For the Love of Paddling
By Amelia Bergquist
My love of paddling goes back to my childhood. In fact, one of my earliest memories is my father and I paddling a canoe on Lake Superior. I remember that we were paddling just outside a cove near the hotel where we rented the canoe. When we looked over the side of the canoe we could see tens of feet down into the crystal-clear water. The sight of the giant sunken boulders below us both frightened and intrigued us as we paddled along the shoreline. That feeling never left me – in all my years on the water, the excitement has never wavered.
Growing up in southwestern Minnesota, there weren’t many opportunities to paddle big open water. So when it came time to go to college, I choose the University of Minnesota in Duluth because of the amazing outdoor opportunities all around the city and because of Lake Superior. Before my first year at UMD, I went on a freshmen orientation trip to the Apostle Islands and I fell in love with paddling the big lake all over again. During my college years, I got really involved with UMD’s Outdoor Program and the Kayak & Canoe Club. I got opportunities to meet a bunch of paddling experts at UMD by being a part of these programs – the hands-on training and educational component really enriched my other studies at UMD (I highly recommend that students get involved with these types of activities).
In the spring and fall, I would practice my paddling skills wrapped in neoprene in the Duluth harbor and surrounding rivers. When the water would freeze in the winter, I would improve my skills and learn to roll in the warmth of the pool. By the summer after my sophomore year, UMD hired me as a sea kayak guide! I got certified as a Costal Kayak Instructor through the American Canoe Association and spent the next two summers leading trips in the Duluth harbor and out to the Apostle Islands where I introduced incoming freshmen to paddling and helped them create a personal relationship with Lake Superior – just as I had done years earlier.
This summer I’m leading Kayak Tours with The Duluth Experience. It’s great because I get to take people out on the lake – both experienced paddlers and folks that have never been in a kayak. I get to introduce people to paddling and provide a way for these folks to really experience Lake Superior. It’s very easy to fall in love with paddling once you experience the open water… it’s something I’ve done most of my life and something I will continue to enjoy for years to come.