Great Lakes Sea Kayak Symposium logo

July 17 - 21, 2024

"This place will change your life"




Lisa Neal kayak coach at great lakes sea kayak symposium


Lisa Neal


Paddling Bio

My interest in paddling started in 2007 when I purchased my first kayak, a yellow Wilderness Systems Tsunami and the heaviest/longest paddle I could find! I adventured all along the Pine and Carp Rivers in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, but the “BIG” water of Lake Huron was calling so I signed up for a kayak safety course and naively started adventuring! I had a few years of solo trips down the Saint Mary’s River, along the Les Cheneaux Archipelago, through the Straits of Mackinac and along the northern coast of Lake Michigan before I realized that was probably ill advised. I simply had no one to paddle with and I didn’t know how to find a paddling community. Shortly after, in what seemed to be kismet, I discovered that a colleague (who I had worked with for years!) and her husband were avid sea kayakers. How did I NOT know this? They had 2 beautiful Betsie Bay kayaks and we started paddling together. We kayaked the Detroit River and Belle Isle, we practiced rescues at a local inland lake and I fell in love with sea kayaking through our tiny community. It was through Dinah and Jake, and their willingness to share their adventures, that I discovered the Great Lakes Sea Kayak Symposium.


ACA Level 3 Coastal Kayak Instructor

Who am I?

I’m an educator in many aspects of my life, paddling is no exception. I find great joy in helping people safely and respectfully enjoy our natural resources. I volunteer my time for the American Canoe Association and the Huron River Watershed Council educating people on the importance of PFD’s and paddling safety.

I earned my British Canoeing 3 Star in 2014 on Lake Superior with coach and mentor Scott Fairty and my L3 Coastal Kayaking in 2016 on Lake Michigan with coach and mentor Michael Gray.

My GLSKS Story

I discovered Grand Marais, MI in the late 90’s on a backpacking trip and it soon became a staple in the “post-trip” societal re-acclimation. Because how better to re-acclimate to “reality” than a stop in the town with no chain restaurants, little to no cellular service and the sweetest little brewery in the U.P? (Always with hopes that I’d happen into the Dunes Saloon and park myself right next to Jim Harrison…sadly that never happened) No matter where I was backpacking (NCT, Isle Royale NP or trips out to Montana or the Dakota’s) I always drove back through that special little town before heading home.

When I found out that the Great Lakes Sea Kayak Symposium was in Grand Marais I HAD to go! How could I not? It was 2012 and it had been a few years since my last trip, but I fully expected the same incredible beaches, beautiful harbor and quaint town. But this time I was going to meet new friends and see the town in a new light. The symposium exceeded my expectations! The kayaking community was incredible, the courses were fun, exciting and testing my comfort zone. I made some lifelong friends that weekend. I have felt an energy toward Grand Marais for nearly two decades. I think 46°40′15″N 85°59′07″W is a ley-line for me and this was solidified in 2012 by meeting my best friend, husband and my greatest love! What are the odds? Doug and I love Grand Marais and GLSKS and look forward to that visit every year. We treasure the opportunity to introduce new friends to a place we hold so dear.