Laura Kaiser is one of those native Sarasotans (a distinct minority) who sort of gravitated to the Sailing Squadron by a kind of osmosis. She said, "My husband, George, sort of grew up here. His parents were members of the Squadron so I heard stories all the time about him and his friend Fred Lowe. Fred’s father, Stan, was also an active member of the Squadron in the early years."
"I first came here to race Wind Surfers at a Labor Day Regatta and I think the Mid Winters in 1988. That was the last time a Wind Surfer Regatta was held here until 2003 when Dick Tilllman approached the Squadron to ask to hold the Masters Wind Surfer National Championship Regatta here." Laurel noted that Tillman is a well known Laser racer who is also a Wind Surfer. He asked her if she would be willing to be the chairperson for the Regatta but the board asked if she was a member. She said, "No but I’ll join."
For the next four or five years Laurel didn't come around the Squadron much except to run the annual Wind Surfer Regatta. "Then about five years ago I began teaching Kite-boarding. I found the sandbar out here off the shore an ideal location to teach. So I began coming out here regularly because it became essential to watch what the wind was doing. My interest in the Squadron really grew because I was spending so much time here. I began to get involved helping out and with organizing stuff and I developed a more active role."
"The more I got involved I sort of ‘adopted’ the club. I enjoyed taking the initiative to enlist other members in projects; and enjoyed seeing things get done. As I witnessed people come and join the club and watched it grow I realized, ‘Wow! What a great place.’ It reminds me of that sign at the entrance, ‘The Greatest Little Sailing Club in the World.’ which somebody put up fifteen or twenty years ago. It still is. It is in keeping with the view of Molly Cardamone, the Ex-City Commissioner who coined a phrase that goes something like, ‘a sophisticated city with a small town feel.’ That embodies how I feel about this place. Just yesterday some guy said, ‘You walk in here and it’s like going back forty years. It is really a welcome feeling."
Asked about her sailing experience, Laurel says that she kite boards and wind surfs. She also has started sailing once in a while with the E-Scows which she says, "I found incredibly exciting and fun. I also sailed on Solitude with Dave Wilson and he let me steer. We sailed in the Commodore’s Cup and we WON! Of course there were only three or four boats. I like racing because it is competitive and I like going fast and staying ahead."
Laurel has very positive views regarding the Club’s future. "We have a very good relationship with the City of Sarasota. They think we do wonderful things. It has been exciting to see the Squadron linking up with the city to try to provide the Kayak Storage facility that is being proposed.. We are doing a great job of stewardship here. One of my key desires I hope to see carried out in the future is that the club remain affordable to families. Families like my husband’s who had five children, who had a modest income and yet they could afford to bring their children out here. In today’s world that is still possible. If we were to loose sight of that part of our mission statement it would be tragic."
Teaching water sports has been Laurel’s professional career for the past thirty years. She teaches wind surfing, kite boarding and kayaking. Most recently she has added Stand Up Paddle Boards to her list of skills. She now runs a school and retail store called Island Style Watersports. "My life style is I’m here, enjoying the outdoors seeing what’s going on with the water, picking up my clients right here in Ken Thompson Park. I take them out on the water for lessons.
Laurel brings her teaching experience to bear as Education Coordinator at the Squadron. She recently organized a class for the Race Committee on Race Management which was led by Cindy Clifton. It was very well attended and inspired a number of members to get involved.
"We also did the Level One U S. Sailing Seminar with Jabbo Gordon from the U.S Sailing Staff," Laurel explained. "I’m hoping that in June we will do a multi-educational day covering such topics as knot tying, docking procedures, man overboard drills. We have numerous volunteers who have offered to help."
"Just a couple of nights ago another member, Hans Dettmers, did a presentation on The Physics of Sailing." Laurel continued, "Not a lot of people attended but people were very interested to know why a sail boat works the way it does. How the wind flows across the sails, or the water flow around the keel, and why you do get power or don’t get power."
Laurel is always interested in talking to people about the various programs offered by the Squadron and she spends many hours around the club during the week doing just that.