Growing up in Indiana during the 1960’s my summers were filled with swimming lessons, basketball camp, little league games and evenings running the neighborhood playing kick-the-can. I have always loved being around the water, but as a family we didn’t spend much time at the beach or weeks away at a lake cottage. I did, however, learn to water ski during my teens and still do today, but at the time the idea of sailing was foreign to me.
It wasn’t until later in life, circa 2008, that I took up the sport of sailing. Initially I wasn’t convinced that this would be as fun or as cool as zipping around the lake in my ski boat. It just seemed slow and monotonous, like a grandparent’s pontoon on an evening cruise. Admittedly I was also fearful of getting bonked in the head by the boom or worse, tipping the boat over without a means to right it. So, I attended sailing lessons, listened intently to make sense of the terminology, and tried my hand at making the boat go when we practiced on water. It was frustrating to say the least and my ‘cool’ quotient took a significant hit.
Fast forward to present day and I consider myself part of the growing cadre of the converted. Sailing has captured my inner spirit of competitiveness in trying to out-maneuver a fellow racer to be the first to round the buoy. In sailing you can experience the exhilaration that leaves you breathless as you weave your way across the lake on a windy day. And equally sailing can lessen whatever stress you have as you embrace the calmness of the lake with a slight breeze at sunset.
I often wonder what level of sailor I would be had I learned to sail at an earlier age. Would I be less tentative and cautious? Would I have more confidence in my sailing abilities? I’m often in awe as I watch fellow sailors who have grown up with a tiller in their hands as they adeptly handle their boats even in the roughest of winds. Knowing what to do and having the confidence to do it become second nature to them. Being able to read the wind and fine-tune the sails is their competitive edge.
These experiences and insights have convinced me even more that starting children out at an early age in sailing can bring about not only the building of skills and life lessons, but also the confidence to face an ever-changing world. A sense of fearlessness if you will. A friend recently shared an article entitled, What Your Daughter Learns When She Learns to Sail – 8 important ways that sailing helps girls navigate life on and off the water. Teamwork, self-reliance, water safety, math and science are but a few of the possibilities the author espouses. She also states, “For girls of all ages, learning to sail is a classroom devoted to fostering self-confidence. The kind of confidence that comes with individual achievement and shared triumphs. The kind of confidence grounded in learning a skill she will have for life.” While I’m supportive of the author’s basis that sailing can and does help to build a number of skills, I would take a more gender-neutral approach to the value of sailing instruction. And given when I started to learn to sail, perhaps an age-neutral approach as well is called for as you’re never too old to learn.
We are fortunate at ELSC to have an active Junior Sailing Program held every summer for member families with children from grade school to young adult. It includes learning the mechanics of sailing as well as water safety and on-water practice. We’ve even been known to throw in an end-of-season junior regatta and awards. Check out Become a Member if you’d like to get your child involved. Adult lessons are offered on an as needed basis as are sailing workshops throughout the season.