Smooth Sailing

by | Jul 2021

White Bear Sailing School

Photos: Chris Emeott

White Bear Sailing School Celebrates 65 years.

Gliding through the fresh-water waves in the midst of White Bear Lake are the sailors of White Bear Sailing School. Celebrating its 65th anniversary, the school is known for developing dedicated life-long athletes in the heart of this historic sailing city. “We just want to provide people with the opportunity to get on White Bear Lake and see it in a different perspective,” says Kate Cox, waterfront director of White Bear Sailing School.

Even though it is located on the grounds of White Bear Yacht Club, the sailing school is not affiliated and welcomes all who are eager to learn about the sport. With the intent to get more people out on the water, the school eventually became a nonprofit in 1980 to reach more individuals which allowed for an expansion in classes, investment in its own boats for students to use and the creation of a pavilion. Growing rapidly as an organization throughout the years, the school has assisted up to 300 students in a given season. Welcoming sailors as young as 5 years old, classes are offered for beginners all the way to advanced-level racing from U.S. Sailing certified instructors.

White Bear Sailing School

With education and competition at its core, the school ensures that individuals will walk out of training equipped with effective techniques and a strong sense of confidence. In addition to the physical development, White Bear Sailing School instructor and former student Cole Barre says the relationships created along the way are what make the organization so special. As a close-knit community, the school serves as a network for like-minded individuals who share the same passion. “I just want people to enjoy it as much as I did,” Barre says. “It is awesome to be out on the water and learning how to sail and make new friends.”

Developing accomplished athletes, the school’s past and present rosters are nothing short of impressive. With a history of students becoming instructors, high school athletes, collegiate athletes, Ivy League coaches and even Olympic competitors; the talent that comes from this humble city is truly remarkable. “It is pretty cool to be a part of it and get to know people doing great things,” Barre says.

Student at White Bear Sailing School

Seeing others who have gone through the program succeed in and beyond the school is inspiring and encourages others to want to do great things, too, Cox says. “You do your time as a sailor and become an instructor because you really can’t get away from it,” she says about the typical path of students at the school. “We are passionate, and it is our favorite thing to do, so why not coach others and get them to enjoy it too.”

For Lara Dallman-Weiss, a former sailor and instructor, and now Olympic athlete, it was the drive of her fellow sailors that inspired her to keep going. Qualifying in March for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics for the double-handed women’s 470 (4.7-meter-long boat), Dallman-Weiss says that she would have never reached this point without the training she received at the school. “I am so proud to be from White Bear Lake, I love my upbringing; I would send any child through the program,” she says.

Students at White Bear Sailing School

Inspired at a young age by her father’s newfound hobby, Dallman-Weiss says she joined the school at 6 years old for a fun summer activity. Developing her competitive side through basketball, dance and running during the school year, she says that she soon realized that she could translate that same mindset to sailing. Seeing what she could make of this hobby after watching one of her former instructors thrive doing the sport in college, she decided she wanted to do the same. Trading in her track spikes and athletic scholarship, Dallman-Weiss made her way to Eckerd College in Florida where she could practice and compete sailing year-round. Upon graduating she met her Olympic teammate, Nikki Barnes, and together they began their voyage to achieve every athlete’s dream.

“The love of the sport and the love of life, that is something that I have really learned to enjoy,” Dallman-Weiss says. 

Sail as old as time

The prominence of sailing in White Bear goes beyond the success of its students today. Anchored in rich history, the sport of sailing dates as far back as the mid-1800s in this community.

With the addition of railways to and from the Twin Cities in the mid-1800s, the ability to transport became more readily available, thus creating a resort boom along the shorelines of the lakes. Encouraging the growth of water sports and sailing, these interests made room for new businesses in the industry and enhanced the growth of the city. Taking advantage of what the land had to offer, Norwegian immigrant J.O. Johnson began building rowboats and traditional sailboats for Gus Admundson of Admundson Boats. After striking interest in the art of boat making, he soon discovered that he loved designing them rather than physically constructing them. Combining logistics with tasteful design, Johnson created a flat bottom model that glided on top of the water instead of slicing through it. This boat is what we know today as the scow.

Student Steering at White Bear Sailing School

Founding Johnson Boat Works in 1896, his company transformed the sport of sailing through innovative and strategic designs. After finishing and racing the first scow in 1900, his company gained notoriety due to the boat’s success with winning competitions. Primarily centering his business around the creation of scows, he would eventually develop his most famous model the A Scow (a 38-foot-long boat).

Creating such a large impact in the sailing world, Johnson’s work also worked to put Minnesota on the map. “It makes people more appreciative of it because they [scows] were started here, manufactured here and designed here,” Cox says. “Our sailing school tries to protect and preserve that in some way.”

White Bear Sailing School, 56 Dellwood Ave., Dellwood, 651.429.8395; 

Group and Private Lesson Offerings

Offering classes to four age groups, lessons focus on elements from basic boat parts, how boats are rigged and how to sail with others. Each program runs from two-to-three weeks and provides newbies and seasoned sailors with an opportunity to improve their skillsets.

Pre-Opti: Ages 5-6
Opti Beginner and Intermediate: Ages 7-11
420 (4.2-meter boat) Beginner and Intermediate: Ages 12-17
Adult Lessons: 18 plus


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