Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Local paddler profiles, part two

Sharon with Lyn on a Chicago beach.

Every community has its unsung heroes—people who make a difference without fanfare. The kayaking world is full of such people. Often they're instructors who patiently teach a wide range of students, making them better and safer paddlers. In the coming months, we plan to profile some of these people, with a focus on ones in the midwest.

Lyn helps a novice paddler get settled in his boat at the Great Lakes Sea Kayak Symposium.

Lyn Stone is our first victim in this endeavor. Sharon first met Lyn in 2006 at Ladies of the Lake, a kayaking symposium in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. (It moves around. This year, it will be held on Drummond Island from August 21 to 24. Get the details at Down Wind Sports.) The meeting was classic Lyn (and Sharon, for that matter). Sharon showed up for a BCU three-star training without her spray skirt, which was hanging back in the campsite several miles from the put-in. Lyn, true to form, had a spare and offered it to Sharon.
We later learned that Lyn has a spare or a repair for practically every essential piece of gear. She's has a remarkable depth of knowledge about kayaking, but she shares it selectively, not boastfully, when it's requested or needed. And she's bicultural, in the paddling sense of that term; she prefers a Greenland stick but teaches mainly with a Euro paddle.
Alec first met Lyn at a Geneva Kayak Center staff training the following year, where he was impressed by her down-to-Earth attitude. But best of all, she's always willing to help out, whether a friend needs new deck rigging or a student needs coaching.
Lyn is part of our instructor cohort. She and Sharon were certified together by Sam Crowley in September, and the three of us have trained and taught together since then. We rely on one another as we refine our ideas, reflect on our experiences, and grow as paddlers and instructors.
After we returned from Michigan's east coast, we spent one day paddling our home waters with Lyn. We put in at the 59th Street harbor and paddled past the fishermen and docked motorboats and out onto the lake. We retrieved balls and balloons that children had lost while playing at the 63rd street beach, and took at detour into the 57th Street harbor to visit Maynard Welch, the retired harbormaster who continues to best represent the spirit of that lovely harbor. (For a profile of Maynard, check out the Nov. 22, 2005 issue of the Chicago Tribune.) Then we paddled down past The Point, where we held our engagement party 20 years ago. The water was a little bumpy, with wind waves refracting back off the rocks, and boat traffic was light. We stopped on a lovely little pebble beach to eat lunch and watched two dogs repeatedly compete to retrieve a buoyant rubber bone from the water.

Dry suits are our best effort to replicate what these swimmers were born with: fur.

Paddling partners have numerous roles. We watch out for one another's safety, encourage one another to continue improving, and support one another when our bodies or our confidence isn't up for the challenges that confront us. Yes, we're local heroes, if only to one another. Then we hang up the neoprene and, like Clark Kent, go back to our day jobs.

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