Lessons & Club
Wear & Bring
kayak instructor is a process of evolution. My
paddling role models start with my mother, who paddled until
age 82; my kayaking buddies, whom I can trust in any conditions
we dare to tempt; and the ACA Instructor Trainers whose
critique sharpened 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
Michele M. Sorensen
has taught over a thousand students in the last sixteen years.
From 1998 through 2014 she was an American Canoe Association
(ACA) certified Coastal Kayak instructor. 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.
The photo at top shows me playing in standing waves off
Michele has continued skill development through challenging
trips and 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. In 2015 & 2016 she joined the YPRC's Manhattan
Circumnavigation, a 31 mile trip which started at 8 am, and
which she completed by 7 pm. She has led a 14-22 nautical mile
Sound crossing every summer for sixteen years. She competes
in the Soundkeeper's Lighthouse
to Lighthouse Race almost every year. Her best recent time
was 3:38 for the 14 mile race in September 2012. Every year
since 2008, she has embarked on a 3-5 day kayak camping trip,
mostly along the beautiful shores of Long Island. A daring 2012
trip along the rim of the Atlantic in the Abaco Sea, Bahamas
was a peak life experience. Kayak camping the Maine Island
Trail with a small group of Sound Kayakers in 2013 presented
new challenges due to cold water and fragile island
In January 2011 Michele completed
re-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, in 2007 their VHF Radio Class for
Small Boaters, and in 2014 their Knots &
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 graduate school, 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 twenty 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 in kevlar.
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
At left: Michele teaching Rob & Gary at an AMC pool
Michele is presently a part-time Environmental Educator
with Connecticut Audubon Society. From 1986-2000 she taught
elementary and middle school children and adults as part-time
staff at the Fairfield, CT Center. Michele is an avid
sustainable habitat gardener, birder, lepidopterist,
herpetologist and botanist, with an interest in native wild
plants. Follow her on Twitter@MicheleSorense2
A mother of four children, grandmother of three and big sister
to seven siblings, she is a patient, thorough and enthusiastic
instructor. Michele is a graduate of Mt. Holyoke College and
Read quotes from her students, and her publications and press below.
participants in Michele's classes and
- Thanks for the wonderful instruction! I have so much
fun learning and practicing it all. I appreciate your
patience and generosity more than you know. - Karen M, June
- Thanks for a wonderful lesson. You are a great
teacher and a safety conscious and thoughtful coach! Much
appreciated. I look forward to another paddle adventure
with you and your group. Keep me in the loop. - Christin A,
- Thank you again for the lesson yesterday. Every class
should be so enlightening while also being a pleasure. We
are lucky your mother put you in charge of all those
siblings! (in our family rowboat) - Luisa C, July
- Michele, the class was fantastic, cannot wait to go
again! So happy I came. I will get in touch soon for a
tour! - Griet O, September 2014
- Many thanks for a great day yesterday, really enjoyed
it and what a bonus having a private lesson, thanks again
for continuing with just me. I'd like to join your club
please. - Tom W, July 2014
- 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
- 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
- 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, June 2011
- 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
- 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 2010.
- 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
- I loved our lesson and it gave me great hope for
kayaking adventures ahead. Thanks again. - Christin Arnini,
- 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., October 2008.
- 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.,
- 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., March 2008.
- 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 2007.
- 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
- 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,
- 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,
- 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
- 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
- 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 a lot 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.
presentations and press:
Birders Are Devoted Flock," Emily Weyrauch, WestportNow,
August 19, 2016.
"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.
Spark River-Kayaking Warning,"New England Boating,
October 11, 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
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,"
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
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+.