy adults by providing timely intervention through adventure therapy. A brand new non-profit group based adventure therapy program serving at-risk youth, ages 11-18 (6th-12th grades). Provides healthy outdoor programming with activities such as hiking, climbing, or paddling. These experiences provide the youth with challenges pertainig to confidence, interpersonal relationships, team building and problem-solving, among others, and these skills then transfer to their everyday lives.
2012 GICHI GUMEE PROJECT
GREAT LAKES SEA KAYAK SYMPOSIUM RECAP
As we stopped for a picnic lunch on our way to the UP Thursday, our young people were already commenting that they were doing something they’d never done before. We realized that none of us had pulled out a cooler and sat on the sidewalk at a gas station for a picnic lunch. When we arrived in Grand Marais and Belinda took them off to show them where the beach was to see the sunset, they came back with grins so big I thought their faces would split. Then they got to put up tents and wear head lamps. Before ever taking the boats off the trailers, they were telling us how awesome this was and how glad they were that they had come. We headed back to the beach for s’mores. The best part of the beach, though, was when Kelly pulled out his iPhone stargazer app and started pointing out various constellations, and how to find the north star. Adanna thought it was about the coolest thing she’d ever seen. “That’s so cool!. I’ve never seen stars.” Without thinking, I blurted, “Adanna, you’ve never seen stars?” “No, there’s no stars in Chicago!” I forget that some of my fellow Chicagoans, and most of the youth we work with, don’t have the privilege of seeing beautiful stars in
remote places. It’s an experience I think should be a given in a kid’s life, not a privilege for those with access to a certain, basic level of wealth. I think Friday morning was a little bit overwhelming as we outfitted them with wetsuits, neoprene booties, long-sleeve shirts, PFD’s, paddles, spray skirts and boats. They all got to take P&H Kayaks, Ben Lawry’s forward stroke class – talk about an introduction to kayaking! The youngest member of our group was Ben’s partner to demonstrate the variety of on-land exercises he uses to explore the relationship between posture, stability and power. When the group split up for the on-water portion of the class, several of our group ended up in Wilderness Sysytems, Cindy Scherrer’s class. Adanna went with Cindy, too – I had asked Cindy if she would take Adanna under her wing for the
morning so that Adanna could observe her coaching style. In the afternoon Adanna went with P&H Kayaks, Micheal Pardy, working with the kid’s program. I was so pleased to get to introduce Adanna to such well-known, and more
importantly incredibly skilled, coaches. She’d already worked with Bonnie Perry and Scott Fairty in Chicago, and with Phil Hadley for the BCU training. If she was interested in working in the field, and I had committed to helping her do that, I wanted to get her the best training we could, with access to the best coaches. Friday afternoon several other members of the group took a rescue class. One young woman, we’ll call her Gretchen, was scared to paddle in the morning. She did it anyway, and was delighted. Now she knew she had to do a wet exit, and she was scared again. She came back from the class all smiles, and said that it wasn’t as bad as she thought it would be. She talked about the experience in the van on the way home, saying that one of the things she would take with her from the symposium was the ability to face her fears.
Saturday afternoon the whole group messed around on SUP’s durning the demo time, and played in the water. Brianna, Ben’s model from the morning, taught Adanna how to swim. Adanna has a face as easy to read as any person’s I’ve ever seen – and the pride on her face while she was swimming, and the delight that I noticed, made my heart swell. And Brianna, the youngest in the group, was so darn pleased to be able to teach an older teen a new skill. The whole group was exhausted by Saturday morning but they took on the challenge of rolling nonetheless. Gretchen did a successful balance brace, and successfully returned to her back deck. They were in the water again in the afternoon in the games and shenanigans class. Their comfort in, understanding of and skill with a kayak increased dramatically over the weekend. They all said they wanted kayak again, and that they wanted to come back to the symposium next year.
Post Symposium Interviews
(16 year old): Favorite thing about the symposium:
Learning about the forward paddle stroke and how to do it more efficiently and all the nice people. Something that surprised you:
That there were people from everywhere and from day to day people recognized us in the classes. Something you want to take with you into the future:
My experience of the symposium and the educational stuff, like that kayaks are from Greenland. I hope I kayak again in the future. Misc: As far as education, it went above and beyond…I went to a rolling class and ended up learning about Greenland paddles. We were also the only young people there. It was expensive
(17year old): Favorite thing about the symposium:
The rolling class and the 1 on 1 instruction where I could ask my own questions. Also, everyone was really inviting and curious about us young people. Something that surprised you:
The lack of youth and diversity. This is an amazing experience and great exposure, but inner city youth and ethnic minority youth don’t really have access to kayaking…If your parents come from another country how are they going to get you a kayak? It’s expensive. Something you want to take with you into the future:
Different styles of coaching…to be able to go from teaching young kids to teaching adults. Zorbari would like to become a L5 Coach some day!
