Junior kayaks around Superior over summer


Isabelle Kaufmann-Sites

KAYAKING KAUFMAN. Junior Izzy Kaufman-Sites kayaks on Lake Superior on her 25-day sea kayaking trip this summer. The trip was through YMCA Camp Manito-Wish and she traveled 310 miles in Ontario from Agawa Bay to Silver Inlet.

Audrey Matzke, Features Editor

Crossing open water is bad enough on a clear day. She could hardly make out the tip of her kayak, and the ache in her left arm was growing unbearable. Nonetheless, the next campsite was miles away, and she had to keep paddling.

Throughout their Advanced Mariner program, YMCA’s Camp Manito-Wish draws upon an oft-repeated maxim: Challenge builds character, especially when there’s no Wi-Fi. For Izzy Kaufman-Sites, a junior who spent 25 days kayaking Lake Superior, this sentiment rang true.

Izzy’s group consisted of two adult leaders and five other campers, all of whom were entering either their junior or senior year of high school. Each day, the adults would appoint two campers as “co-leaders,” who made sure the group stayed together on trips and checked to see that everyone was drinking enough water. For Izzy, the experience made her a more confident and self-assured communicator.

“It definitely pushed me to step out of my comfort zone and take on a leadership role,” Izzy said. “While at the same time, collaborating with someone else.”

In the days leading up to her trip, the thought of traveling 310 miles in Ontario from Agawa Bay to Silver Inlet; seemed incredibly daunting. Though she’d participated in similar, less advanced Manito-Wish programs for the past seven years, this was, by far, her longest and most challenging.

“Honestly, going into the trip I was pretty nervous,” Izzy said. “We were mapping it out beforehand and I was like, ‘Wow, this is a lot of miles. We didn’t do that many last year.’”

It definitely pushed me to step out of my comfort zone and take on a leadership role, while at the same time, collaborating with someone else.”

— Izzy Kaufman-Sites

Surrounded by nothing but open water, the girls would often turn to one another for fun and encouragement. While kayaking, they would sing camp songs (or pop songs, so long as everybody knew them) and tell funny stories to pass the time.

“We definitely had some tough days, and I very much relied on support from my other group members,” Izzy said.

For Izzy, the intimacy of shared tents and mealtime chats formed somewhat of an unbreakable bond.

“We all got really close by the end,” Izzy said. “I had kind of known these people before, but some of us had never met. We all have a text group chat, now, and the people I live near to I’ll probably go visit.”

In Izzy’s case, hitting checkpoints and staying on schedule was never really an issue. When asked to stop and explore, however, she resisted — immediately and internally. Being in a group setting forced her to re-evaluate her priorities.

“People have different attitudes towards kayaking,” Izzy said. “Some people like to push as much as they can. Even if we have a short day, they think, ‘No we have to push more so we have less to do later.’ Other people were more like, ‘no, we want to explore more, and even if that means we don’t necessarily make it as far as we would have.’ I’ve always been more goal-oriented, but people pushed me to appreciate the journey.”

So, with a refreshed mind, increased confidence, and renewed love of exploration, Izzy begins her second-to last year of high school.