Updated: July 29, 2012 5:00PM
A day at the beach is great, but it’s even more cool to get your feet wet and try an on-the-water sport. There are nearby opportunities to learn to kayak, sail, even surf, and to try the hot sport that doubles as a great workout: stand up paddleboarding.
“The rentals at Wolf Lake are an inexpensive way to get out on the water,” according to Hammond Port Authority Director Milan Kruszynski.
“Kayaks and canoes are available for $5 an hour, plus this year we’ve added paddleboards and paddleboats for more recreational opportunities at Wolf Lake. The lake can be like a mirror, so it’s a great place to go out and have fun on the water.”
The paddleboats and some of the kayaks available at Wolf Lake can accommodate more than one person, making for a fun family activity.
The paddleboards Kruszynski mentioned are for stand-up paddleboarding, an activity that comes from a Polynesian tradition and has recently become very popular, partly due to the excellent whole body workout it offers. He said that there are also plans at Wolf Lake to team up with the Northwest Indiana Paddling Association to offer paddling classes and events later this summer.
Wolf Lake is also home to the Youth Sailing Program, one of several learn to sail programs administered by the Hammond Marina.
The Youth Sailing Program is a two-hour basic introduction offered for youth ages 10 to 16. This class begins with a half hour of on-land safety instruction, followed by 90 minutes of sailing, and costs $15.
Lake Michigan is the site of two other introductory sailing programs for both youth and adults offered by Hammond Marina: Discover Sailing and Sail-A-Way.
Discover Sailing is a three-hour program that gives participants an introduction to sailing on Lake Michigan. This program costs $50.
The Sail-A-Way program has taught hundreds of adults and youth, including those with disabilities, the fundamentals of sailing through classroom and on-water instruction. The classes consist of six two-hour segments, beginning on land with safety instructions before moving onto the water in stable, specially designed 20-foot sailboats. The classes have a one-to-four instructor to student ratio.
The cost of Sail-A-Way lessons are $175 for ages 16 and older, and $75 for youth ages 10 through 15. Students can select a convenient day of the week and time slot which can be varied for each lesson. For more information or to register for any of their sailing programs, call 659-7678.
Sail-A-Way graduates can continue to sail with rental boats through the Hammond Marina, after successfully completing a skipper assessment.
The Michigan City Yacht Club also offers sailing instruction for youth ages 8 and older through their Junior Sailing Camp. This program includes 36 hours of instruction over three weeks, at beginner, intermediate or advanced levels. The advanced course even includes racing tactics.
The course fee is $300. Graduates of this program can continue to sail as crew for adult sailors at the club. Additional information can be found online at www.mcyc.com under “Youth Program,” or by calling Dave Oberle at 874-8772.
Moving further east along the lake, the beach at New Buffalo, Mich., was listed by Outside Magazine in 2006 as one of the best beginner surf spots in North America, thanks to a soft sandy bottom that creates gentle rolling waves.
If you want to give surfing a try, the Third Coast Surf Shop in New Buffalo offers group and private surfing lessons, in addition to surfing and a variety of lessons as part of the Kids’ Beach Camps.
“Surfing depends on the wind direction. In the fall and winter we get winds from the north that bring the big waves, but in the summer we usually have winds from the south so the water is calmer, and that’s great for teaching the fundamentals like learning to stand up on a board,” said Chris Peterson, manager of Third Coast Surf Shop.
He added that there are other options to get out on the water, regardless of conditions on the lake.
“Paddleboarding is unique in that you can do it in almost any condition, but here you also have the option of going on the Galien River. It’s calm, and part of a wetland marsh with some fun little tributaries. We also rent kayaks there,” said Peterson.
Surfing lessons start at $55 for group lessons on Saturday mornings. Private lessons are also available. Paddleboarding lessons are $75. Kayak and paddleboard rentals are $20 per hour. To make reservations or get more information, call Third Coast at (269) 932-4575.