We have offered this class for almost 20 years, and it worked out well, though it was at a different venue. This time, John & I held the Intro to Kayaking class at our home. We do this for free, as a community service, in hopes of helping others learn to be comfortable and safe when paddling in NW Michigan. We spend about 10 hours planning for the event - getting gear together, taking phone calls and answering emails, loading kayaks, composing handouts, and later cleaning up and putting stuff away. Tuesday night we had 8 students here for 3 ½ hours.
When we plan this event, we do it months in advance, post it on our club website www.TraverseAreaPaddleClub.org and then we send out a press release that mentions that the deadline for registration is several days before the event. The media being what it is, they often omit some major details - if they do promote the event at all - which many don’t. For example, Interlochen Public Radio (which we personally adore) only mentions their almanac events the day they are taking place.
By the previous Friday, we had only 3 inquiries, so we decided that it wasn’t worth holding a class at the Coast Guard Air Station the following Tuesday. In the past, most of the time we’ve had between 15 and 25 registrants. We didn’t want to disappoint the ones who had already reserved spaces this time around, so that’s when we decided to hold it in our house. Over the next couple of days, a few more folks contacted us, and we realized that we could only accommodate 8 people (our house isn’t big). That evening, everyone was a total novice, so they were all on the same page and each topic we covered was new to all. Everyone loved the class, and they learned a lot.
We teach this class only once each year, since it requires a lot of time for planning and execution. That being said, there were four people who weren’t able to come. But we are willing to help almost anyone learn the essentials they need to know about purchasing a kayak and accessories, and we also offer on-water lessons for TAPC members.
If you need help shopping for a boat, stop by sometime and we will show you what to look for (and explain why you should NOT buy a boat at a discount store). If you want to learn how to load a kayak on a vehicle, come on over! If you want to know what to wear or what gear is best, feel free to contact us. One of the best ways to learn is to join the club, come on a lot of trips and pick everyone’s brain. Many of our most avid and experienced paddlers began just that way.
John & I probably will not be offering the Intro to Kayaking class again in the future.