& Club Trips
What to Wear & Bring
About Our Kayaks
Sustainable Living Practices
a kayak instructor is a process of evolution. My paddling
role models start with my mother, who's still boating at age
82; my kayaking buddies, whom I can trust in any conditions
we dare to tempt; and the ACA Instructor Trainers whose critique
sharpens my skills. Over fifty years of boating experience have
taught me to put safety first. Seeing nature up close and feeling
the calming rhythm of the sea brings me back for more. I love
to share the skills I've learned so that others can enjoy paddling
the Sound in small boats. Welcome to kayak adventure!
Michele M. Sorensen
is an American Canoe Association (ACA) certified Coastal Kayak
Level 3 instructor who has taught over a thousand students in
the last twelve years. ACA requires re-certification every four
years and participation in interim instructor updates. Michele was
re-certified in October 2010, May 2006, and October 2002. In
May, 1998 she first became certified to teach ACA Quickstart
Paddling. Read quotes from her students.
See my East Coast Kayak
Adventure blog page.
The photo at top shows me playing in standing waves off Fisher's
Michele continues skill development through joint workshops
with top instructors: ACA Coastal Level 3, Core Paddling and
Surf/Rough Water Classes with Ben Lawry; Forward Stroke and
Race Coaching with Joe Glickman and Joe Shaw; and Traditional
Rolling with Cheri Perry & Turner Wilson. She leads a 14-20
nautical mile LI
Sound crossing every summer. Each fall she competes in the
to Lighthouse Race. Her best recent time was 3:12:20 for
the 14 mile race in September 2009.
In January 2011 Michele completed certification in American
Red Cross CPR, AED & First Aid. During winters from 2001-2010
she was an instructor for the Appalachian Mountain Club pool
sea kayak rescue clinics. In 2006 she used the winter to build
a stitch & glue wooden tandem, the Shearwater Boats' Eider,
launched in August of that year (photo at bottom of page). In
2001 she completed the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Boating
Skills & Seamanship Course and in 2007 their VHF
Radio Class for Small Boaters.
A paddler since the age of six, Michele learned to row a dinghy
in Oyster Bay Harbor on Long Island. During college, she
became a proficient solo canoeist on ponds in western Massachusetts,
and a single sculler on the Charles River in Cambridge. After
graduating, she took sailing instruction on Back Bay, Boston,
and continued tandem canoeing on lakes, rivers and along the
coast. She learned windsurfing and sea kayaking fifteen years
ago, and decided to focus on kayaking. Michele paddles
a Current Designs Willow while teaching classes and leading
day trips. For overnight and multi-day trips her choice is the
Necky Chatham 17.
Black & white photo: Michele in the port stern of the
family dinghy with her father, Joe Merkel, at the oars (photo
from "Nine Boats & Nine Kids" by Jeanne Merkel).
At left: Michele teaching Rob & Gary at an AMC pool session.
For fifteen years (1985-2000) Michele was a part-time Environmental
Educator with Connecticut Audubon Society, teaching elementary
and middle school children and adults. Michele is an avid
gardener, birder, lepidopterist, herpetologist and botanist,
with an interest in native wild plants.
A mother of four children, grandmother of two and big sister
to eight siblings, she is a patient, thorough and enthusiastic
instructor. Michele is a graduate of Mt. Holyoke College and
Read about my publications and press below.
Quotes from participants
in Michele's classes and tours:
- I very much enjoyed the whole experience on Saturday.
Your instruction was thorough and overall absolutely terrific.
Thanks again for all your good teaching and encouragement.
- Colin Baigel, September 2012
- I loved your class and acquired a tremendous amount
of knowledge, as well as a reality check. Sinking my kayak
and going over my options opened my eyes to the potential
dangers [of a rec kayak] and made me realize it is best to
have a plan of action before you are in the situation. The
safety equipment review was what I needed the most. Oh, by
the way...I had a lot of fun. - Dawn Garcia, September 2012
- I really enjoyed today! You are a wonderful instructor.
: ) Jodi Caplan, May 2012
- Michele is very good at safety issues, especially teaching
wet exits, re-entries, etc. Her site also has excellent advice
about SAFETY issues! - David Hellerstein, Kayak Alliance of
Larchmont & Mamaroneck, May 2012
- I just came back from your Paddle Smart class. I was
really impressed by your knowledge and your rigor. I have
to admit I was skeptical when I realized how many novice paddlers
were enrolled; but even though I have had hours of workshops
and skills drills and a lot of reading on all of the topics
we covered, I still feel like I learned a lot. Thanks! - Jonathan,
- I just wanted to thank you for the lesson yesterday
and [tell you] how important it was ... in conquering my fear
of water. You are an excellent teacher. I have had many teachers
during my graduate school education, and must say that your
approach is thorough and encompassed a broad spectrum of information.
