Michael is a paddler and surfer from Seattle, Washington who just completed the Seventy48, a self-supported, human-powered boat race between Tacoma, WA and Port Townsend, WA on prone. He paddled 78 miles in 19 hours and took 32nd place out of 109 teams. MIND BLOWN. We know Michael from the Prone Zone Facebook group and had to learn more, share more about his stoke for paddling. True grit.
What is your primary craft?
What are you paddling?
What other watercrafts do you paddle/enjoy?
- Prone Paddleboard
Where is your favorite place to paddle?
My *favorite* place to paddle is Hawaii! But I live in Seattle and spend the vast majority of my time training, racing, and exploring the Puget Sound region, the San Juans, and sometimes get to play on the coast of the Olympic Peninsula. Water temps around here are 48F to 55F depending on the season. I am a part of the Ballard Elks Paddling Club (@BEPC827 on instagram) where we race Monday evenings from May to October. It’s a fabulous community of open hearted and supportive people of the sea.
Photo of your crew and/or where you paddle
What is your favorite event and why?
Seventy48 is absurdly hard and also a big favorite. Seventy four-ish miles from Tacoma to Port Townsend. It’s really a one and two person kayak race with OCs, rowing skiffs, at least a dozen SUPs that enter, and always a few pedal boats too. No sails. No motors. A bit more than 100 teams each year. Last year (2018) I did it on a 14′ Starboard SUP. This year (2019) I was the first person to complete the race on a proneboard. Ended up with 78 total miles because I got a bit lost in a dense fog. Still didi it in 19:32:00. Got 3rd place among SUP class! Took 32nd place overall of 108 racing teams of all classes. Not a bad finish for a 57 year old. Special highlights were millions of bioluminescent baby jellies between midnight and 2am. A four mile long sea of nettle buds stinging my hands at 5am. Seals, otters, eagles everywhere. A former racer in a rowboat at mile 40 blaring Bon Jovi “Halfway There” at dawn with donuts and a thermos of coffee. Pumped me up! The final five miles were mostly upwind against a 20+ knot breeze. Big group of fans cheering at the finish. I’ve done a lot of endurance races in my life, but this one is the hardest by far. A very transformational and emotional experience!
What is your favorite paddling moment and why?
When I was seven, a buddy of mine and I went “surfing” on an inflatable mattress off the coast of Myrtle Beach. A rip tide took us out so far we could not see land. We were scared and waved for help. These huge burly men swam to us and asked if we were ok, then pulled us to shore where our parents were not super pleased with our judgment but happy we got home safe. My mom at that moment decided to become a lifeguard and eventually became a lifeguard trainer. She raised me to love and properly respect the sea. Soon after my Myrtle Beach adventure, she taught me how to body surf. That first taste of reading the wave, swimming fast enough to catch it and then yielding to its movement changed my life. I’ve been swimming, boogie boarding, surfing, kayaking, sailing, paddleboarding, and proneboarding all my life to learn more about this dance with the sea. When I see big water or hear waves, my body aches to go home.
Do you have a bucket list event?
Molokai to Oahu. I took up prone boarding five years ago because I’ve been watching this event with lust in my heart for more than a decade. I’ve studied the great ones, practiced close to two thousand miles, and have received advice from veterans on how to improve my skills and endurance. This April I got the amazing news that I made the start list! Although the distance of 32 miles doesn’t bother me given my training regimen, I am deeply respectful of that body of water. My mom’s lessons will be clear in my mind.
What are you grateful for?
Mom, of course! I want to say special thanks to Mick DiBetta for his FTP training tips, to Joe Bark for his advice and masterful board shaping skills, and to Ballard Elks Paddling Club for building a welcoming community in Seattle. Extra deep gratitude to all the volunteers at every race I’ve ever been to — you make magic possible. THANK YOU!
Advice or tips for paddlers?
Don’t over focus on training. It is fun to compete. It is fun to win. Training is necessary to be competent and competitive. But use that skill to see, hear, smell, taste and feel the air, water, birds, sea creatures. This sport is pure and clear. The gear and training are merely a vehicle. The deep connection to the water, the community of paddlers, and this whole living world is the big reward. Take home the prize by soaking up the moment as it is right now.
Do you have a favorite charity?
Any Additional Comments?
Ditch the plastic. Recycle it properly, if you must use it. Save our oceans for the next generation of paddlers, swimmers, and surfers.
Amen. —The Mullet