Sailing on the lake — what a concept

Program for beginners may return next year

Leader Photo by Scott Williams Jeff and Holly Zander, of Shawano, prepare to head out on Shawano Lake for a free sailing lesson Friday with International Youth Sailing of Oshkosh.

Leader Photo by Scott Williams The first-time program on Shawano Lake, which ended Friday, included sailboats, equipment and instructors for any beginners eager to try sailing.

Many sun worshippers on Shawano Lake will remember the summer of 2016 as the summer they were introduced to sailing.

A nonprofit sailing organization Friday completed a successful inaugural season of promoting sailing on Shawano Lake by offering free lessons to both kids and adults.

“It’s just been great,” said Steve Eliason, executive director of International Youth Sailing of Oshkosh.

The group worked with Shawano city leaders and school administrators to encourage area residents this summer to try experiencing Shawano Lake in a new way — on a sailboat.

Jeff Zander and his wife, Holly Zander, heard about the program from friends and decided that Friday’s blazing hot weather was ideal for getting out on the water.

“There’s some wind, and the sun is out,” Holly Zander said. “It’s a perfect day to sail.”

Jeff Zander said he did some sailing as a kid but had not been on a sailboat in more than 40 years. The new program offered by the city and school district, he said, was too good to pass up.

“This is absolutely super,” he said. “This is going to be a very cool afternoon.”

With help from some sponsors, the city and school district provided free sailing lessons every Friday starting June 17 and continuing until Friday. Shawano summer school students got lessons during the day, and the general public was invited to take lessons in the evenings.

International Youth Sailing provided the boats and all the equipment, and instructors gave tips on the shoreline before leading students out onto the water.

The program was held at Shawano County Park on the northern shore of Shawano Lake.

Eliason said about 15 to 20 summer school students turned out each week, and another six to eight people participated from the general public. Participants ranged from children accompanied by parents to senior citizens eager to learn as couples.

“It’s been quite a mixed bag,” he said.

The Oshkosh organization, which began eight years ago, is active in promoting sailing at schools, summer camps and elsewhere throughout Wisconsin. The group approached Shawano civic leaders after realizing that Shawano Lake was an ideal venue, but that sailing had not caught on locally.

The city, school district and other sponsors all provided funding this summer to make the program free to all participants.

Eliason said he hopes to return again next summer, possibly with an expanded program.

“We’ve tested the concept, and the concept is valid,” he said. “People in Shawano will show up and try sailing.”