I can tell you love what you do. It really shows! - Paulo
Seixas, November 2010
- Just wanted to thank you for the great lesson yesterday,
I had a blast. I'm so excited to practice everything that
I learnt. - Dianne Major-Olivant, July 2010.
- Dear Michele, It was a pleasure meeting you today. The
session taught me that there is much more to learn and explore.
It was a wonderful and educational experience and you sparked
great interest in continuing to develop my kayaking skills.
I admire your dedication, passion, patience and above all,
your endless energy. Many thanks again! - Tomer Regev, May
- Thank you for your great lesson this morning. We all
had a good time, and feel that we learned a lot...I sent an
email out to "our gang" praising you for your teaching
style, and inviting them to try a pool session. - Gary and
Ivy Strauss, January 2010.
- I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed the lesson
last Sunday - as well as meeting you! I can't believe I learned
so much in such a short time! - Gary Staab, January 2010.
- I loved our lesson and it gave me great hope for kayaking
adventures ahead. Thanks again. - Christin Arnini, January
- Thank you again for such a great learning experience.
It was just unbelievable! You were so professional and fun
at the same time, and very good at what you do. - Mindy M.,
- Michele, it was such a great outing, thanks to you!
I so enjoyed it -- along with the peace and energy that being
on the water brings. Pls keep me posted on other events that
would be suitable for my level. - Elsa B., September 2008.
- Thank you Michele for all you have taught me. It adds
to the joy of life each and every time I enter the water in
a kayak. - Tim C., April 2008.
- I started Kayaking about six years ago by taking a course
from Michele. I then went on several day trips with Kayak
Adventure, her company. If you haven't taken her beginning
course, I highly recommend that you do. It will really jump-start
you in the sport and give you the basics to be both safe and
confident. Michele is an excellent teacher and I guarantee
you'll get first-class advise on any of her trips. - Dan O.,
- Thank you so much for your wonderful instruction today.
I really had a great time and learned a lot. You are a fantastic
teacher. - John C., August 2007.
- Thank you for the great day yesterday. I enjoyed the
lessons and advice on best practices, the paddle and the company.
I look forward to joining you on a tour soon. - Sue J., August
- By the way, I really enjoyed the class on Saturday.
Each time we do something different, like paddling with a
swamped bow hatch, or with you on the back, or towing, makes
me more comfortable in the kayak and the more comfortable
I am, the more I relax, and the more I enjoy it, and the more
I want to get out there and learn more! :-) As we were doing
the Eskimo rescues I realized that I wasn’t even thinking
about it any more, I was just doing it. Before, I really had
to think about which leg to use, keeping my head back, etc.
Still a long way to go but it’s nice to feel that I’m
improving. Thank you!!! - Monica H., August 2007.
- Great class! [Intro to Cold Water Kayaking]. Just a
note to say how much I enjoyed the class, and especially the
"lab" exercise on (underneath) the water. The course
and material were great and of much practical importance.
- Greg L., October 2006.
- I think your approach of caution, and emphasis on the
risk of kayaking, is priceless. I am proud of myself getting
wet, trying to enter and self-rescue my "wreck"
kayak. I never could have done that on my own, or from reading
a book. - Jim M., September 2006.
- Your Forward Stroke class was just what I needed to
take and extremely helpful. I could see & feel
what was right and wrong. - Megan R., July 2006.
- I just wanted to send my sincere thanks to you for a
wonderful Saturday on the water. I'm really glad I took the
Quickstart Kayak again to refresh my memory and sharpen some
skills. Your knowledge of and enthusiasm for kayaking are
amazing, and your sunny disposition is definitely contagious!
Sara and I will surely be back to take a tour with you in
the near future. Thanks again! - Lisa D., CT, April 2006.
- Wow...I had a great time and thank you..it was grand,
great and wonderful. when shall we do it again? - Maggie,
- I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed Sunday's
class and tour. It was a pleasure meeting others in the club
and you did a great job of keeping the group cohesive. As
a beginner I felt "well cared for," but also knew
that you expected me to give it my all. Thank you for that!
I appreciate your instruction style and look forward to more.
- Laurie L., CT, November 2005.
- Your attention to detail is impressive. I admire your
expertise, hardiness and enthusiasm. - Claudio F., NY, November
- Many warm thanks for graciously hosting the Joe Shaw
clinic today. I can't tell you how impressed I was with the
organization, the level of instruction. I've always thought
you to be one of the most prepared and qualified instructors
I've come across - a true ambassador to the sport. - Mark
C., CT, July 2005.
