A kayaker enjoys the early morning stillness near Lighthouse Beach.Photo by Mary Mumbrue

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Summer is an ideal time to learn a new skill. School is out, days are longer and energy levels are high. Thanks to the rich culture and diversity of this unique city, Evanstonians young and old can take a class in just about anything, from jewelry-making to scuba diving.

This article is one in a summer-long series titled “Where to Learn …” This week the RoundTable focuses on where to learn a water sport.

Scuba Diving

            Elmer’s Watersports
            1310 Oakton Street

Scuba diving in Lake Michigan?

“Absolutely!” says Myron Siciak, a master diver who has logged over 4,500 dives and is the owner of Elmer’s Watersports, a shop offering all things scuba-related.

Mr. Siciak, with help from a staff of a dozen instructors, has offered scuba diving lessons in Evanston for the past 20 years, ever since he bought Elmer’s Watersports from his friend and colleague, Elmer Munk. Everything from a beginner Snorkeling Certification class to an advanced Master Scuba Diver course is available.

Mr. Siciak recommends the Open Water Scuba class for anyone who is in good health, comfortable in the
water and has a desire to learn how to dive. Participants must be older than 14. A Junior Open Water Diver program is available for children between the ages of 10
and 14.

The class meets one night a week for seven weeks. The first 1½ hours is set aside for out-of-water academics and the second 1½ hours is spent in the pool. The class is held at Northwestern University’s Norris Aquatics Center and costs $300. Included in the cost are textbooks and use of equipment.

After successfully completing the confined water and classroom sessions, students must complete four Open Water Training Dives to receive certification. Training dives are done at Haigh Quarry in Kankakee, Illinois.

“Two-thirds of our planet is made up of water,” says Mr. Siciak. “Diving is an activity that will never get boring. There is always something new to learn or see.”

Check out www.elmerswatersports.com or call Mr. Siciak at 847-475-7946 to learn more about the extensive list of classes available, the Great Lakes Shipwreck Charters and the Worldwide Dive Travel program.


            Dempster Street Beach

Rowing lessons are now offered in Evanston by Wateriders a company that has been giving rowing instruction in Chicago since 1997. This summer, Wateriders has paired up with the Evanston Recreation Division to provide private and semi-private instruction at Dempster Street Beach.

Evanston resident, Charlie Portis, owner of Wateriders, says he has been rowing on Evanston’s lakefront for a few years now and is excited to add it to the many activities already available at the waterfront.

Mr. Portis teaches the lessons himself and uses an open water rowing shell as opposed to a racing shell.

“The shells I use are very stable and can be enjoyed in all kinds of water,” he says.

The cost of four private 70-minute lessons is $160 for residents and $210 for nonresidents.

Call 312-953-9287 to schedule a lesson or to find out more about Wateriders programs, including an Evanston history and architecture kayak tour, also new this year.


            Northwestern University Sailing Center
            1839 Campus Drive

The NU Sailing Center offers learn-to-sail lessons ideal for beginning sailors or as a refresher course for those with sailing experience. Instruction focuses on basic sailing skills, sailing nomenclature, safety practices, rules of right-of-way and rigging/derigging procedures. Private and group lessons are available.

Summer and fall classes meet twice a week for four weeks. In addition, every person taking a class is given a free one-month membership to the Sailing Center. The membership allows free access to select sailboats so students can practice the skills learned in class on their own time.

“I learned to sail when I was six years old,” says Tadhg Martin, director of the Sailing Center. “It makes me happy to see other people learning and enjoying the activity I love so much.,” he adds.

For more information and a schedule of classes and prices, call Tadhg Martin at
847-491-4142 or go to www.fitrec.north

            Evanston Recreation Division
            Dempster Street Beach Office

The Evanston Recreation Division also offers sailing lessons at Dempster Street Beach. Four 1-hour private lessons cost $150 for residents, $200 for nonresidents. Participants must be 14 years and older. Lessons can be scheduled by calling Adam Abajian at the Beach Office, 847-866-4167.


            Evanston Recreation Division
            Dempster Street Beach

In addition to sailing lessons, the Evanston Recreation Division also teaches group kayaking lessons at Dempster Street Beach. Students are taught on wide, highly stable kayaks, often used for recreational kayaking on rivers and lakes. The water is usually relatively calm, so a few lessons are often enough to enjoy this type of kayaking.

The class must have a minimum of two and a maximum of four participants. For $40 each, Evanston residents receive two 1-hour lessons. The cost is $60 each for nonresidents. Call Adam Abajian to schedule a class, 874-866-4167.


            Northwestern University Sailing Center
            1839 Campus Drive

“Lake Michigan is a perfect place to windsurf,” says Mr. Martin of the NU Sailing Center.

All windsurfing classes are taught on Saturday and Sunday from either 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. or 1-4 p.m. The two-day weekend class includes a one-month NU Sailing Center membership that allows free use of the boats for practicing.

A new youth windsurfing camp, this year, offers children ages 9-15 an experience that emphasizes safety, fun and a love of windsurfing. The week-long camp meets every day 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. or 12-3 p.m. Openings are still available. Call 847-491-4142 to sign up.

Aquatics Camps
            Evanston Recreation Division
            Dempster Street Beach

The City of Evanston’s popular Aquatics Camps offer children and adults a chance to sail, kayak, canoe, water ski, swim, innertube and more on Evanston’s lakefront. Camps include the Teen Aquatic Camp for those who have “aged out” of Aquatic Camp but still want to participate, Parent/Child AquaAction for parents who want to participate with their child and Adult Aquatic Adventures because grown-ups can have fun, too.