Most of the Great Lakes and inland lakes are ice covered, meaning people who want to learn kayaking this time of year have to do so indoors.

But on Thursday, veterans were able to learn the basics of the sport at Northern Michigan University.

The Department of Natural Resources, Marquette County YMCA, NMU’s Rec Sports, and other organizations partnered together to offer adaptive kayaking lessons for veterans.

In the four week session, the participants learn skills to kayak, like paddling and water exits, and continue to build on those skills each lesson.

“We’re also working with vets that were possibly injured while they were in service, so we’re working with them, and that’s helping them go beyond where they’re at, so in a way its therapeutic,” YMCA of Marquette County kayak instructor Sam Crowley said.  “They’re able to exercise and gain balance and gain greater awareness and such, so it’s really wonderful to work with them that way, and it’s just a lot of fun.”

“We’ve got folks that are ‘Oh I want to go paddle in Lake Superior, I want to do trips’, and that’s what we’re doing.  We’re giving them the basic skills and then working towards those advanced skills so that they can go out and paddle and enjoy the wonderful U.P. and beyond.”

Crowley said the classes are more than just learning the sport, but also giving back to veterans who have served our country.

“This is giving back to the community,” he said.  “These are folks that have gone off and served to protect the freedoms of our country and to give this back to them is just wonderful and just a way of saying thanks, and good job and (say) ‘Hey, here’s something I love, come out and do it’.”

The YMCA offers other veteran classes, but this is the first time its offered kayaking.

There are still spots available if a veteran would like to join in on the last three weeks, but registration is required.  To register, contact Matthew Williams, YMCA Director of Aquatics/Competitive Swimming, at 906-227-9622.  The session is free, and participants can sign up for one or multiple sessions.