Paddle to the max photos Doug Vojtko

MWPL Recaps Triple-Header in Michigan and Indiana

by Harrison Withers

It was a busy weekend August 24th and 25th for the Midwest Paddle League, with Rapa Nui in Traverse City on Saturday, and back-to-back races in Indiana; Paddle to the Max in Culver on Saturday, and Sky an Oar for Guardian Angels in Noblesville on Sunday.

Most paddlers were faced with a choice, either the picturesque wilds of northern Michigan for a single, albeit very special, race or the golden fields of Indiana for a Saturday/Sunday double-header.

Unless you are Bret Schapman, Rob Wilkinson, or Karl Eugster.

If you are one of those guys, then you drive hundreds of miles to Traverse City Friday night, race on Saturday, and then drive 7 hours south to race in Indianapolis on Sunday. I’d also bet that all three of those guys had to work on Monday too.

What can I say, the Midwest Paddle League attracts a special kind.

Rapi Nui – A Different Kind of Race

Rapa Nui is the native language name for the Chilean island the rest of us call “Easter Island”. You know, the place with the big stone carved heads. This race has as much in common with Easter Island as the race itself has in common with any other race on the MWPL schedule.

Great local news coverage video here.

Photo by Jody Mackey
Photo by Jody Mackey

Awesome Photo Gallery by Jody Mackey here on Facebook

The brain child of adventure paddler of Daniel Novak, the Rapa Nui race is a multi-disciplinary, multi-craft race, that features a 3-mile paddle, followed by a 2-mile running lap of an uninhabited island, and a 3-mile paddle back to the start/finish.

Located in the same general area as the 45th Parallel Paddle Festival earlier in the season, the Traverse City region is a destination-worthy location of incredible beauty. The race started from the Bower’s Harbor Boat launch on the Old Mission Peninsula. Racers then navigate a direct southwest tack of their choosing to a community beaching area on Power Island, an uninhabited island in West Grand Traverse Bay. After beaching your craft, racers then began a clockwise lap of narrow, well-marked, dirt trails circumnavigating the island. A small Rapa Nui trophy is handed out on a random part of the trail, the trophy must return with racer to the finish line to be scored. After finishing the run portion of the race, participants relaunch their craft and head back to the start/finish.

There were 56 entries for the long race this year on a variety of paddle craft including:

  • Double Kayak or Surfski
  • Surfski 18′ and above
  • Kayak under 18′
  • OC1 or Canoe
  • OC2 or C2
  • SUP 12’6″
  • SUP 14′

The fastest time of the day went to Dennis Paull on a surfski with a blistering time of just 1:04. Robert Hartman, and Zack Rohrer rounded out the Men’s surfski podium with Gwen Stevenson carrying the lone entry for the Women’s surfski class.

Mike Rubino and Yvon Dufour teamed up in the Double Kayak or Surfski class for the overall third fastest time of just 1:10. The father/son team of Nick Murray, and Nick Murray finished out the class.

The Under 18’ Kayak class featured women’s winner Hannah Davis, followed by Linda McGiness, and Laurie Borysiak. The Men’s division was won by Erik Olsen, followed by Evan Parks, and Lukas Adamowicz.

For a Midwest race, the OC’s were out in full force with 8 entries. Race organizer Daniel Novak turned in a fast 1:12 time, but DQ’d himself. Melissa Camphous took the win for the women while her husband Troy managed 2nd in the men’s following Avery Folk. Sylvain Darrieux took 3rd. Devon O’Shea, and Carrie Forward were the sole OC2 entrant.

The 12’6” crowd also came out in good numbers with Glen Ruczynski taking top honors for the Men, followed by Micah Bauer, and Dean Bowles. Anne Friedlander, Sarah Shelper, and Hannah Driscoll where the top 3 in the women’s 12’6”.

