2012 GLSKS Official Recap!
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.
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.
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!