Ladies of the Lake

While it’s true the gathering is about becoming a better paddler, the program also unites adventurous women.
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Ladies of the Lake
Photography by Bill Thompson

August 15-17, Down Wind Sports of Houghton will host the 11th annual “Ladies of the Lake” (LOL) kayaking symposium in Munising, home of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. While the gathering is about becoming a better paddler, the $325 program also unites adventurous, like-minded women.

“We pick a new location in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula each year that offers diverse paddling opportunities and somewhere new to explore,” shares event coordinator Heidi DePuydt, who adds — with continued online registration taking place right up to the date — that participation for 2014 is already at an all-time high.

“Ladies of the Lake is great atmosphere because of the women who attend,” she says. “The more women who come, the more fun it gets!”

The program’s success for more than a decade is due to its very welcoming atmosphere, DePuydt notes. “The instructors do an outstanding job of making people feel at ease. Also, not only is the intimidation factor very low, the student to instructor ratio is typically 3:1, so classes are highly personalized.”

LOL is also taught to women, by women.  As a result, lifelong friendships have developed at the symposium and many of the “Ladies” return year after year.

“In fact, some of the students have gone on to become instructors,” DePuydt praises.

The four-day symposium is structured, but laid-back. Often a day begins with a yoga session before time on the water. Around noon, there are “lunchbox lectures” that cover diverse topics ranging from “How to Properly Pack a Kayak” to “Overcoming Fear.”

On-water classes are subject to change due to Lake Superior’s fickle nature: “If it’s too rough,” DePuydt explains, “we’ll head to one of the area’s protected coves. Or, we might switch gears from a basic skills class to one dealing with wind and waves.”

Every aspect of the weekend encourages a “you can do this too” attitude, promoting confidence within the sport. Meanwhile, evenings are reserved for social fun including games with sponsor-provided prizes, and “Ladies” also get the chance to try out the latest and greatest paddling gear.

“From first-time paddlers to seasoned veterans,” DePuydt says, “all of us have a great time.”

For more details and to register online, go to downwindsports.com or call (906) 482-2500.

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