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From: Gillson Beach or Skokie Lagoons
Price:$ 99
Duration: 10am - 4pm
June 1, 2019
June 22, 2019
July 6, 2019
July 27, 2019
August 25, 2019
September 8, 2019
September 21, 2019

Or book a Custom Trip

10am - 4pm
Skill Rating:
Van Supported:
Gillson Beach or Skokie Lagoons
$ 99
Included: All sea kayak equipment, instruction, and lunch.
Not Included: Transportation or personal clothing and equipment. Cancellation policy applies.

This full day sea kayaking course provides novice paddlers (no experience necessary) the foundation for a fulfilling and safe kayaking career. Our certified kayak guides and instructors teach basic and intermediate paddling skills. This course is a must for anyone who wants to spend time enjoying the world’s waterways, be it tranquil flatwater or windswept surf zones, by kayak.


Schedule: Fundamentals I courses will run for 6 hours. We will meet 15 minutes before the scheduled start of the program at the southernmost part of Wilmette beach at Gillson Park in Wilmette (primary location) or the Skokie Lagoons in Winnetka (back-up location) depending upon the weather conditions and the temperament of Lake Michigan.. We ask participants to meet 15 minutes early to allow us to properly outfit you and ensure that you’re prepared.

Our instructors begin the program promptly at the scheduled start to the program. We cover a lot of material and important safety information right at the beginning of the clinic! If you are not there at the scheduled start time, you will be considered a no-show.

Parking: Parking is available on Michigan Avenue or on Middle Drive just off Sheridan Road at the park entrance. The Wilmette Police will ticket any cars parked right along the beach on Overlook Drive if they don’t have Wilmette stickers. Make sure to check your parking location! Upon arrival, walk down the main drive east into the park, continue heading straight for the Lake and look for the NWP kayaks and personnel at the end of the drive. You can also check with the park officials who will meet you just inside the main entrance to the park. Please call if you need additional information.

Location: If conditions on Lake Michigan are too rough for paddling, we will move the clinic to the Skokie Lagoon. Sometimes conditions inland are far different from conditions on the water.
Please call our location hotline at 847-920-4409 on the morning of your course after 9:00 AM to confirm its location.

Clothing & Equipment:
  • Swimsuit or shorts and T-shirt
  • Water
  • sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, raingear
  • Croakies or something else to tie glasses on with
  • Shoes- Flip-flop sandals are not useful as they will come off in open water. Water booties are ideal and sport sandals can also work. Shoes with laces are not appropriate.
  • Extra warm layers- Remember that cotton will not keep you warm if it is wet (it will actually make you colder), so bring some extra layers that are made out of a synthetic material (such as fleece, Coolmax®, polypropylene, etc.) Come prepared for warm, cold and/or wet weather; we will be paddling rain or shine!
  • Dry clothes to change into after
  • If you have a wetsuit, paddling jacket or booties, bring them along. We will have wetsuits available for rent for $5 per session. Please contact our office in advance if interested in renting. Please plan to arrive 15 minutes early to provide adequate time to change into the wetsuit.

What happens if there is bad weather?
Our kayaking programs run rain or shine. It's a water sport, and a little rain doesn't ruin the fun! If there is lightning or dangerous weather we will reschedule the program. In early spring and late fall we require a minimum temperature of 50 degrees F or we will reschedule the program.
Our primary location is Gillson Beach in Wilmette, but if conditions are to dangerous on the lake or the beaches are closed we will relocate to the Skokie Lagoons.
In all cases please call us 2 hours before the program to confirm location or be notified of cancellation.

What money should I take?
None. You will have settled your balance prior to the outing.
Tipping is always appreciated but not required.

What do I need to bring?
Check out the equipment list under planning- or feel free to contact us if you have questions. Be sure to dress appropriate for the weather and with adequate footwear.

How can people reach me in an emergency? Can I call home?
Our guides carry cell phones and marine radios.

What kind of equipment do you use?
We use rotomolded single kayaks for all or our instructional programs.

How many people are on this trip? How many guides? Who are the guides / what are their qualifications?
Our lead guides are ACA or BCU certified kayak instructors and all our guides are certified in Wilderness First Aid.

How much prior experience is needed?

Hi Keith – thanks very much for this information.  We both enjoyed our time with you very much, and do feel more confident both with regard to the feel of the boat and with our ability to handle a bit of waviness in the lake.   Thanks again.  -Derek Evanston, IL July 2017
The Kayak Seminar was wonderful. It was really good information and great practice. I've taken many intro kayaking classes and this is the best information and instruction I've received.  Thank you!
-Kari Chicago, IL July 2013 

I just wanted you to know that I had a fantastic experience at yesterday's Fundamentals class at the Lagoons.  Susan, Brian, and John were terrific and enthusiastic teachers.  It was a terrific experience, the first of what I hope will be many more with your company. - Julie P. - Chicago, IL


I had so much fun and learned a lot! Our instructors Alex and Elena were excellent, experienced, and patient. My favorite part was flipping the boats, and having time to practice what we had learned. An absolutely terrific experience! - Marisa A. & Annie S. - Chicago, IL


Our instructors Alex and Elena were professional, helpful, and patient. Lunch was great! Overall I was very satisfied with the program. - Linda H. - Oak Lawn, IL


I loved both of my instructors Elena and Alex! The instructors and lesson plan were excellent, and I had fun! My favorite part was flipping into the water. Great experience. - Kate L. - Northwestern University


On Saturday June 9, 2012 I took your Kayaking Fundamentals I course at Gillson Park. The head instructor was Susan with Will, Brian, and Haley. The class was small, likely due to the chill of the Lake Michigan waters. My intension was to learn some techniques and build confidence because I am going to the Apostle Islands with the Shedd Aquarium in July and I have little kayaking experience.

Frankly, I could NOT have landed in a better course. Your instructors took the time to explain, demonstrate, and provide encouragement to all participants. I was impressed with their skills and their ability to convey what was to be learned and why important. Since Susan had been to the Apostle Islands she put forth extra effort to help me learn skills I might need and to assure me I am learning.

Thank you for a delightful day and helping me learn skills and confidence in kayaking.   Aryliss L. Des Plaines,  IL

I took the Fundamentals of Sea Kayaking class. Our instructor, Ben, was an excellent teacher- he's obviously very experienced and really patient when teaching newbies like me. I felt so comfortable the whole time, I had been nervous about being in a kayak but by the end, felt completely at ease.
We learned the basics about the kayak, different types of maneuvers and how to rescue someone else or rescue yourself should you tip over.
We were in the Skokie Lagoons as opposed to the lake, which I think I'd prefer anyway; the water was calm and it's fun to travel along like on a river.
The class is an entire day long and yet I wanted to stay out longer. (My muscles are killing me this morning, so I'm not sure I would've made it out of bed if I had.)

-Amy M., Chicago, IL (taken from