Youth have the opportunity to learn to sail this summer at El Dorado Lake.

Youth have the opportunity to learn to sail this summer at El Dorado Lake.

The Walnut Valley Sailing Club is again offering its youth and adult sailing programs.

“We’ve been doing this since 2001,” said Gene Nold, with the sailing club.

The youth program is open to kids age 8 to 17 and is held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday for three weeks. The first session starts June 15, with the second session beginning July 6.

“We have a fleet of boats that we teach from,” Nold explained.

The youth learn a variety of skills, in either beginning, intermediate or advanced sessions.

“We cover everything from basic boat handing up to sail boat racing,” Nold said.

Beginning sailing is for those without any sailing experience. The objective is to teach, in an accelerated fashion, some of the basic concepts including safety, the sailing environment, sailboat rigging, knots, sails, wind and sailing fundamentals.

In the intermediate session, youth learn such things as sail trim, boat handling, basic compass, rules of the road, capsize recovery, rigging, launching and games.

All materials and boats are provided for the sessions.

“We have 20 kids through the program each session,” Nold said.

“We try to minimize classroom work and get them on the water as much as possible.”
The program also is rewarding to the instructors.

“What I enjoy is to see their self-confidence develop,” Nold said. “Some of these kids have never been in a sailboat.”

He said at first they are scared to death of trying to sail, but quickly learn the basics. Once they start to catch on, their self-confidence begins to grow.

Once they go through the program, they see a lot of kids returning two or three years.
“A lot will take both sessions in the summer,” Nold said.

Of course, there is some commitment required from the youth.

“They do have to want to learn and progress in the program,” Gary Pierce, instructor, said.

One thing they have been trying to promote is to get more El Dorado youth involved in the program. They have youth participants from as far away as Valley Center.

In addition to the youth classes, they also offer adult classes in the evening. These courses, including basic, intermediate and advanced, follow the same format. They do differ in that adults can begin in either the centerboard boats or the keelboats.

The adult course is held from 6 p.m. to dark after the youth sessions. These sessions can have up to 10 adults. The first session is already full and the second is nearly full.

“The biggest reason we established this is because we were finding people were buying boats and joining the club and having no idea how to sail,” Pierce said.

He said they quickly would become frustrated.

“For adults, this gives them the opportunity to learn how to sail properly and get a year’s membership in the club to decide if they like sailing,” he said.

Adults come from as far as Hutchinson and McPherson for the sessions.

“This is the only program that offers adult and youth instruction at the same time,” Nold said.

The instructors for the programs, along with Nold and Pierce, are high school and college-age youth who have been through the program and also have had an extensive four-day instructors training course. They are sanctioned by U.S. Sailing.

“To get certified they have to be good at sailing,” Pierce said.

“It’s a great development tool for kids as the instructors,” Nold added.
The sailing club was formed in 1937 and was located at Santa Fe Lake, a lake between Augusta and Wichita. In 1985, the club moved to El Dorado  when the El Dorado Lake opened. They have 125 families who are members.

“We really want to try to bring in new blood into our group,” Nold said.

The cost of the youth session is $85 and kids can sign up until the start of the session or until it fills up. The cost includes the $25 junior membership, which gives them access to the boats for the sailing season.

They also are a non-profit organization and much of their funding comes from donations, allowing them to keep the youth costs low. Another source of funding is through the adult sessions, which is $280 and includes a year membership.

For more information, visit or contact Pierce at 686-8823 or Nold at 636-2091.