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Shale Shore of Kaua'i Sailing Association

Updated: Jan 7, 2021

So excited to kick off 2021 with this months feature; Shale Shore. This woman knows all about stepping into uncharted waters - she was instrumental in expanding a sailing school while learning how to sail herself. She is a great example of building slowly and with intention, defining the core values first and allowing that to shape the strategy. Recently I have had the benefit of seeing her work in action as my own kids learn to sail in her weekly classes. The best part? Watching her team of instructors and coaches do all the teaching of the kids with the same enthusiasm and focus that she embodies! Effective team building has never been more important than now and I'm excited to share her journey in launching and growing this organization that inspires and teaches our kids to love the ocean.

What brought you to Kauai?

I sailed here on a pirate ship. I was fortunate enough to attend a semester at sea as part of my undergraduate in marine biology, the ship sailed from San Diego to Hawaii. My research project during the voyage involved studying bio-luminescence in various water masses across the Pacific Ocean, basically I was studying sparkly water as we sailed from California to Hawaii! One of my most prominent memories from that trip is seeing the iconic Diamond Head buoy as we neared Oahu. Interestingly, you can smell land way before you ever see it. I recall being so angry at the amount of lights I saw on Oahu. After six weeks at sea I had gotten used to serenity. Oahu was too busy and bright, I escaped to Kauai, made goat cheese and birthed goats for a year at the Kauai Kunana Goat Dairy Farm. I then briefly went back home to row with team Canada for a year. We competed in World in Germany. Feeling quite accomplished I then returned to Kauai, to stay this time.

What prompted you to start the school?

I would have to blame that one on Carl Andersson. A Swede who recognized a sucker when he saw one! Carl wanted his daughter to learn how to sail and knew it would be more fun for her with friends. So having no idea how to sail I agreed to run classes with him!

Tell us more about the history of KSA.

Kauai Sailing Association (KSA) was founded in 2008 by members of Nawiliwili Yacht Club (NYC) who were able to establish a 501(c)(3) status for KSA. During those early days, KSA offered the use of the dinghies, but no formal sailing lessons. In 2009, Carl Andersson had the idea to set up a sailing class for his young daughter. He knew that she would enjoy sailing more if she were able to do it with friends, but Carl needed someone with a passion for sailing, a love of learning, and a desire to teach and support young people in expanding their horizons. This is where my journey with KSA began as he knew I was that person. Carl and I spent many evenings at his family home brainstorming ways to make this shared vision a reality and were soon able to offer formal lessons. Over many years of volunteering, we have expanded the fleet and grown the school into what it is today. As with most good things, it really couldn't be what it is without the excellent crew and community that has helped build the sailing school.

Walk me through the phases of growing this program?

Phase 1: Learning the ropes I didn't know how to sail when we first started offering sailing classes in 2009. I have this memory of being in a tiny boat with a kid. The boat was doing uncontrolled circles, the boom kept flying over our heads. All we wanted to do was dock, but couldn’t! The kid looked at me with huge round eyes and asked “what do we do?” I looked back with even bigger eyes and yelled back “I don't know!” It only got better from there, as I learned how to sail and honed my teaching skills. I spent the next 5 years volunteering with the sailing school. In the beginning I would have to beg kids to come sail, even going so far as to drive around the island and pick them up! At that point I don't even think we charged. We slowly developed a very committed core of kids who would sail every Sunday. These kids not only sailed but were invested in the school, helping out at fundraising events and participating in community outreach.

Phase 2: Leveling up Over the next few years we began to level up our game. All of our instructors became certified through US Sailing. We started to offer adult classes, and improve the formula of how we taught. I was able to attend a US Sailing symposium in Texas that helped me realize how unique our philosophy on sailing was. Most Sailing schools were concentrated on racing, but we had been focused on fostering a love of the ocean, teamwork, and fun in our program, with little emphasis placed on racing .

Phase 3: Expansion! After chugging along we suddenly started having huge growth. I think the growth can be attributed to having a great product and an amazing crew. We spent ten years defining the foundation and developing a clear understanding of “who we are”. I kept coming back to our mission statement “teaching life skills through marine awareness” whenever we had to make a decision. Being realistic in our expectations while still dreaming big was extremely helpful. It's easy to get carried away with dreaming, but we live on a small island. It's hard to find employees, volunteers, generate enrollment, and have people commit to activities etc.

