By KAILYN RAPHAEL
In the summer of 1987 a small group of kayakers traveled to the Frankfort area for a weekend of paddling. It came to be known as the “Twinkle Conflagration” and was the first West Michigan Coastal Kayaking Association (WMCKA) event. It was later joined by another event called “Breezes of October,” which has since become the annual meeting for the club.
By the summer of June 1990, the first WMCKA symposium was being held at Muskegon State Park, only to move a couple times until the club soon found ground and to this day it has been held annually at Camp Pendalouan at Big Blue Lake during Memorial Day weekend. This past weekend was the 25th year for the sea kayaking symposium, which is aimed at beginner and intermediate kayakers. There’s also stand-up paddleboard instruction.
I have had the pleasure to be part of the symposium since the age of 12, as I currently am a volunteer who helps out in every way that I can, whether it’s taking care of the small store where we sell hats and T-shirts to even selling glow sticks, whistles, and water sticks for the kids. I have even helped out with the beach master’s tent, which is located on the small sandy beach to serve as a safety net for the participants as well as other staff. Those in the tent make sure that all questions are answered, the lifeguards know what’s going on, as well as keeping a strong eye and ear out for dramatic weather conditions.
For being a four-day weekend it comes as no surprise that everyone from the first-time paddler to the experienced paddler all come together, learn the many ways and different things that could help them out in their future travels.
The WMCKA staff is dedicated to providing a safe, fun and invigorating sea kayaking experience. Like with all organizations, hosting major events requires a team effort to pull it all together. As the symposium chairperson for 10 years, Lynn Dominguez, a PhD and Associate Professor at Central Michigan University in the Recreation, Parks, & Leisure Services Department, has attended the symposium for 20 years. “I’m in charge of making sure everything gets planned before we start and then I even have to make sure everything runs smoothly during the event,” she explained.
But the work wouldn’t get done without a dedicated staff. Staff member Michael Gray has been helping out for about 15 years. “Since I’ve been a lifelong paddler, it’s only natural for me to be interested in a club with so many active and skilled members that actually seem to be interested in skills development,” he said.
While this year’s symposium is over, there is still plenty of information and support available from the West Michigan Coastal Kayaking Association. If you would like more information, go to the website at http://www.wmcka.org and explore your inner kayaker. The website includes a complete list of summer kayaking events as well as links to kayaking resources.
PHOTOS FROM WMCKA WEBSITE