(13year old): Favorite thing about the symposium:
The forward stroke and new techniques. Something that surprised you:
That I could actually stand up in the boat. Something you want to take with you into the future:
All the information I learned like the history of paddling.
(17year old): Favorite thing about the symposium:
The kayaking, the classes – trying something new. Something that surprised you:
Everyone knew us right away and that other people encouraged us positively. Something you want to take with you into the future:
Trying new things outside having never kayaked before. Facing your fears, like I can’t swim…Before I knew this was a therapy thing…I learned you have to trust yourself and have self-control, like if you can’t swim when you tip over in the boat you can’t panic because you won’t come back up. You have to think about how to do the rescues.
Kokatat Rep John Horsnell and our kids at the Saturday evening presentation
And of course we can’t forget that they were recognized publicly as special guests of the symposium, and given hats from the Kokatat rep John Horsnell himself. The young people and all of the adults with us were pleased and the young people were surprised, and the very warm welcome our whole group received. It would have been easy for them to meet with condescending or patronizing attitudes. They all noticed that there was very little racial diversity
among the rest of the symposium’s attendees. That could have ended up being a very uncomfortable position for them – either because they weren’t genuinely welcome ad were treated with suspicion; or because people could have been overly enchanted with them precisely because of their race. What happened instead was that this community welcomed them with open arms. They remembered our youth from one class to the next. Coaches and other students alike treated our young people with respect and warmth, and gave them the very best they had to give.
Jeremy Vore, one of the coaches at the event, was especially wonderful with our group. When I thanked him, he said this: People like Steve Lutsch, Stan Chladek, Doug VanDoren, Nigel Dennis, and Michael Grey all welcomed a 14 year old into their circle and facilitated my paddling in a way that would have been impossible without them. What I do now – training and communication with specialties in risk management, decision making, and leadership for both the healthcare and aviation industries – is directly descended from what they taught me on the water 20-some years ago.
I’d like to give that back in some way. Please let me know if there’s anything else I can do for you or the kids. I’d very much like to see them come back. The GLSKS is a magical thing for teenagers.
This is what Jeremy, the rest of the coaches, the organizers and the rest of the students did for our young people this weekend. The warm welcome and the skill they shared did more than introduce some kids to a sport they couldn’t otherwise afford.
I absolutely believe that this experience made the impossible possible for these young people. Brianne spoke of how the kayaking changed her. When she was interviewed by TV6, a local television station about her experience she said “I had to face my fear- I had to learn to trust myself.” The effects of that will ripple through their lives for the next 20 years, and the next 20 after that.
How was the 2012 program possible? By paddle sports industry leader Kokatat stepping up to the plate and making these kids dreams possible!
The Great Lakes Sea Kayak Symposium is seeking funding from the Paddle Sports Industry to develop and maintain a kayak program for inner city youth. As we introduce our young people to a sport that would usually be closed to them, we believe it to be an ethical imperative to help keep access open to the sport and the community in which it takes place for every young person who wants to do more of it. The Census Bureau projects that by 2050, the racial and ethnic minorities will compose about half of the country’s population. Racial and ethnic minorities have traditionally been
under-represented as visitors to national parks. An example, a recent survey of a representative sample of Americans found that 32 percent of whites had visited a national park in the last two years compared to only 13 percent of blacks. Let’s face it…. the sport of sea kayaking is a very white sport and we are determined to change that. Keep watching as we will be announcing how you can get involved with the Gichi Gumee Project!
Thank you Kokatat for sponsoring the 2012 Gichi Gumee Project!
Twice a year staff from Down Wind Sports attends Outdoor Retailer, which is a buying show located in Utah. All of the leading outdoor manufacturers gather to show off their latest gear and clothing at the Salt Palace in downtown Salt Lake City. There is also a unique opportunity to test paddle the new 2013 boats and stand up boards and that is just what we did at Jordanelle State Park.
It is a unique opportunity because it allows us to test the gear so that we are able to select what we think would be the best equipment for our customers for the 2013 summer season.
