Sam started paddling in 1991 following the Siren’s call into the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Wisconsin. From there he moved to the San Francisco area for 14 months where he learned to kayak surf and roll in conditions.
Leaving a decade long career in computer engineering, he returned to the upper Midwest in quest of a new lifestyle. After some wandering, he spent two seasons guiding for Northern Waters Adventures in Munising. During this time, Sam became a massage therapist and opened a practice in Marquette. Guiding was good experience but Sam realized to continue expanding his skills and experience (as well as avoid burning out), he needed to instruct and work with paddlers at all levels, not just beginners as well as personally paddle on more extensive trips. This is a seed that started the formation of Sea Kayak Specialists.
Today he works with paddlers and instructors of all abilities and levels, from
someone who has never paddled to high level instructors seeking higher levels including paddlers & instructors with disabilities and ACA Instructor Trainer Candidates. In 2009, he started the local YMCA kayak program, building a program that partners with organizations throughout Marquette County to promote responsible paddling for children & adults. Since 1996, he has worked with Bay Cliff Health Camp in Big Bay, MI as a Lead Instructor and an Assistant Program Director. This is one of the leading kayaking programs for children and adults with disabilities in the country. Additionally he is working with other organizations as they develop and grow their own paddling programs.
“I moved in part to this area for the paddling and our community deserves paddling programs that promotes safety, fun and responsibility.” says Sam.
We started SKS in 2000 with the goal of bringing high quality instruction to the central UP region. Since then we’ve expanded to the Upper Midwest and worked hard to promote safe and responsible paddling.
We’ve been apart of the Bay Cliff Health Camp kayaking program since 1994 and the YMCA of Marquette County since 2009 as both instructors and program managers. Partnerships include retailers & paddle schools where we’ve run workshops including Down Wind Sports, Team Leadership Center in Door County, Rutabaga in Madison, Geneva Kayak Center in the Chicago area, Woods and Waters Ecotours in Hessel, Point Dive Adventure Center in Stevens Point, Clear Water Outfitters in Lake Geneva and 3RO in LaCrosse. When there is time, we’ve
worked all the regional symposiums. We also continue to volunteer with the Hiawatha Water Trail Association.
With all this work, we don’t lose sight that we are paddlers and have extended personal trips planned most summers. Nancy solo circumnavigated Lake Superior and Sam paddled solo around Ireland. Wales, Scotland, British Columbia, Finland, Sweden, Washington State, Vancouver Island, California, Newfoundland are some of the locations we’ve paddled.
Our summers are often very busy but paddling has done a lot for us in our lives and we want to share this great sport with others. This passion and experience forms the foundation of our work in promoting safe and responsible paddling.
We hope to see you on the water!
Nancy began paddling in the spring 1993. However, it was much earlier – in 1988 when hiking along Pictured Rocks for the first time and watching kayakers below – that she knew she wanted to paddle. Fate eventually landed her in Marquette to live, and a sea kayak was one of her first purchases. Fortunately, Dave Ide was in town giving instruction soon after she purchased the boat, and she got valuable lessons on gear and safety. She was hooked, and remembers thinking during that first lesson “this is going to be the sport I buy all the right gear for”.
About the same time, the camp director at Bay Cliff Health Camp (a camp for children and adults with disabilities) became interested in kayaking as a camp activity. Pairing up with a local
guide and paddle shop, a trial program was held. In the subsequent years, she became certified as an instructor and in adaptive paddling. Her interest and skills continued to increase, as did her desire to teach in other settings, including intermediate and advanced paddlers. Eventually, this led to the formation of Sea Kayak Specialists. Simultaneously, she became addicted to long paddling excursions.
Sea kayaking is her transportation into the wilderness and into other cultures. Nancy says “It can be enjoyed in many diverse settings – from placid to churning water, from urban to wilderness landscapes. I like to share my addiction with anyone who is willing to learn!”