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6/19/2022 Sutton’s Bay, MI – This past Sunday the Midwest Paddle League was back in action for its 3rd race of the season, this time in the beautiful wine country that is the greater Traverse City area. I’ve waxed ecstatic on this race in previous articles, but if you realized how great  of race this was, you wouldn’t need to even read this article, You’d be emailing race director Keith Conway asking when the earliest you can sign up next is. Let me break this down for you in simple numbers:

  1. Location, location, location – Arguably one of the most beautiful places in the country. Caribbean blue water, overlooked by acres of vineyards and cherry orchards. Like California, but cheaper, less people, and fresh, unsalted water. The race location, the Vineyard Inn is a hotel with rooms that overlook the bay, with a bar/ restaurant on site.
  2. So much more than a race – Friday night social paddle, Saturday downwind, and Sunday races. 5k and 10k done at separate times so you can do both as part of the “badass” category. Kids/short race following and an afternoon featuring wood fired pizza lunch, yoga, and clinics. Or just relax with a beer.
  3. Something for everyone – OK so, I get it, not everyone in the family is obsessed with paddling. But if you can’t find something else to do in the area, you probably lack a pulse. In addition to water-based activities, there is golf, wineries, breweries, and distilleries. There are miles upon miles of paved bike trails, unpaved mountain biking, and hiking trails. There are museums, shows, live music, and the cutest little downtown you ever did see.
  4. No hamster wheel – This year, all three of the races where single laps. The partially protected bay was utilized allowing paddlers to see more of the area without the NASCAR style go-fast turn-left mentality.
  5. Great causes – this year’s event wrote checks exceeding $1,500 to 4the22, Grand Traverse Land Conservancy, and The Leelanau Regional Land Conservancy

Race Director Keith Conway: “I love putting on this race to show people this incredible area and introduce people to big water paddling.”

This year’s event was truly one for the record books, 71 entries, and unreal fast paddling, even by folks who did both races. The weather was a bit on the chilly side, and the water hasn’t quite gotten up to temp yet. Luckily winds were super low at 2-3mph. The 5k got started first, and the first across the line was Alex Sandler who eschewed his usual  SUP for an OC1. Steve Hoogstraten was less than 20 seconds behind on a surfski.

Jay James showed us what he’s capable of without a 40-pound dog on board, and laid down a 33 minute time on a SUP. Karl Eugster and relative newcomer Marek Mroz rounded out the Men’s podium. For the first time this season we got to see Kirsten Marina Lefeldt take top spot on the podium, but Julie Miller was right on her tail with a less than 3 second margin. Risa Starkopf finished with her third podium in as many weeks.

Daniel Novak managed a 38 minute time on a prone followed by Harrison Withers and Tristan Patrona who were both a ways behind. Amelia Hasenohrl competed on a surfski and Robert Downs rocked it out in a kayak.

In the 10k race there was again exciting competition in the women’s division all three of the top competitors finished with over a 5mph avg. Kattie Carpenter lead the field with a 1:06, leaving two women who had already paddled 5k to battle it out for 2nd and 3rd. in the end Kirsten Marina Lefeldt bested Julie Miller to complete the podium.

Nick Murray showed us what a well paddled surfski could do and finished the 10k in 45 minutes. Pieter Visser came in 2nd. Marek Mroz took to an outrigger for his 2nd race of the day and set the pace over series regular Christopher Devries. Doug Vojtko took 3rd in his first race aboard an OC1, and 2nd race of the day.

Daniel Novak and Jay James didn’t look any worse for wear after their earlier 5k’s finishing at a very quick 59:17 and 59:13 respectively. But you have to wonder if they left a little in the tank they could have chased down Javier Diaz and his record-setting 58:32 time.

The Kids race was fun affair with Keira Conway taking top honors along with Olivia Osterhaven, Kendall Harvey, and Emma Osterhaven

The “badass” category featured paddlers who did both distances. Impressive to note Kirsten Lefeldt and Julie Miller set impressive 10k times AFTER completing the 5k. Special kudos to those that paddled two different types of craft, like Dan Novak who set a 38-minute prone time followed by a 59 minute 10k on a SUP. Rob Wilkinson did 10k in an OC1 and it was the first time he had ever been in an outrigger.

Paddler 5k/10k Craft Combined Time
Josh Flath SUP/SUP 1:32:23
Marek Mroz SUP/ OC1 1:32:39
Alex Sandler OC1/SUP 1:35:08
Dan Novak Prone/SUP 1:37:32
Doug Voijtko SUP/OC1 1:37:49
Karl Eugster SUP/SUP 1:40:57
Kirsten Marina Lefeldt SUP/SUP 1:45:27
Julie Miller SUP/SUP 1:47:41
Keith Conway SUP/SUP 1:48:14
Rob Wilkinson SUP/OC1 1:53:10
Brent Norseman SUP/SUP 1:53:10
Wendy Anderson SUP/SUP 1:56:54
Tom Wernette SUP/SUP 1:59:12
Tristan Patrona Prone/SUP 2:03:15
Harrison Withers Prone/SUP 2:03:21
Risa Starkopf SUP/SUP 2:06:24

Full results can be found here.

And the rest of the Midwest Paddle League Schedule is here.

Special thanks and recognition to Brett Starkopf and Shannon Carr for photography. The event would not have been possible without the support of Suttons Bay Bikes, Traverse City Sign Shop, Keen Technical Solutions, and Uplift Adventure Retreats. Awards were created and donated by Little Bay Boards.



  • Tristan Patrona
    Posted June 24, 2022 at 11:58 am

    Great recap Harrison. Thanks for your continued hard work.

  • Tristan Patrona
    Posted June 24, 2022 at 11:58 am

    Great recap Harrison. Thanks for your continued hard work.

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