DAY ONE ON WATER DEMO
It was a sunny and hot day for test paddling on the water with loads of sunscreen being applied. After arriving at the demo and catching up with friends we haven’t seen in a while, we headed straight for the demo beach to check out the new stand up boards! Each year we are seeing more and more numbers of folks out on the water stand up paddling and at OR it’s no exception. We hit Lakeshore Paddleboards, Focus , Boardworks and C4.
We were very impressed with the Boardworks B Ray which is a board that is plenty wide with ample glide! B Ray is a perfect introductory SUP board, soft on the top and rails for extra comfort safety and durability. The B Ray will be a fun board for the whole family and will be perfect toy to take to camp!
We were also stoked to to see that Boardworks has produced a women’s version of their ever popular Raven. The Sirena 12’6″ is a slimed down version of the Raven, lighter and sleek designed for lighter paddlers.
Had to throw this one in for our friend Karl Crosby! It’s the Kahuna Creations Bombora 59″ a skateboard specifically designed for stand-up paddling on the street and performs like nothing else on the market. An incredible 4′ 11″ long and 14″ wide it’s a stable board that is crazy fun to ride. These boards are beautiful – an absolute top of the line and amazing skateboard for all rider types. We want one!
Tomorrow we hit the show to see what is new in clothing, camping and climbing!
OUTDOOR RETAILER DAY 2
Running all over the Salt Palace, today was a day jammed packed with appointments. Outdoor Retailer is an opportunity for manufacturer’s to show off their new innovative products and today we saw many cool new things. First stop was to see Patagonia….always innovative, and Spring 13 looks like Patagonia has it going on!
For all of our camping fans we were impressed with the Optimus Vega stove, a canister stove suited for 4 season use and coming in at a scant 6.28oz. Sinking temperatures and harsher weather conditions often push camp stoves to the limits of their capacity. Fuel no longer vaporizes properly and its performance declines markedly. It is exactly in such situations that the new Optimus VEGA Stove rises successfully to the occasion. Just invert the separate cartridge that is connected to the stove with a hose, and pull out the pedestal base integrated into the fuel control valve. Fuel is now fed to the stove in liquid form rather than gas. This integrated 4 Season Mode increases cooking performance while also decreasing cook times by approximately 20 percent. This mode can also be used if the cartridge is nearly empty or if particularly fast cook times are demanded due to time constraints.
Another highlight of the day was checking out the new Jackson Collection from Kokatat. From dry tops and dry suits, to the new Maximus PFD. Kokatat’s Maximus Prime rescue PFD was designed for all paddling disciplines with input from Eric and Dane Jackson. The Prime is a Type 5 rescue version of the new Maximus PFD platform featuring the Dynamic Suspension System (DSS). DSS features wide, contoured shoulder straps that allow an independently suspended front flotation panel to move with the paddler. Additionally, webbing adjustments have been moved to the front of the vest for easy fit adjustments. Made with all Gaia® foam, the Prime also features a quick release safety harness and O-ring, a tether/ tow system, and an electronics pocket.Finished out the day at the Sanuk industry party with BBQ chicken and ribs- great way to end an exciting day of shopping for new products!
Our symposium is special……..I know this for a fact. I have so many good friends that I don’t get to see as much as I should and this weekend of kayaking is much more then getting on the water to develop skills, it really is much more then that. At this symposium, which I love dearly, Minister Bonnie Perry delivered a beautiful tribute to Bob Weitzel, a past participant in this symposium, who tragically passed away this summer while paddling on Lake Superior. It was a beautiful morning and equally beautiful tribute for Bob. The ultimate compliment that I can give Bonnie is that if she lived in Marquette, I would listen to her speak every Sunday. Thank you Bonnie for the eloquent tribute.
