Follow the wind to a new hobby. Sailing schools make it easy with classes for beginners.
Sailing in Egg Harbor, Wisconsin
Credit: Dana Halferty

Outdoor activity hit a high-water mark during 2020's socially distanced summer—sailing included. "We've seen a huge increase in individuals expressing an interest. People are done with being cooped up," says Todd Bracken of Indianapolis-based Dauntless Sailing School, one of the most active in the Midwest.

Sailing is more affordable than you might imagine, with fees breaking down to as little as $30 per beginner session at some schools. To get started, look for an introductory sailing class. Bracken favors learning on larger boats if possible, since they're more forgiving, and he says most people pick up the basics quickly. "It's like poker. You can learn in a day, but it takes a lifetime to master," Bracken says.

Besides building the strength required to maneuver sails, being on the water helps center your mind, as it's tough to think of anything but staying afloat. You may suddenly become a weather aficionado, too—how and why a boat moves by wind power is fascinating.

Midwest Sailing Schools for Beginners

No experience? No problem. All skill levels are welcome at these spots.

Lake Manawa Sailing Association

In Council Bluffs, Iowa, this club has a sailing school (and several styles of boats to match your skill level), plus a women's sailing group and racing opportunities.

Columbia Sailing School

The programs at this newly designated Chicago nonprofit include introductory sailing camps for kids and varied classes for adults on a fleet of trusty Colgate 26 sailboats.

Milwaukee Community Sailing Center

The goal of this nonprofit is to make sailing accessible to everyone. Eight-session, two-week courses teach basics like tacking, jibing, docking and proper sail trim.

Not ready to don your captain's hat? Find a friend who is. One of the best parts of sailing is the community around the sport.