- I feel I owe you an enormous debt of gratitude for teaching
me so much and for enabling me to take part in what was one
fantastic adventure. Never did I think I'd be crossing Long
Island Sound. I never could have done it without your most
capable guidance in teaching me the techniques and safe kayaking
rules I've learned over the past year. There were several
times during the crossing when I wished I could freeze time.
I simply can't put into words how much I enjoyed it. - Joe
G., CT, July 2005.
- As usual, the programs you make available to us are
top-notch. The information and skills I learned in a very
short time will have a lasting effect on kayaking for me.
Thank you for putting on the Forward Stroke Clinic and also
for your support in the water with us. - John F., NY, July
- Thanks for the great lesson on Sunday. I was impressed
with your ability both to maintain patience but to assert
authority and firmness, particularly when you were helping
D. with her wet exit. - Barry T., CT, June 2005.
- I always learn something from your demos and today was
no exception. Thank you for an excellent presentation! You
were great. I loved the way you were able to hop up on the
boat at the beginning. You are an inspiration to the rest
of us that age doesn't necessarily mean immobility. - Jean
T., CT, February 2005.
- You are an amazing teacher - firm and no-nonsense, yet
completely compassionate - a perfect combination. - Jon C.,
CT, September 2004.
- Thanks so much for an incredible day and evening. I
learned a lot and in a way that always made me feel good.
You are a great teacher. - Olivier G., NY, August 2004.
- Thanks so much for organizing this trip. The day was
perfect, the company was great and you were the perfect hostess.
I had a wonderful time. - Jim G., CT, July 2004.
- We just wanted to thank you again for yesterday's course.
Jo and I had a great time and we really enjoyed your patient
instruction. We learned alot of valuable information and it
was nice to try different boats and paddles. - R.D., 2003.
- I wanted to thank you again for the great lesson we
had on Saturday. You are very thorough and an experienced
instructor and I appreciated your insights on all the aspects
of kayaking. - L.L., 2003.
"Paddle Smart" presentation for the Coast Guard
Auxiliary, Greenwich, CT, June 27, 2011.
Fork Kayak Expedition," presentation to Saugatuck Sail
& Power Squadron, November 9, 2010.
The Norwalk Hour, May 30, 2010, John H. Palmer, "A
Business Born From the Water." p. B1.
"Paddlesmart" presentation at the Mamaroneck,
NY Coast Guard Auxiliary, June 28, 2010. Read reviews from Hudson
River Meetup members who attended.
New York Times Connecticut Weekly, June 24, 2007, Elizabeth
Maker, "A Guide to Summer," p.5.
Westport Minuteman, February 22, 2007, Helen A. Jankoski,
Joys of Winter Kayaking", pp. B1-B2.
Natural Awakenings, May 2006, Michele Sorensen, "Kayak
Basics," pp. 22-23.
Morning America, October 2, 2005. Televised interview
about my career change from investment banking to outdoor educator.
The Sunday Advocate, September 25, 2005, James Lomuscio,
"Ripple Effect," p. A3. About my role organizing SoundWaters'
Ship to Shore kayak race.
Atlantic Coastal Kayaker, August, 2005, Tamsin Venn,
"Norwalk Islands, Connecticut," pp. 26-27. My tips
on seeing the islands, phone interview.
New York Times, Sunday, June 12, 2005, Abigail Sullivan
Riders," Connecticut Weekly section. Interviewed and
quoted in article about kayak safety.
Connecticut Family Today, May-June 2005, interview with
Domenic Francese, "Paddle Your Way to Nirvana," pp.
12-13, including my photos (not credited).
Fairfield County Business Journal, May 9, 2005, interview
with David Toth, "Passions & Profits," personal
Newsletter, May 2005, Michele Sorensen, "Newport Neck,"
pp. 3-5. About a kayak trip off Newport with my college-age
Abaco Journal Islands Guide, April 2005, Michele Sorensen,
"Cruz'n Abaco: Kayaking Around Scotland Cay," pp.18-19.
Greenwich Time, September 11, 2004, Harold Davis, "Woman
Exchanges Briefcase for a paddle," first business section
Connecticut Post, September 28, 2003, Bill McDonald,
"Camping on the Norwalk Islands a Sound Escape," p.
2 of Autumn special.
Connecticut Post, December 17, 2002, Bill McDonald, "Chill
Factor: Winter Can't Keep Sorensen, kayakers off water,"
Connecticut Post, December 21, 2000, Photo by David Gunn,
"Hearty Souls - It's never too cold: Kayakers ...brave
cool weather and heavy rain to get in some exercise along the
Saugatuck River in Westport this week."
Connecticut Post, July 30, 2000, Eileen Fischer, "Women
Pick up Paddles for Fitness, Fun," p. C1+.