Former Middlebury family turns home into surfing business

ST. ALBANS BAY — When one’s passion for Lake Champlain is high as the Benjamins’, sometimes the best way to share it is to build a business around it.
Curt and Jerri Benjamin, along with their son, Jordan, and his wife, Erin, have taken their longtime love for the lake to a new level with Northshore Kite-Sail-Surf LLC; its headquarters is Curt and Jerri’s St. Albans Bay residence (Curt and Jerri Benjamin were long-time residents of Middlebury; Jordan and Erin still reside in Middlebury).
“Lake Champlain is a gem, a beauty in the state of Vermont,” Jerri said recently, while seated with Curt on their back porch with a gorgeous lake view. “We should get as many people to enjoy the lake as we do, and if more people enjoy it, more people will protect it.”
At their Cove Road home, Curt and Jerri Benjamin offer certified lessons in — and sell equipment for — kiteboarding, which is like flying a kite with a 60-foot line, while surfing. The Benjamins also sell kiteboarding equipment and have established a small school focused on the sport in their garage.
Kiteboarding can also be done on the ice. “It’s actually easier to learn that way, because the plane you’re on is mostly flat,” Curt explained.
No wind? No problem. Northshore also provides lessons and one-to-three-hour tours on stand-up paddleboards, which give riders views into the water, along with full-body workouts.
“Both of these sports can be as gentle and easy as you want, or as exhilarating and exciting as you want,” Jerri said, adding that the St. Albans Recreation Department has asked North Shore to offer stand-up paddleboard lessons, rentals and tours through the department, through Labor Day.
Jerri and Curt are the certified kiteboarding teachers for Northshore. Jordan, 31, who enters his third year at Vermont Law School this fall, is the business manager and an instructor. Erin handles stand-up paddleboards and rentals for the business on Lake Dunmore in Addison County.
When the elder Benjamins lived in Middlebury, Jerri was a personal trainer and program director for 20 years, most recently at Middlebury Fitness. Curt is a semi-retired residential contractor. He raised and renovated their Cove Road home after they bought it from Jerri’s relatives, after devastating flooding on St. Albans Bay in spring 2011.
Northshore officially opened in July 2012. They offered lessons while rebuilding their new home.
“We’re settled here now,” Curt said. “We’re really ready for this year.”
For 30 years, Curt and Jerri windsurfed all over Lake Champlain, all year long. Curt discovered kiteboarding six years ago; a year later, he and Jordan bought a kite and board while on Cape Hatteras, N.C.
“The sport is about 10 to 15 years old,” Curt said, “and the safety and technology involved has progressed quickly over that time.”
As the Benjamins grow into their second season with Northshore, Jerri has a future plan for the business: introduce more women to kiteboarding and stand-up paddleboards, for their health.
“You don’t have to be young and athletic to do either of these sports,” she said. “These are for everyone, on some level.”
Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the St. Albans Messenger.

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