Terrace Views

A Look at the Woman-Led Hoofer Sailing Shop

Hidden away on the edge of Lake Mendota, the Hoofer Sailing Shop has been a part of Wisconsin Hoofers, the premier outdoors club at the Wisconsin Union, from the start.

Very few people know about this small repair shop, but Outdoor UW summer programming at the Union and much of the Hoofers’ clubs activities would not be possible without the shop’s existence. 

While the shop did not open on a specific date, there has always been a need for Hoofer Sailing members to get their boats and other outdoor equipment repaired. The shop is completely student-run, and this year it is also woman-led. 

University of Wisconsin–Madison senior and sailing mastermind Kate Thickens oversees all repairs and maintenance at the Hoofer Sailing Shop. She has been working in the shop since the beginning of summer 2021 and, at the end of the summer, was promoted to shop director. 

Hoofer Sailing President and Shop Director Kate Thickens.

Although Kate has held her position as shop director for just under a year, she has worked with boats her whole life. She attributes her love of boating to her father. 

“My dad was very hands-on and always had some sort of project,” Kate said. “He taught himself how to weld, because he thought it would be fun. He built decks, fixed motors, everything.” 

Kate joined the Hoofer Sailing Club during her first year of college and became captain of the University of Wisconsin Sailing Team in May 2021. Kate always had a handful of friends from Hoofers working at the shop, including her older brother, but her reason for joining the shop goes much deeper.

“My father died when I was going into my freshman year of high school, and I sort of lost the opportunity to expand my skills and keep learning,” Kate said. “I thought that the shop would be a really awesome way to have the means and the opportunity to keep learning and working with my hands.” 

The Hoofer Sailing Shop is responsible for all Hoofer Sailing and paddling rental repairs.

Kate carries on her father’s legacy every day by sharing her skills and passion for boating with so many others. The Hoofer Sailing Shop is responsible for all services involving boats, fiberglass repairs, gel coat repairs, welding, motor repairs and sewing as well as managing the infrastructure for one of the nation’s largest fleets.

The learning opportunities at the shop are endless, and there is always something new to learn. 

“I’ve never been told no if I wanted to take on a project,” Kate said. “There’s not really a project too big as long as you have a plan on how you want to execute it.” 

One of these upcoming projects is painting a boat hot pink! 

The most important takeaway Kate had about the Hoofer Sailing Shop is that you don’t need to have a background in sailing or boating to join in on Hoofer Sailing Club activities or the shop’s work. 

“We have hired all different types of people, some that come in and know how to do absolutely everything,” Kate said. “Some that have never sailed a day in their life… but everyone that I’ve worked with has definitely found or deepened their love for sailing because of the shop.” 

The Hoofer Sailing Shop, located on the lower level of Memorial Union.

Kate will continue to lead the Hoofer Sailing Shop and UW Sailing Team for her final year of college. As the shop’s leader, Kate is committed to creating a welcoming and inclusive space that invites everyone to be their authentic selves and to grow from wherever their skill level starts.

Kate has proven she is more than qualified for her position with her years of dedication to sailing and boat repair. She plans to attend law school after graduation, but she made it clear her love for sailing isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. 

“I will definitely work at least in my free time on boats, probably for the rest of my life,” Kate said.

Thank you, Kate, for chatting with us about your sailing journey and all the amazing things you do as the Hoofer Sailing Shop director.

Interested in learning more about the Wisconsin Hoofers clubs or Outdoor UW? Plan your next outdoor adventure today by clicking here. Would you like to learn about joining our team and helping make Wisconsin Union experiences possible? Visit union.wisc.edu/jobs.

Note: Some responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Author: Zach Schumacher

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