Meet Your Kayak Instructor

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Becoming a 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. Contact me to help you achieve your sea kayaking goals.
Welcome to kayak adventure!

Michele M. Sorensen has taught over a thousand students in the last seventeen years. From 1998 through 2015 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 Fisher's Island.

Michele has continued skill development through challenging trips and joint workshops with top instructors: Power Paddle Camp, 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 2017, 2016 & 2015 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 LI Sound crossing every summer for seventeen years. She competes in the Soundkeeper's Lighthouse to Lighthouse Race almost every year. Her best recent time was 1:26 for the 7 mile race in September 2017, the same as her 2008 time. Every year since 2008, she has embarked on a five 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 habitats.

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 & Lines course.

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 Tiderace XploreS 17' in fiberglass.

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.

Michele has been a part-time Environmental Educator with Connecticut Audubon Society. From 1986-2000 she taught 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 Harvard University.

Read quotes from her students, and her publications and press below.

Quotes from participants in Michele's classes and tours:

  • Majestic birds, wonderful weather, and a great group. A bit bruised and battered this morning, but very happy. Nancy T, July 2017
  • 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 2016
  • 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, July 2015
  • 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 2015
  • 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 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, 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 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 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 2010.
  • I loved our lesson and it gave me great hope for kayaking adventures ahead. Thanks again. - Christin Arnini, January 2009.

    • 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., 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., 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 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 was grand, great and wonderful. when shall we do it again? - Maggie, December 2005.
  • 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 2005.
  • 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 2005.
  • 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 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.

Publications, presentations and press:

"Westport Birders Are Devoted Flock," Emily Weyrauch, WestportNow, August 19, 2016.
"Guide to Kayaking in Connecticut," Dani Frank, CBS Connecticut, March 31, 2012.
"Paddle Smart" presentation for the Coast Guard Auxiliary, Greenwich, CT, June 27, 2011.
"Explore North Fork Through Sorensen's Images," Westport News, article about presentation to Saugatuck Sail & Power Squadron, November 9, 2010.
"Deaths 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.
" 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, "Icy Joys of Winter Kayaking", pp. B1-B2.
Natural Awakenings
, May 2006, Michele Sorensen, "Kayak Basics," pp. 22-23.
Good 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 Moore, "Low 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 profile.
Connyak Newsletter, May 2005, Michele Sorensen, "Newport Neck," pp. 3-5. About a kayak trip off Newport with my college-age daughters.
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 page.
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," p. D1+.
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+.