Great Lakes Sea Kayak Symposium logo

July 17 - 21, 2024

"This place will change your life"






Debbie Gelderblom


Paddling Bio

My husband, Paul, and I bought our first kayaks through mail order after the house emptied out of children. We explored local waters, the Florida Keys and the Everglades. Realized that we didn’t know what we didn’t know when we attended our first WMKCA symposium but it’s been a fun journey! I seek to learn more so that I am equipped to explore the diverse waterways of this world. I have paddled in remote parts of Canada, Ireland, up and down the East coast and spend the winter where there’s liquid water (Florida). Paul and I have been blessed to have worked with coaches from all over the world and our heart is to give back to the paddling community. We volunteer our time with Paddle Antrim and I am on the National ACA Coastal Kayak Committee and assistant to the State of Michigan ACA Chairman.


ACA: Essentials of River Kayaking L2 coach: Essentials of Kayak Touring L2 coach; Endorsed Instructor-Community Paddlesports Leader, Adaptive Paddling and Advanced Communications

Who am I?

I am a mom! Grew up in Plymouth, Mi but have spent my married life in Charlevoix. While raising our 3 children, our home was a revolving door for almost 50 foster children. Hosting more than a dozen exchange students brought cultures from around the world to our home. We went a step further and adopted 5 children. During those years I homeschooled our children and we explored the midwest by camping and hiking. My second life has been filled with exploring the world through kayaking. I have found that my love of kayaking comes from the new ME that has been discovered! I might be old chronologically but I am finding the kid that loves to laugh and play.

My GLSKS Story

One summer we had been camping at Lake Superior State Forest Campground east of Grand Marais and on our way to Picture Rocks we passed through Grand Marais and noticed a lot of kayaks down on the beach. It wasn’t until we got our first kayaks and heard about GLSKS that our earlier experience made sense. The first year I signed up for GLSKS I had to have shoulder surgery so I just came and supported CAT (from Chicago that brought some participants up). I consider GLSKS homecoming week for me. Because of the training and especially the paddling friendships that are developed during that week we have explored the Apostle Islands, Keweenaw Peninsula and multiple locations in Florida with like minded paddling friends. After I became an instructor and had been running classes for Paddle Antrim, I was invited to join in the coaching at GLSKS. Each year I learn and grow as a paddler and instructor. To be able to rub shoulders with paddlers and coaches from other parts of the country and hearing about their home waters makes me want to travel to new places. To hear the stories of close calls and near misses from other paddlers remind me to always be aware of my choices. Learning from other’s experiences is a good way to gain wisdom without the pain of having been a part of it