Sam Griffin dusted off her 14’ race sup, left her dog Maverick ashore, and took the win in Women’s class, with Kattie Carpenter just 7 seconds behind. Bea Roxburgh rounded out the Women’s podium. The men’s side was dominated by Alex Sandler, taking his third race win of the year. 2nd and 3rd was Keith Wilton, and Bret Schapman.

There was also a recreational length 3-mile distance that followed a buoy course in the harbor. Mike bartos hadhad the best overall time on a surfstyle board, followed my Monty Neal on a kayak, Ryan Meade on her 14’ SUP, Ashley Troy, and Angelique Meiu both competed on surfstyle SUPs.

Full results can be found here

Organizer Daniel Novak reflected after the Race:

Everyone is welcomed and appreciated! Of course, kudos to the winners Denny, Avery, Alex, Sam…

Here is what/who matters – all the paddlers that show up over and over, and all the paddlers that “dive in“ for the first time!

The smiles of a paddler finishing after almost two hours of paddling running and paddling back is way more rewarding than watching the winners finish!

For next year, Daniel has announced a CASH prize for beating course records. $100 to the fastest individual to beat a record in any category:

MALE SURFSKI/KAYAK 1:03:40 Denny Paul – 2017
FEMALE SURFSKI/KAYAK 1:29:26 Jamie Endicott – 2017
MALE SUP 1:20:07 Dan Novak -2017
FEMALE SUP 1:31:10 Ali Hoxsie 2017 ON 12’6 !!
MALE Canoe/OC1 1:12:42 Dan Novak 2019
FEMALE Canoe/OC1 1:51:51 Melissa Camphous

Paddle to The Max – C is for Corn, and Culver

Three and a half hours into my trip to Culver, Indiana, the road got narrow and the corn towered above my roofline. I couldn’t help but wonder if I took a wrong turn somewhere along the way but tucked into cornfields of north central Indiana is beautiful Lake Maxinkukee. The second largest natural lake in the state.

Paddle to the max photos Doug Vojtko
Paddle to the max photos Doug Vojtko

Doug Vjotko’s amazing photo gallery is here


Paddle to the max photos Doug Vojtko
Paddle to the max photos Doug Vojtko

Like all Shaka SUP events, Paddle To The Max, is a benefit race, in this case for the Boy’s and Girl’s Club of Culver. The event featured 1, 3, and 6-mile events for both SUPs and kayaks. 

Unfortunately, the competition for paddlers was stiff on race day with many midwest paddlers opting for the popular aforementioned Rapa Nui race. Just 13 paddlers made their way to the start in the morning hours of August 24th. Nonetheless, those hearty souls that did make it, did what we do best in the Midwest, have a lot of fun.

Race day featured mild temperatures and clear sunny skies, but also winds gusting 10-20 from the east, insuring a challenging mix of upwind slogs, downwind glides, and difficult side chop for the 3 and 6-mile distances.

The 6-mile race was first of the line getting a 5-minute head start ahead of the 1 and mile races.  The short leg to the first buoy was upwind, with the second leg due east downwind across the width of the lake. The 3-mile course then turned north back to the start/finish in difficult 1-2’ side chop made more challenging by moderate boat wake. The 6-mile course headed south into the same side chop for 3 miles to and from the second buoy, before heading upwind across the lake back to the 2nd buoy, before a downwind finish.

Gretchen Heist was the only competitor in the 1 mile, completing her first race ever, while series regular Laura Kinnie was the sole entrant in the women’s 3-mile.

The Men’s 3-mile turned out to be the most competitive race of the day with Adrian Barnett turning in a fast for the conditions 35:34 time. Lake local Chad Vanherk was a close second just 19 seconds behind. MWPL organizer Doug Vojtko turned in a strong third.

In the 6-mile, Harrison Withers led the race to 2nd buoy before making a mistake, letting lake local and race sponsor Steve Schaub, take and subsequently build a lead for the win. Bernie Isacovici finished strong in 3rd.

Full results can be found here.

