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What is an Introductory Safety Course?

Updated: Mar 25

Our Introductory Safety Course, or "ISC" offers you a way to get an immersion (pun intended) experience in sea kayak safety and rescues, in a short amount of time. We require that all renters pass our safety course before they can go out.

So what does the course entail? Why is it so important?

A sea kayaker has capsized. Now what?

Well, what would you do?

Sea kayaking on Lake Superior requires judgement and skills. I often hear “we have a lot of canoeing experience” or “I kayak on the river at home, so I don't need to take your course." You may have experience in those areas, however sea kayaking on open water requires a completely different set of skills and invites many new potential hazards. The ISC is meant to give you an introduction to the skills needed to be safe, and to illuminate what skills you still need to develop in order to travel and have fun out on the water.

The course begins with “The Beach Talk” as we call it, and is about an hour long discussion to help you become familiar with the Wind, Weather, and Water specific to Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands area. Also included is a session on gear use and care, (Renters pay for breakage from mis-use, so this is 'valuable' information) as well as brief introduction to advanced sea kayaking gear to lend breath to the talk. This on-land time also gives you time to ask questions about your upcoming trip. We often have participants alter their routes/campsites after learning what we teach during the beach talk.

Assisting another boater via a “contact tow”

After the beach session we teach the foundational paddle strokes and techniques to help you move more effectively, efficiently, and safely on the water, along with more advanced strokes to try on your own as you advance in your skills.

Finally, (and this is to pass the course) you must “wet-exit” your boat, and get back in while in deep water. We teach an assisted rescue, in which another kayaker helps you, and a 'self-rescue', or one in which you use a paddle float to get back in. We save the rescues for last, as it can be be a chilling experience! But one that is valuable for sure.

A photo of someone performing a paddle float rescue while in waves. (larger waves than what we have during the course for sure!

For those with prior SEA KAYAKING experience, we offer a second option. Instead of taking the full course, participants may sign up or for the “refresher/challenge” course which gives you the option to challenge the on-water portion only. You must demonstrate (without instruction) the two rescues mentioned above, as well as the ability to paddle the kayak in the conditions present, utilizing the strokes that we normally teach during the full course. If you do not pass the challenge, you must either take the full safety course at that point, or choose not to rent. You’re payment from the challenge course can go towards the full course.

For more information, the American Canoe Association has some great resources, including their Online Paddlesports Safety Course. It's well done and free to take. Coast Guard approved! We highly recommend taking this course prior to joining our ISC.

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