Phase 4: Break a Leg. While the sailing school is running, in the background I am thinking about building out a marine center. I have a strong background, with both a marine biology and chemistry degree. Previously I had worked at Canada's Premier Marine Center: Bamfield Marine Sciences Center. I taught there for three years, loved their programs and had this idea to bring a similar program to Kauai. There is nothing on the island like this, and it's a great life experience for kids. Putting together a center is going to take a lot of administration and planning, being an active person that is extremely hard for me. I was fortunate enough to rupture my achilles six months ago and needed surgery. I couldn't walk, adventure or do any of the fun things. So I was forced to sit down and plan. I was also fortunate to meet a great partner in crime, Julie Gardner. She and I were able to conduct community outreach to get feedback for the idea of a marine center. Asking Kauai, what would they like to see in a marine center, what does the island need? We hosted community meetings, focus groups, and conducted online surveys .

Phase 5: Launching Field Trips We are currently in the “soft launch” of the marine center. We have designed nine learning adventures people can register for.. The learning adventures have been met with great success! To view some of the field trip options you can go to the Kauai Sailing Association YouTube channel. We are still looking for funding to build out mini aquariums, upkeep the building and maintain the equipment and boats. But are off to a great start, having 221 keiki go through the science program in 2020!

What is the focus of your sailing school?

Our approach to the sailing school is unique. Our goal is to: “make kids love the ocean”.

We really try to stay true to our mission “Teaching Life Skills through Marine Awareness”. My favorite rule is “Be Crew”. When we are at sailing, we have the unique opportunity to be crew. No matter what your relationship is outside of sailing when we are at sailing we trust each other with our lives, we are at sea and we depend on each other.

You talk about your team all the time and how key they are - what is your process of developing leaders within your organization that take on the vision and work alongside you with the same passion?

The KSA team is amazing. Its very uplifting to see a group of people who love the ocean working together to share that experience with others.

Developing the team took years. When we started we really had no formal background or skills in team/leadership development. I think playing sports and being on team Canada helped me know what kind of team dynamics I wanted, but I didn't know how to build it. We were fortunate in the early phases to have Leadership Kauai mentor our sailing school, providing retreats in Koke'e for the team and sharing leadership training strategies.

We developed an excellent youth leadership training program where kids who are keen on sailing are given the opportunity to be trained as a helper during sailing camps. Their training includes not only sailing skills, but also focuses on what it means to be a leader, how to discover and use their individual strengths, public speaking and self reflection. Once kids go through the training, and are old enough, they are able to go to Oahu and take a US Sailing level one sailing instructor course. At that point they become paid members of the crew.

I really try to give our crew clear expectations and freedom to run the program they were trained to run. Touching base with the crew regularly to see if they have any issues or concerns is very important as well. The crew will have a pre meeting and a debrief after sailing to touch base: was our lesson effective, did we notice anything we would do differently next time, did something go particularly well?

A Marine Center, has that always been a dream of yours?

In 7th grade I went on a field trip to a Marine Science Center and it totally changed my world and defined who I would be growing up. It opened my eyes to a world that I completely adore, the ocean. I would love to be able to give that gift to a child on Kauai. So, yes starting a marine center on Kauai has always been a goal of mine.

How does the Marine Center and Sailing work together to expand opportunities for our kids and our island?

We were fortunate to partner with US Sailing and develop a STEM education curriculum that will expose kids to marine opportunities they may not otherwise learn about. The programs highlight career opportunities, recreation and science.

What is your strength?

Stubbornness and determination to not give up. Blessed with a hard childhood that taught me how to keep going in the face of adversity. When I believe in an idea I see it through to the end.

What dead end became an opportunity?

Rupturing my Achilles turned out to be excellent. It really slowed me down and allowed me to focus on building the academic side of the sailing school.

Who has been a valuable influence in this journey?

My mentors! I’ve been fortunate enough to work with really amazing people, Jan, and Char in particular, but there have been so many wonderful, inspiring people in my life. . . anytime I come across someone amazing I follow up and try to cultivate a relationship. I am always looking for people smarter than me.

What are you excited about in this season?

Excited about providing a Marine Science Center for the community and supporting maritime activities on Kauai! We have a beautiful Space to provide the community with a hub for experiencing : Sailing, Marine Biology and Culture, and Community Outreach.

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