A note about the Gales Course Philosophy

Each day, we offer three or four courses, chosen on the basis of the forecast for the day and the goals of participants. We strive to provide levels of challenge appropriate to everyone’s skills and needs. We give coaches the flexibility to determine how to structure each course to help you get the most benefit in the venue and conditions on a particular day. If you have questions that aren’t answered here, please feel free to contact us.


Navigation is essential for safe paddling. But let’s face it: many paddlers are intimidated by the prospect of being responsible for truly knowing where they or their group are. In this class, we will spend some time on land getting comfortable with a compass and chart, then compare what we see on the chart with what we see in reality. We will plan a journey, then use ranges, lines of position, aids to navigation and time on the water to keep keep track of where we are. After this class, you will want to spend more time with this engaging aspect of seamanship.

This course may also be offered as a land-only, half-day option.

Paddling in Current – optional pre-Gales day (additional fee applies)

On Thursday, we offer a full-day course on the St. Mary’s River, a large-volume river where we can work on ocean paddling skills, including breaking in and out of eddies, turning on eddy lines, doing ferry crossings, playing in current, and surfing standing waves and holes. This course is fun and great preparation for anyone seeking to move on to paddling on the ocean.

Rock Gardening 

The Marquette shoreline and off-shore islands are the perfect places to explore paddling among rocks and through slots. We’ll work on stroke selection, stroke combinations and the timing required to efficiently maneuver your boat between and around rocks and with attention to safety considerations. Our goal is to develop the control that will enable you to paddle in rock gardens without damaging any boat you bring.

Rough Water Rescues

On the first day, we will test and troubleshoot your self and assisted rescues in demanding and varied conditions. We will look at refinements that will make your rescues safe, effective and efficient (no matter your size and no matter the conditions), as well as examine how to choose the right rescue for the situation at hand. You will gain the confidence to know that you can help yourself and others in a variety of conditions.

Incident Management

Put your rescue and leadership skills to the test! Making use of the conditions and the environment, we will explore how to evaluate risk and manage a group, and put your skills to the test in scenarios that require you to pick up the pieces and pull the group to safety. This is a great opportunity to make mistakes when it doesn’t count and learn how to avoid or fix a situation before it spins out of control. Bring any rescue gear you carry (tow belts, short tows, paddle floats, slings, repair tape, etc.) and find out how it performs.

Effective Rough Water Paddling

When the wind kicks up and the waves build, choosing the right strokes helps you maintain control of your boat and have a good time in bumpy conditions. We will focus on what you do with your body, boat and blade to understand when and why to choose a given stroke or combination to make your boat do what you want. This course is guaranteed to increase your confidence in these conditions.


This surf class is designed for everyone, from those who’ve never ridden a wave to those who are trying to figure out how to control their diagonal runs. We will cover the dynamics of the surf zone, wave anatomy, and skills needed to catch waves and control your boat as you pick up speed. We may also cover positioning yourself on the wave, reattaining the wave face, and recovering your ride from a side surf. This course will challenge everyone, sending them away with new tricks and tired smile muscles.

Pictured Rocks Coach-led Journey

If you want to see more of the spectacular Pictured Rocks area but you don’t want to miss out on any of the coaching opportunities, this course is for you. This journey-based class will explore the area while working on skills chosen by the group, taking advantage of the environment and the conditions present.

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