Here are Bonnie’s words:
Have you noticed that the world is crazy? Have you noticed that the world is amazing? Have you noticed that there are things, events that happen that inspire and enliven us? And that there are things that take place that terrify us? Bob Weitzal’s death while paddling on this great lake, this inland sea was, for me, an intersection of those two things: paddling solo on this liquid goddess and dying alone on this irascible sea. I heard news of a paddler’s death on Lake Superior and I was saddened. A couple of days later I did some reading about the person who had died and by the second paragraph of the article I had realized the man who had died had been a student of mine. A student of mine at a four day joint Paddle Canada/BCU class I had co-taught the summer before. For four days I’d hung out with him: morning, noon and night in what is the crucible of an intense class for both students and coaches alike. In those four days I came to know something of Bob’s passion, desire and determination. Suddenly, his death became personal. As many of you know, I’m an Episcopal priest (All Saints’ Chicago). I have some thoughts, beliefs and ultimately hopes on what happens to us when we die. Regardless of what I may believe happens to us after death–if I’m honest–death scares me. What I know is that one out of one of us dies. Death scares me. But what I know is that I do not want to live my life afraid of death. Because that’s not living that is dying day by day, bit by bit. When I paddle ( I suspect this was true for Bob and perhaps for many of us) –when I paddle I am more alive then any other place in my life. Every time our paddles dip into the water, as I breathe in and out and I know that I am alive, its then that I am aware of being closest to the transcendent and holy. The ancient celts talk about thin places–where it is possible to move through from the secular to the sacred, from the profane to the profound–well paddling is one of those “thin places” it is one such portal. I think Bob knew that and on good days I do too. My hope for us, in this crazy world, is that we too, all of us, will know it. Rest in Peace Bob.
The 2012 Great Lakes Sea Kayak Symposium is in the books and 146 participants, and coaches were greeted with extremely nice Upper Peninsula temperatures and what turned out to be another sunny and warm year! Nine different states, and three countries were represented this year with participants traveling as far as Kentucky, Texas, California, Canada and Italy- coming to Grand Marais to enjoy the camaraderie of Midwest kayakers and the chance to paddle at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
Read the following to see what strange things were done under the midnight sun, during this years GLSKS! Don’t miss out next year as our dates are July 17-21st 2013. Registration is now open!
2012 GLSKS RECAP
This summer Down Wind Sports hosted the 28th annual Great Lakes Sea Kayak Symposium. This five day event was organized for sea kayakers to gather, paddle, learn, socialize and celebrate another year of kayaking. The event took place on the southern shore of Lake Superior in the beautiful beach town of Grand Marais Michigan.
On Wednesday July 18th the symposium kicked off with a day of paddlers registering and checking into the Community Center, a place where we call “home” for the weekend. The Grand Marais Community Center was transformed into a paddle sports market place with vendors setting up booths displaying the latest boats, kayaking gear, and clothing. It is also the area where trips and classes are signed for and many questions asked and answered. Throughout the day old and new friends rolled in from the road, some we haven’t seen for over a year!
We are very proud to say that we have some of the most talented coaches in the country joining us, many of whom reside right here in the Midwest. Our featured coaches/presenters; Michael Pardy, Ben Lawry, Rene Sindal, Steve Lutsch, and Steve & Cindy Scheerer brought their talents from the Midwest, East and West coasts, Canada and Italy!
On Thursday participants were treated to a day of adventure, paddling various trips along Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Grand Island National Recreation Area. These beautiful destinations are recognized as world class and “must see” trips for kayakers featuring majestic arches, caves and waterfalls to experience.
A beginner’s course also took place Thursday on the warm waters of Grand Sable Lake where participants learned the basics of sea kayaking from Chris Delridge and Chris Martin, getting a jump start for their classes during the weekend.
After a long day of paddling the evening’s entertainment was the Beers With Bill III Slide Show. Here’s how it worked; Participants were encouraged to submit slides which then were arranged to music. It is a great way to share the special places and adventures people have enjoyed throughout the year- Photos from paddlers local lakes and rivers, to fantastic trips spanning Italy, Alaska, Canada, the Pacific Northwest and Isle Royale. The Great Lakes Brewery provided the libation with a keg of Lake Superior Amber Ale!
When the slide show concluded we all headed down to the beach for a bonfire where s’mores were produced via assembly line. This was also the first meeting of our kids track program which had 15 kids registered! As the bonfire warmed the sand, the stars sparkled in the sky over Lake Superior, providing a perfect moment to end the perfect first day!
On Friday the sun rose and, again provided the perfect weather as a backdrop for trips returning to the Lakeshore and kicking off our instructional courses. From forward strokes to rolling, participants learned new and exciting techniques to help improve their paddling.
The noon time meal breaks not only offered a time to socialize with fellow participants and instructors but also provided a special Soup De Jour; a menu of Lunch Box Lectures. These micro seminars let students maximize learning time while getting a quick snack to refuel for the afternoon classes. The lectures included The Five Great Lakes, Designing Your Own Tow Rope, Boat Repair and a smorgasbord of others!
