Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Lacrosse: Northwestern’s Izzy Scane wins 2024 Honda Sport Award

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Getting their feet wet

Lounging on the Lakefill is a favorite activity for many Northwestern students, but with summer approaching, Lake Michigan could be more than just something to enjoy visually. By learning the ropes of water sports like sailing, windsurfing or kayaking, students might find themselves immersed in a lake full of activities.

“Taking advantage of the water is an absolute delight,” said William Revelle, a psychology professor who has been sailing for more than 45 years. Revelle, who is a member of the NU Sailing Club, said anyone could learn to sail.

“Sailing is easy to learn, difficult to master,” said Revelle, a member of the Students Publishing Co. board, which publishes nyou.

Knowing how to swim, having common sense and being tolerant of cold water are really the only requirements for beginning boaters, he said.

Still, students should be careful not to sail above their abilities, especially because Lake Michigan has heavy winds, Revelle said. But the NU Sailing Club can teach students how to boat safely.

“I would recommend that students at Northwestern run down and sign up for lessons at the sailing club,” Revelle said. “You can know absolutely nothing, and at the end of two weeks, you’re out soloing by yourself. It’s that easy to learn the basics.”

Becoming competitive takes more practice and good physical shape, but Revelle said the NU Sailing Club is also happy to train students to race after they have mastered beginning-level boating.

“Sailing is like any other sport – it’s very challenging,” Revelle said. “If you do it long enough, it’s very rewarding.”

But Revelle cautions that sailing can also be “extremely addictive.”

“It’s a fun, intercollegiate sport and it continues for a lifetime,” he said.

With a little balance and determination, students can also set sail a little closer to the water’s surface by windsurfing.

“It’s the most awesomely fun thing,” said neurobiology and physics professor Dave Ferster, who started windsurfing about 20 years ago. “When it’s windy, I can’t sit still.”

Ferster also said the NU Sailing Club was the best option for students looking to rent sailboards or take windsurfing lessons.

But windsurfers should be alert and careful because sailing alone in cold water can be dangerous, Ferster said.

“Always have someone watching you or who is aware that you are out on the water,” he said.

Ferster said he was once trapped underneath his sail after wiping out. Another time he took a board that was too advanced for him and could not steer back to shore. Because of a leak in his dry suit, the cold water posed another problem – hypothermia.

“Luckily, I was picked up by a fishing boat,” Ferster said. “Otherwise, I would’ve been in big trouble.”

Although windsurfing can be difficult at first to get the hang of, Ferster said it pays to be persistent.

“It’s a very humiliating sport, but when you can get good, it’s incredible,” he said. “It’s one of the most thrilling things I’ve ever done.”

Wind power works well for sails, but paddling a kayak makes for a more arduous and active aquatic adventure.

For Larry Pinto, also a neurobiology and physics professor, kayaking is the way of having contact with nature and getting exercise.

“I believe that it is important for me to maintain a relationship with nature,” Pinto said, “not just with people and my profession, in order for me to be a more complete and balanced person.”

He boats with his wife, but they use individual sea kayaks because it is safer.

“They don’t ‘catch’ the wind as much, and they are inherently more stable, being closed and having a hull shape that waves pass under,” Pinto said.

Kayaking also is Pinto’s early morning exercise. He launches his boat from the Dempster Street beach when water temperature and wind conditions are safe. Pinto said he stays close enough to shore to be able to swim even in cold water. He also wears a life jacket and dry suit and carries a submersible radio in case of emergency.

Because kayaking that many safety precautions be taken, Pinto recommended taking lessons before boating on rough waters like Lake Michigan.

Although NU does not offer paddle craft lessons, Pinto suggested contacting the Lincoln Park Boat Club at or Chicagoland Canoe Base Inc. at (773) 777-1489.

So don’t just dog paddle – dive right in. The water is fine. nyou

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
Getting their feet wet