An Intern Kayaking Road Trip

355 miles east of the Branches factory in Osceola, WI, is Rowley’s Bay Resort, the site of Rutabaga’s Door County Sea Kayak Symposium. Management sent us – the marketing interns (Hi, we’re Olivia and Susie!), on a mission to learn more about sea kayaking and to improve our own paddling skills.

Susie and Olivia at the Door County Sea Kayaking Symposium

The interns soaking up all that the DCSKS has to offer. Susie Schmitt (left) and Olivia Hart (right).

We wrapped up work on Thursday afternoon, loaded up the car up with camping gear and our go-to Aqua-Bound paddles and started our road trip adventure across the state.

Map from Branches to Rowley's Bay Resort

Our route across the state - 355 miles!


Day 1 of the Symposium:

Bright and early Friday morning our first class was “Intro to Sea Kayaking”. This class was an introduction to kayaking concepts and procedures, starting with the very basics. Perfect for us because we’d both been kayaking before, but never sea or long-distance kayaking! Our instructors covered everything from which direction to hold your paddle to successfully completing a wet exit. While many groups were out on Lake Michigan, our class donned our spray skirts and put our kayaks in at Europe Lake for some warmer, more calm waters to practice fundamentals for the day.

Practicing Draw Strokes on Europe Lake

Practicing some draw strokes on Europe Lake. Photo by Jim Pippitt.

Throughout the morning we played a bunch of kayaking games to practice our newly acquired skills. We quickly started to bond with the people in our group. We got to meet a lot of fun people at the symposium, but at lunchtime our first day, we learned just how truly friendly the sea kayaking community is.

Somewhere between the chaos of the 6-hour road trip and the early morning registration/boat fitting, we thought that we’d be coming back to Rowley’s Bay Resort for a lunch break during our class. It wasn’t until we broke for lunch and everyone went to retrieve their lunches out of their cars that we realized we were supposed to bring our lunch with. While we tried to play it cool and figure out how we could make it back to our car to get our packed lunches, every single person in our group started offering us up part of their lunch. Pretty soon we ended up eating more popcorn, cherries, cooked potatoes, and pasta salad than the amount of food we had originally packed for ourselves. Yes, we know it sounds like an awful combination of food, but when you’re out on the water all day it feels like a four-course meal. (If you’re reading this and you were one of the kind individuals that contributed to our meal, we are forever grateful. Thank you.)

Our afternoon consisted of practicing wet exits and rescues. Since none of us had ever done a wet exit before, we paddled over to our instructors one-by-one and took our turns dunking into the water. While underwater we detached our spray skirts and then bobbed up to the surface with our kayak in one hand and paddle in the other. Wet exit complete!

Kayaking Wet Exit        

Thankful for great instructors who helped us learn how to do a wet exit from our sea kayaks. Photo by Jim Pippitt. 

After spending the afternoon on the water, we packed up the boats as the rain rolled in and went back to Rowley’s Bay where we ate our weight in spaghetti. Still soaked and praying that the rain would stop so we could dry off, we jumped in the car to head to our campsite!

The rain subsided once we got to our campsite. With the buzz of mosquitos in our ears, we set up our tent in no time. We improvised to dry out our gear. See our Pro Tip below!

Tent from Door County Camping Trip

Pro Tip: Paddles also make great drying racks for your towels and PFDs.


Day 2 of the Symposium:

We had such a fun, eventful first day that we came back for more kayaking on day two. We had the Tango Fiberglass and the Whiskey Fiberglass to help us develop our technique in “Boat Control 1”. We practiced paddling forwards and backwards and even in figure-eights to perfect our forward stroke, reverse sweep strokes, and stern rudders on Lake Michigan.

We learned the importance of torso rotation during our afternoon “relaxed paced” tour. The conditions were a little windy (and by a little we mean very) and we found ourselves paddling hard into the waves. To give you an idea of just how tough the conditions were, it took us an hour and a half to paddle out towards our destination and only 30 minutes to make it back. If we weren’t using our torso, our shoulders and arms would’ve been in a world of hurt!

After a chicken dinner and an auction to support the Door County Land Trust, we had the chance to lay out on the pier. A perfect view of the Milky Way Galaxy and shooting stars while listening to the waves of Lake Michigan was a great way to wrap up our time at the Door County Sea Kayak Symposium.

Kayaks at Rowley's Bay Resort

Kayaks, kayaks everywhere at Rowley’s Bay Resort. Photo by Jim Pippitt.

We both came to the consensus that the symposium was the perfect place to try sea kayaking for the first time. Our class group was a diverse mix of married couples, a father-daughter duo, us (22 year old interns) and a 72-year-old woman learning to kayak for the first time, proving that sea kayaking is for anyone. A variety of classes are available at all different skill levels so you can be challenged in or out of your comfort zone. Helpful and very knowledgeable instructors are there to give pointers and constructive criticism on technique along the way.


Places to check out in Door County:

We loved the location of the Sea Kayak Symposium. Door County, the thumb of Wisconsin’s mitten-shaped state, should definitely be on your places to visit if you’ve never been. Here are some of our recommendations: 

Sunset in Door County

  • Soak up a sunset at the marina in Sister Bay.

  • Fuel up for the day with a breakfast burrito and smoothie from Good Eggs in Ephraim.

  • Indulge in a chunky monkey sundae from Not Licked Yet in Fish Creek.

  • And a trip to Door County would not be complete without eating something cherry-flavored. We recommend a cherry turnover from Grandma’s Swedish Bakery.