Once the afternoon classes concluded, all gathered beachside to watch Greenland-style paddler Doug VanDoren and son his Aiden do their perennial rolling demonstration. If you have never seen Doug “do his thing”, this is a must-see. Spectators learned a bunch and saw what is truly possible with dedication and practice. After cleaning up and finishing dinner, participants headed on over to the Werner Paddles Wine and Cheese Party and enjoyed a presentation by René Seindal. René is founder and part owner of Venice Kayak, a kayak tour company operating in Venice, Italy.
Though Danish by birth, René has spend a good deal of the last twenty years in various parts of Italy, mostly around Rome, in Sicily and in the last five years in Venice. The show included interesting shots of the unique paddling opportunities in Venice along with some fascinating history of this ancient city.
On Saturday our brand new program, Yoga and Yogurt, headed up by Patty Boucher, were greeted with a spectacular sunrise out of Lake Superior which offered a peaceful setting to practice specific yoga moves for kayakers.
A few more hardy soles (including the kids track) went out on trips including an exciting Practice on the Move trip with Cindy and Steve Scherrer. A stiff wind and strong following seas offered participants the opportunity to test themselves in the waters of Lake Superior, with newly acquired skills.
Was it really that windy last night? Strange things have happened over the last 27 years at this symposium but this year many unexplained occurrences have been happening!
Based on last years success with a dedicated rolling area, all weekend we stocked this area with top notch coaches who specialize in the teaching of rolling a kayak. It was great to see the beach alive with people both learning and perfecting this technique with one-on-one personalized instruction. It is truly a joy both for student and spectator to watch a person nail their first roll!
The waters of Lake Superior were unusually warm this year, which really had participants getting after it in the rolling clinics, rescues, or wet exit classes. Why? Because once again Kokatat came through providing drysuits for participants to check out and demo during one of their classes. This unique opportunity was a chance not only to try a dry suit but also to enabled people to stay in the water longer. With more comfort from being in the water so long, students could really concentrate, staying comfortable and learning more!
Saturday also saw another session of boat demos. Many participants used this great opportunity provided by the symposium to test paddle the latest boats from all of the leading manufacturers. We are proud to say that this allowed some people to find the perfect boat for them, finishing up their time with a shiny new kayak and a smile from ear to ear. (and a free registration to next years event!)
The conclusion of on water activities was the much anticipated GLSKS Race. Once again this year we had a great turn out of as we paired coaches with participants who were racing for the coveted “GLSKS Paisly Vest”. The racers lined up on the beach and the official course and rules were explained.
The professionally designed course made racers circling good harbor, traveling through the Valley Of Insults, past the Tunnel of Death to the finish line at the demo beach. Racers were greeted by our Kids Track participants at the Tunnel of Death where they kindly cooled off the overheated racers. To say the kids were looking forward to this all weekend is an understatement!
All in all it was a great race with Ray and Thorsten, who pulled off the victory in a decisive finish! Congrats to both of these fine racers and we can’t wait to see your photos of the Paisley Vest and its travels this coming year!
The evening festivities began at the Grand Marais High School with our annual Pasty dinner. This special and exclusive event to the symposium is a fund raiser for the senior class ( All of seven students this year!), the proceeds going to the students for their senior trip. This year’s GLSKS dinner raised over $2550.00 in which the students will use to travel to Washington DC and New York City.
The after dinner entertainment was Canadian Steve Lutsch, who some might call a legend in paddle sports. A Windsor Ontario native, Steve was one of the first kayak instructors at the Great Lakes Sea Kayak Symposium as well as a pioneer in the BCU so far as North America goes. With accomplishments to numerous to mention, Steve has enjoyed a lifetime of kayaking and canoeing world wide lately focusing heavily on extended trips to Germany and Italy. Steve’s presentation focused on paddling the Great Lakes with an emphasis on Canadian waters. The photography was outstanding leaving most participants anxious to go paddle these waters themselves. With his last trip as an instructor at the GLSKS being over 10 years ago, we are very fourtunate to have this icon of paddlesports present and share his knowledge and love of the sport to a brand new era of paddlers at this years symposium.
Dave Olson Photo
The evening ended with a P&H social at the Great Lakes Brewery where participants made new friends and swapped stories of past kayaking adventures! It’s always fun to head to the Dunes and kick back with so many good people!
