RPL instructor earns national certification in freestyle canoeing


Lynn Dominguez's husband bought her a canoe as an anniversary gift more than two decades ago and the hobby quickly evolved into something much more serious.

There are only two nationally certified instructor trainers for freestyle canoeing in the Lower Peninsula, and Dominguez, Central Michigan University associate professor of recreation, parks and leisure services, is one of them. She earned her certification in July.

Freestyle canoeing, at its simplest, is the precision control of all areas of the canoe. Dominguez said the sport began as a way of practicing whitewater maneuvers on flat-water surfaces. From there, it has developed into its own distinguished sport – even adding music to each precise motion of the paddle.

“To me, it’s all about the combination of the boat and paddle movement on the water,” Dominguez said. “All of those pieces together, combined with the water’s reaction – that’s my favorite part.”

Dominguez said she began the sport of canoeing in 1990, when her husband brought home a canoe as an anniversary gift. From there, she began paddling and obtained her instructor certification in Deluth, Minn., in 2009.

The jump from instructor certification to instructor trainer certification is a large one in terms of the skill-set and various requirements for certification. Between her rigorous amount of practice and interest in the sport, it was a jump Dominguez wasn’t afraid to make.

“I’ve been canoeing for about 20 years, and I’m on the water about four to five days a week, when Michigan weather permits,” Dominguez said.

Dominguez said there are three levels to canoeing: introduction, essentials and freestyle. The jump between the second and third levels is said to be a large one – requiring complete mastery of the canoe.

“It was a huge challenge for me to go from level two to level three,” she said. “The skill-set needed for freestyle is just immense. It takes everything you learned and trained for in level two and bumps it up 100 percent.”

Dominguez’s favorite place to canoe is Big Island Lake Wilderness Area, located in the Hiawatha National Forest in the Upper Peninsula.

She describes the location as “a beautiful little pocket of wilderness,” consisting of 21 lakes used for fishing, canoeing and enjoying the great outdoors.

Dominguez offers a class at CMU that involves canoeing – RPL 218: Teaching Outdoor Skills. The class includes a three-week section in canoeing and takes students to the pond behind Theunissen Stadium to get some practice on the water.

In addition, Dominguez is offering an Instructor Development Workshop for aspiring canoe instructors on May 10-12.

“To me, it’s all about the instruction rather than the performance,” she said. “I want people to act on their interest in canoeing, because it really is a fun thing to get involved with.”


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