This past weekend Down Wind Sports hosted the 9th annual Ladies Of The Lake Sea Kayak Symposium in beautiful Grand Marais Michigan. This annual gathering of female paddlers was organized to paddle, learn, socialize and celebrate another year of paddling. Our idea is to provide a quality paddling experience promoting “women kayaking with women for women.” This is also a unique symposium in that it is a “traveling” symposium. We pick a new location in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula each year that offers diverse paddling opportunities and somewhere new to explore. This year the event invaded the small beach town of Grand Marais, Michigan, and nestled on the southern shore of Lake Superior and the eastern end of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Our headquarters for the long weekend was located in the community center, where our retail location was set up and all off water activities took place.
On Thursday August 16th the symposium kicked off with Bonnie Perry’s BCU 3 Star training program where 8 eager participants hit the cool waters of Lake Superior to gain the necessary skills to assess for the BCU 3-star award. Participants were challenged with rainy skies, bumpy water and the opportunity to learn from one of the Midwest’s top coaches!
The community center of Grand Marais was transformed into a paddle sports market place with Down Wind Sports displaying the latest boats, kayaking gear, and clothing. As the day wore on, participants weary from the road, stopped in to register themselves and gear up for what would prove to be a great, fun filled weekend. The symposium drew participants from as far away as New York, Florida, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Washington State, North Carolina, Indiana, and Michigan. Some even traveled internationally from Canada! 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/presenter; Adriene Levknecht and Cindy Scherrer brought their talents from the East and West coast!
On Friday severe weather and a gale storm warning was issued and as a precaution the Pictured Rocks Trips were cancelled (good call), but morning classes were held in the harbor. Participants were treated to an impromptu surf class both in the morning and afternoon.
From forward strokes to rescues participants learned new and exciting techniques to help improve their paddling. For the most part the weather held off so ladies could get into the water and practice and develop these skills.
Thankfully the skies cleared and the afternoon classes went off without a hitch and many ladies commented they loved playing in the waves!
After cleaning up and finishing dinner, participants headed on over to the headquarters and enjoyed participating in The Wheel Of Fortune! Lots of swag was given out to our lucky contestants and many hilarious moments were provided by “Pat Sajak” and “Vanna White”.
After settling down from the game show participants were treated to a presentation by Adriene Levknecht. A white water paddler by trade, Adriene focused on overcoming fear and how it relates to sea kayaking. Amazing photos and crazy videos showed just how talented this woman is. Great job Adriene!
On Saturday the weather was stellar and participants hit the water for more in depth instruction and fun. Bracing, rolling, towing and rescues were all fun…..but the one with the most laughs was Becoming One With Your Boat Through Play! Once again due to extremely high seas the trip to Grand Island had to be cancelled so participants took the opportunity to travel inland to the beautiful Grand Sabel Lake.
Friday and Saturday saw sessions 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.
After another long day of paddling the ladies got all fixed up in their finest for The Werner Paddles Speakeasy / Roaring 20′s Party! A password got the ladies into the venue which had the ladies all dolled up in their finest party outfits! Gambling, smoking (candy cigarettes), drinking and dancing into the night had these classy ladies (and a few loose men), celebrating the night away. One word….these ladies had STYLE!
The party was also the time where the LOL Awards were handed out included the Werner Paddles most improved paddler. Congrats to Linda Millunzi-Jones for earning this coveted award and a brand new Werner Paddle!
Sunday was also a great opportunity for participants to hop into one last class and get a little more practice in before packing up for the long drive home.
We have been involved with many sea kayak symposiums around the great lakes and with all honesty this is by far the one that we look forward to every year. How great is it to see participants so eager to learn, coaches so willing to give so much, and to be surrounded by laughter and smiles all weekend long……how long do we have to wait until next year?