Sky an Oar – 4th Annual Event Delivers for Medical Service Dogs

Indianapolis. You can barley finish the word before thinking of the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway, one of the fastest ovals in the world. It only makes sense that they race more than cars in Indy, and just north of the city on Morse Reservoir on August 25th, we raced the paddle variety.

Check out the Sky an oar photos Doug Vojtko here

Sky an oar photos Doug Vojtko
Sky an oar photos Doug Vojtko

Another race put on by Shaka SUP, this race benefits Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, which trains medical service dogs to mitigate the challenges associated with several disabilities, including: PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), Traumatic Brain Injury, seizure disorders, glucose imbalance, mobility issues and more.

Sunday marked the 4th annual running of the event on the reservoir and the race has built a following from both the local community as well as visiting paddlers from the league. The event features classes for most paddle craft with 1,3, and 6-mile distances.

Sky an oar photos Doug Vojtko
Sky an oar photos Doug Vojtko

This year’s event featured sunny skies and mild temps, albeit slightly breezy with 5 gusting to 10. Morse is a busy lake popular with skiers and wakeboarders, providing some boat wake challenge.  The start finish is in a beautiful public beach area, with clean restrooms and well-kept grounds.

Sky an oar photos Doug Vojtko
Sky an oar photos Doug Vojtko

The 1-mile course was a simple affair to a nearby small island and back. It attracted a great mix of families on kayaks and those just getting their feet wet with racing for the first time. Christopher Mikesell won the youth SUP division, While Michelle Breheny took top honors in youth Kayak. Janice Currier, and Delaney Balsbaugh, took 2nd and 3rd respectively on the kayaks. The Women’s SUP was won by Susan Mikesell with first-time racer Paula Stoney taking second.

The 3-mile race featured a northern leg to a buoy turn with a return to the start finish before turning north east to round the nearby island from the 1-mile course. Husband and wife Zack and Hillary Scott won the men’s and women’s kayak race. The women’s SUP race was won by Lori Miller, with Lauren and Karen Weddel taking 2nd and 3rd. The Men’s race was won by Jon Henderson. Steve Schaub, fresh off his 6-mile win the day before, toughed it out for 2nd, and Bob Diehl took 3rd.

The 6-mile race featured close competition between series regulars Bret Schapman and Bryan Block. Fresh off his 3rd place finish at Rapi Nui, Bret fended of Bryan taking the win by just 28 seconds. MWPL director Doug Vojtko had an incredible race with a personal record time, that was good enough for the third podium spot.

Full results here.

Shaka SUP owner and race organizer Elizabeth Maxwell reflected

I am always amazed at the talent that shows up at our events, some new experts, some returning experts, some returning families and friends, and some newbies.

Hosting a weekend tournament this year, we couldn’t believe the number of racers that did both of our races or came from another race to participate in our Sunday race.  The paddling Community is tried and true…proving love of sport, giving back and that we are a great Community to be a part of!

Finishing Strong

The Midwest Paddle League has just 2 races left this season, another back-to-back weekend organized by Shaka SUP. Paddle for YOUR Cause is Saturday, September 21 on Lake Lansing in Michigan, and allows participants to choose 1 or all 4 local charities including Make A Wish – Michigan (fulfilling dreams of their wish kids), Young Survival Coalition (dedicated to the critical issues unique to young women and breast cancer), Ingham County Animal Shelter (providing care, rescue, shelter and food to area animals) and Kennedy Tennant Memorial Fund.

The season will wrap the following day at Whatever It Takes on Gun Lake. This race will benefit Mackenzie’s Animal Sanctuary and will be followed by the Midwest Paddle League season end awards where all our champions will be recognized. This event is not to be missed!

About the Midwest Paddle League

Welcome to the Midwest Paddle League – designated for SUP paddlers, by SUP paddlers. If you’ve never raced before, or you race most weekends, with kid’s races, short races, long races, sprints and more… there is an event for YOU! Come for the challenge, stay for the camaraderie. Here in the Midwest, it’s COMMUNITY FIRST. COMPETITION SECOND.