On Sunday one mystery that did not elude the eyes of those happening to the beach on Sunday was the mystical appearance of the Fabled “Grand Marais Boathendge Monument”. As the story goes, prior to Grand Marais being a city it was the site of a Native American settlement who’s inhabitants would spend their summers enjoying the protected waters and bounties that the area provided. The people would fish Grand Sable Lake, hunt bear and beaver for the cold winter months, and harvest the local flora for their food stores. In the early fall of the mid 1700′s, a mighty storm arose from the Big Lake and pounded the shores with a ferocious North Easterly wind that lasted for 3 days. towards the end of that time, the inhabitants saw out on the lake a birch bark canoe rolling in the 15 to 20 foot waves and, although the storm was not fit for man nor beast, a few of the young men ran out to the beach to help. One of the men who was very clever with fire managed to start a blaze on the beach. Another who was the best of the men in swimming, lashed a line to his waist and began to tackle the waves towards the struggling canoe. The final man, who was said to be as big as an elk and could fell a charging bear with a single rock, held fast to the rope and dug his heels in the sand. As the fire rose, the canoe could be seen to change it’s course and head for the beach, the waves threatening to topple the craft with every paddle stroke. When finally they were surfed in close enough for the swimmer to reach them, the swimming grabbed the boat and pulled on the line. With that, the man on the beach pulled with all his might, grunting and groaning with every tug of the rope. Finally, after what seemed to be an hour, the boat was pulled onto the beach and the paddlers leaping to shore. As they did, a mighty 35 foot wave rolled in and crashed down on their boat, splintering it to bits. One of the paddlers was clearly of a different band of Native American but the other dressed strangely, for he wore what appeared to be a brightly colored dress and a woolen hat. His hair was wild and red and he wore a beard. In the days that followed, the red headed man, known to them only as MacCay, told the people of his homeland of Scotland and the wonders therein. Within those stories, he described a place of reverence to his people called “Stonehenge”, a place of great spiritual power where giant stones where placed to make the passage of time and served as a “thin” place between the living and dead. His enthusiasm and conviction impressed the native Americans and they knew it was true. The following Spring as the winter gave way to the songs of birds and leaves budding it was decided that he and his First Nation companion would travel back across the lake to their starting place, known now as Wawa, Ontario. He told the people that he would let them know of his safe passage by lighting a fire on the other side of the lake much like they had done for him when he first arrived. With a gentle breeze blowing Northeast, they set out bidding farewell to their new friends. But Misshepezhieu had other plan, for that afternoon a Spring gale blew up and tossed the inland sea into Chaos. The people of the bay became concerned and decided that they would build a marker for MacKay to see if he could weather the storm and make it back. With their birch bark canoes they erected a sight that would be familiar to MacKay; a Stonehenge monument. He never returned and was thought that he succumb to the Manitou of Superior. Yet, weeks later, as the story goes, a faint fire light could be seen off on the horizon. As time passed, the canoe monument was layer to dust and scattered by the winds of lake. But it is said that if a mariner of the Lake is lost in the weather and fog, the monument will reveal itself to those who respect the old ways. And if that paddler has gone to the other side, the boats will act as a “thin” place so that they may see their family and friends one last time and know that we wait to see him again. It is said that if you stand on the beach in Grand Marais to this day and look out over the night sky for a lost companion of the lake, you will just be able to make out a fire off on the horizon.
The early risers were headed to the beach where Minister Bonnie Perry delivered a beautiful tribute to Bob Weitzel, a past participant in this symposium, who tragically passed away this summer while paddling on Lake Superior. It was a beautiful morning and equally beautiful tribute for Bob.
Pastor Doug Van Doren presided over the Blessing of the Boats and The BLESSING OF THE BOATS provides an opportunity for all kayakers to gather for a blessing for a safe paddling season, while at the same time providing an opportunity for camaraderie and friendship.
The instruction concluded at noon as many happy and smiling (albeit tired) paddlers packed up and started the long journeys home. We are still buzzing about the outcome of this year’s symposium and have many new ideas for an improved 2013 GLSKS!
We would like to take a brief moment to thank our Symposiums main sponsors. These are the organizations and companies that keep us paddling, so a big thank you goes out to P&H Kayaks, Werner Paddles, NRS and Kokatat! Kelly and I would also like to give a heartfelt thank to all of our participants and coaches who truly make this symposium the gem of the Great Lakes!
Be sure to visit our photo page to see all of the action captured at this years symposium. Also be sure to look for a write up on our kids programs…..coming soon!