In the early morning sun, even the choppiest of Diamond Lake waves will sparkle. At this time of day, jet skies are docked, wakeboarders are still asleep and yacht club members have just finished their morning coffee. The lake is calm — except on Wednesdays, when a group of dedicated women carry on a 16-year-old tradition of kayaking the lake together.
“We talk the entire time,” says Jean Shultz, one of the kayakers. “We wake up the entire lake on Wednesday mornings.”
Jean was integral in starting the group in 2002. Initially, there were only a handful of members in Diamond Lake Kayak club. Today, there are nearly 70.
The club was started because Jean and other women living on the lake felt a void. They lived in a large lake community, yet they only knew a handful of other residents.
Part of the reason for this is that Diamond Lake is one of the largest lakes in the Michiana area. It’s 1,078 acres in size and features more than 900 homes.
“On Diamond, we have the yacht club which is a social club and a sailing club,” Jean said. “I thought we need something a little bit more — I know I did personally — I wanted to tie the lake in tighter.”
That is exactly what the kayak club has done. Jean describes it as more of a sorority of sisterhood than an athletic club. Each member’s goal is to share the latest gossip and news from their portion of the lake.
But the club still keeps its members fit.
“It is a good workout,” says Jean, who is in her late 70s. “Without a doubt. We’re all getting old and our shoulders are arthritic. But that’s the part of getting older is you’ve got to keep moving. You’ve got to keep using those muscles or you lose them.”
Each Wednesday, the club meets at a different member’s home. Those who live close to that week’s starting point paddle there, while those who live far away either transport their kayak on top of a motor vehicle or get a lift from a pontoon.
Early in the spring, an email chain goes out to all the members letting them know what Wednesdays are available to host the kayak club.
“Immediately everyone gets online and says ‘I want Sept. 4, and I want May 20,’” Jean says. “In one week, all the dates are taken.”
The hostess then gets to pick where the club will kayak on their Wednesday. Do they want to paddle to the island? Follow a pair of swans? It’s up to them, but no matter where they decide to go, the group only has a half an hour to get there.
The kayak club only paddles for an hour in total, meaning half an hour paddling out and another half an hour paddling back to the hostess’ house.
When it’s warm, the women dress in tank tops, tie-dye shirts and Under Armor fleeces. If it rains, the women know they’re not kayaking that day.
Either way, the women all meet at the hostess’ house for coffee and breakfast.
“Way back when it was big we had casseroles and danish rolls and all the fixings,” Jean says. “Now it’s just muffins, coffee cake, fruit and maybe some yogurt. We are paring down on that all that.”
Luckily, all 70 members never show up at once. Otherwise, hosting would be a nightmare.
“The biggest group we’ve had is probably 35 out of the entire group,” Jean says. “At one point during each breakfast, we clink on a coffee cup to get everyone’s attention, and we make announcements about what’s happening on the lake.”
The club runs from May into October, but every other winter the club finds a way to still get together when many of the club members travel to Florida together.
“It’s like a slumber party,” she said.
The club also assists with lake events, such as when yacht club children swim from the club to the island in the middle of the lake.
“Because it’s a yacht club, the kids have taken swimming lessons, and the final event is to swim from the yacht club to the island,” she said. “These are little kids, even with life jackets, but we as a kayakers’ club paddle alongside them. … Then we have a noodle fastened to our kayak and assist them if they get tired.”
The kayak club also helps out with the Diamond Lake Triathlon, but none of them have ever needed a noodle.
A few of the club’s members have been around since the beginning, and it adds more members every year — a couple of which are in their lower 30s. Jean likes this because it can help make sure the club goes on for a long, long time — even when she is too old to kayak.
“Maybe they will just pull me along with a rope,” she said. “That way, I won’t have to paddle.”
Photos by Emily Sobecki