Kayak instructors

Great site. I’ve read and re-read many of the articles listed here, watched numerous videos, and tried to apply what I’ve read/seen by going out and practicing daily (I live on an inland lake). Also want to take the good advice given by the experts and schedule a few lessons. My questions is: What does one look for in a kayak instructor?

a selection

What do you want to learn?
Finding a good instructor should be based on your goals, are you only interested inland kayaking? What type of kayak are you using? Do you want to learn rescue techniques or about proper form? Where are you located?

For northern Michigan…
Your current profile says lakes/flat water, but you are likely near an inland sea. At some point it will beckon, and having the skills needed for that will set you up for anything including a basis to learn whitewater paddling if you eventually want to give that a shot.

So I would look for a couple of things - BCU sea kayaking or ACA level 3 open water certification, and being well-supported enough to have different boats that they can let you use. That will get you someone who will get you thru strokes, self-rescue and some decent bracing, as well as someone who can put you in boats that might make some of this easier to learn. You don’t indicate what boat you have, but most people start out with boats that are not the easiest to learn this stuff in.

Take a look at the coaches involved in the Ladies of the Lake symposium, see if any are based within reasonable reach of you. The event is full for this year, but its entire focus (and that of the instructors) is probably well within what you are looking for. Link here:


We also know of instructors who are not affiliated with any major outfitter and have a garage full of boats. It doesn’t always mean you have to find a big outfit.

After that - honestly, be ready to walk away and find another instructor if you try someone and feel more intimidated than helped. Instructors are people too and the match to a particular new paddler may not be ideal.

Much appreciated
@datakoll: Opened your link. Wrong eye candy. I’m a heterosexual woman.

@Jonathan and Celia:

To answer your questions: First, I’m from Northern Michigan. I live west of Gaylord. I became interested in kayaking because of the WaterTribe. Learned about them in the dingy forum of Sailing Anarchy and followed the EC 2013 and 2014 via the WT forum. An amazing and admirable group.

My goals right now are to become proficient enough to move from inland lakes to Lake Michigan and its bays. I purchased a Necky Rip 10.5 as my beginner kayak. I liked its initial stability and weight - but recognize I’ll need to move up. Right now I’m more interested in proper technique. For example, every once in a while I’ll wack the left edge of the kayak with my paddle. I think this is because I’m not raising my right hand high enough. But I’m not sure.

I learned of a place which advertises paddling lessons “for all levels of skill,” but after doing a bit of checking, I discovered the instructor is a college student who is a recreational paddler, home for the summer. This might be all I need. I don’t know, which is why I asked the question of what qualifications one should look for in a good instructor.

Thank you for your sage advice, Celia. I’m about 20 minutes away from that wonderful inland sea. I will check out the instructors listed in the link you provided; hopefully there’s someone located in the lower peninsula.

Try calling the LOL folks too
They may have ideas for instructors down your way that for one reason or another were not available to do the symposium.

Sorting it out
The top instructors don’t necessarily charge much more, if any, than the unknowns (who might be fine but are…unknown). You might as well ask around, get feedback from people who’ve actually studied with specific instructors they can give names of. Be aware that some of the “big name” people have advanced mentorees who are very good also. I can think of at least two such examples but neither lives in your part of the country.

You’re lucky to live on a lake! You’ll be able to frequently practice, which goes hand-in-hand with formal instruction. Good luck, and let us know how things progress.

Contact Keith Wikle who posts here
as Wikle. Keith knows the paddlers and instructors in Michigan and is also involved in two kayak symposia for skill building on Lake Michigan or Superior.

Appreciate the tips
Serendipity struck, as I learned of a full day skills class on August 4, about 25-30 miles from my home. Given by John Chase, an ACA Level 2 Coastal Kayak Instructor. Am just unsure whether I’ll take the Necky or rent a touring kayak. A controlled capsize and wet entry, as well as deep water exit and re-entry are listed on the class schedule. Given the large cockpit on the Necky, seems like it would fill up like a bathtub. I guess it might be worth capsizing it in shallow water here at home to see what happens.

Even though I’ll sign up for the August 4 class, definitely will contact the LOL folks and Keith Wikle for recommendations. I know from experience that bad habits are hard to break.

Thanks for all the suggestions!

Rent the boat AND bring yours
You need to

(a) learn how to do a successful re-entry. Easiest to learn in a touring boat. And

(b) figure out how to adapt things to manage the same in your own boat, if possible. Easiest to do by bringing your own and getting some advice with the boat in front of you.

Sounds like a plan. Have fun and hope for a hot day so the swimming will be pleasant.

2nd Keith Wikle
You can even call him to chat at 0300 if you are really snockered…

Buy and study Wayne Horodowitch USK instruction video’s

Wayne coached at Santa Barbara, he overstands.

Ford’s roll video is excellent. Ford’s animation allws analysis of your problem…which is lack of practice.

My roll learning and brace exercise is tops. Available here in PaddleMess

If you’re totally inept then instructors are necessary otherwise you need practice and analysis TIME which is unavailable in group therapy instruction.

Ignore datakroll

– Last Updated: Jun-10-14 9:30 AM EST –

Rhymes with troll and gee what a shock...

This entity has been posting aggressively lately and every one is a winner in terms of bad writing or downright misdirected advice. It has a point of view to promote and an individual's own needs or preferences are irrelevant.

The therapy instruction in this one is a beaut. I know many talented instructors, but not one of them claims to be a therapist.

You are on the right path to go work with someone. Just keep along it.

you’re unqualified to offer advice
Datakoll. Based on your constant hard-on for instructors and your ridiculous “foam blocks and paddle floats fix everything” philosophy.


A free speech Forum in America is for civil reasoned opinion and thought not judgement.

You owe the poster that.

As I wrote, I’m eating lunch using your thoughts for broadening my knowledge thru the internet.

Surely, I would not think of your thoughts without help from the free speech forum. God forbid !

troll all you want
The rest of us are just trying to caution new forum members. Anyone here long enough to read your posts can figure out the value of your contributions.

a new teacher to the area
A friend of mine recently relocated to MI to take a job at U of MI (he is one of those PhD types for his day job). He taught kayaking out here a lot, is an ACA Level 5 instructor, and even was president of the Bay Area Sea Kayakers for a while. Loves the sport. Great guy and great teacher, if you ever find your way down that way. His name is Steve Lidia. Looks like he is teaching for a shop called The Power of Water in Lansing.

datakoll’s posts
seem like what you’d get if you combined one of those refrigerator magnet word games with a hand grenade.

My thinking
Based on your description as having done a fair amount of self-study and practice, my sense is that unless you are focusing on a few discrete skills (e.g. rolling), you might be better off trying to arrange for at least one private session with an instructor that comes well recommended. This would allow the instructor to identify where your relative strengths and weaknesses are, and recommend potential drills/classes/etc that would help you get the most bang for your buck, both in terms of time and dollars.

I like it!
In fact we have some of those word magnets on the fridge right now. :slight_smile: