Midwest Paddle League Completes Triple Header Weekend in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Michigan

Article by Harrison Withers, Photos from Karl Eugster, Todd Michael Jolicoeur, and from the Clear Lake Paddlefest Facebook Page

The Midwest Paddle League (MWPL) had a busy Saturday 7/27 with three races all on the same day! Clear Lake Iowa Paddlefest in the heartland, while Washburn Board Across the Bay tackled Lake Superior. While I would have liked to go to both of those races, the star trek transporter technology still isn’t ready for prime time, so I made the incredibly easy decision to do the race 2 hours from home. Of course, it didn’t hurt that the Lexington Huron Paddlefest gave me a chance to paddle my 3rd great lake of the season, Lake Huron. Recaps from Iowa and Wisconsin were derived from notes from participants and organizers.

For those of you keeping score at home, that means that that MWPL has no completed races on 4 out 5 of the Great Lakes. Only Lake Erie is missing from the schedule.

This is a long one, so grab a cup of coffee, or use the links above to jump to the race your most interested in!

A Wish Comes True: Clear Lake Iowa Paddlefest

2 hours south of Minneapolis and 2 hours north of Des Moines, in the heart of Iowa is a beautiful lake called Clear Lake.  The event offered 1,3, and 5-mile courses for Kayaks, Canoes and Paddleboards. The event was a benefit for the Make A Wish Foundation was ab to raise over $1,000 through registrations and sponsorships.

Photo posted on Clear Lake Paddlefest Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/paddlefestcl/

In the 1-mile race, Harrison Boes (great name!) had the best overall time on a SUP and won the youth class. Janette Piper won the ladies division, and Kevin Boes won the male class.

Photo posted on Clear Lake Paddlefest Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/paddlefestcl/

The 3-mile Men’s race was won by Jeremy Nicholson, Monica Reed-Tremmel took the win for the Women.

Midwest Paddle League regular Bryan Block took the win in the 5-mile race.

Full race results can be found here.

One of the great things about races that are a little farther away from the regional stalwarts of Wisconsin Michigan, Illinois, and Indiana, is that a whole new group of paddlers can participate. One such paddler was Pat Laeger who reached out to the Midwest Paddle League a week ago looking for tips for his first race ever. We were able to steer him towards the Clear Lake race and here’s what he had to say:

The Clear Lake race was a ton of fun. About 40 paddlers I believe – canoes, kayaks and SUPs. It was a hot day, especially with the sun up at the 10am start. The wind was very calm, so the only waves we fought were from boats and jetskis on the lake. The course went along the shore with a water station at 1.5 miles that was a nice relief at the halfway point. Lots of local paddlers and the atmosphere was very friendly and welcoming. Hot dogs and brats with chips were a great way to sit and relax after the race.

Pat had a strong showing for his first time out and was able to get 2nd place in the 3-mile Men’s race. We love seeing new paddlers embrace the community and fall in love with the sport!

Superior Paddling: Washburn Board Across the Bay

I’ve lived most of my life in close proximity to the Great Lakes, but I didn’t understand magnitude of what that meant until I spent time on the shores of Lake Superior. The largest body of freshwater (by volume) in the world is cold, dark, and unforgiving. It has taken the lives of countless sailors and it has a way of making a person feel small. From that cruelty and sense of insignificance, comes a sense of awe, and perhaps in a strange way, even love. It is beautiful and unpredictable.

photo credit Karl Eugster
photo credit Karl Eugster

Wisconsin is famous for its miles of rocky Lake Michigan shoreline, but few who don’t live in its northernmost regions grow to appreciate it’s 325 miles of Lake Superior shoreline. That coast stretches for Superior Wisconsin, a sister city to Duluth, MN., to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. This area includes the Bayfield Peninsula that juts out into the lake and includes the Apostle Islands, a group of 22 islands that scatter the near shore. On the south side of the peninsula is Chequamegon Bay, a large well-protected Harbor that at one time was a very active port for freighters hauling iron ore.

photo credit Karl Eugster
photo credit Karl Eugster

At some point, someone decided the crossing the 14 mile mouth of the bay  and back on a paddle board was a good idea and Washburn Board Across the Bay was born. This past Saturday 25 hearty paddlers tackled 3,7, and 14-miles distance races with the latter stretching from Washburn to Ashland, WI.

photo credit Karl Eugster
photo credit Karl Eugster

In the women’s 3-mile race, Kris Sprinkmann came out ahead of Shannon Wald. Jack Williams, Mark Oneil, and Jason Gilman went 1,2,3 in the men’s 12’6” class. Steve Freiburger paddled an unlimited, and Thom Ernst paddled a surfstyle.

photo credit Karl Eugster
14 mile podium :: photo credit Karl Eugster

The 7-mile Women’s race was won by Beth Poliquin, with Elizabeth Andre, and Gina Nelson finishing out the podium all on 12’6” boards. Jodi Supanich completed the distance on a surfstyle. In the Men’s division John Mundahl was the sole male on a 14”, Rich Engel took the win in 12’6” class. Aistis Tumas and Daniel Miller went 1-2 in surfstyle.

In the 14-mile premier race Liese Pfeifer was the sole female competitor on an unlimited class board.  Midwest stalwart Karl Eugster took the win on 12’6” board. Special props to Nick Robertson for completing the distance on a surfstyle and Ryan White for completing on a prone board.

The story of the day goes to Jared Munch  who not won the Men’s 14’ class, but did so just two days after completing a 920 mile, yes you read that right, paddleboard journey from Duluth to the Arctic Ocean (you read that right too).


Full results can be found here.

12”6” Winner Karl Eugster on the day:

We had a great and challenging race at Washburn across the bay, I would almost say it was like Crystal Lake last week but double the distance, 14 miles exactly. The start was nice and easy flat water with just a little headwind, after that first left turn of the big inverted Z course heading southeast aiming for the lighthouse we started to get gradual increasing side chop up to around 10″ and about 10 mph cross wind. The lighthouse is about 2/3rd across the bay and from there we have the break water giving smooth conditions until the right turn southeast straight into the wind. After the 180 turn at the end, there was a nice little down winder then flat water again until the lighthouse and then the side chop again and the wind more head-on from the west 10 to 15 mph. After the last turn northbound we faced some crosswind but then smooth water and a cheerful welcome after just over 3 hours on the water.

Earning Your Downwind: Lexington Huron Paddle Fest

An hour and half north of Detroit, is the quaint little town of Lexington, MI. The water is blue and warm, and the sand is clean and fine. The downtown full of cute touristy shops, and the marina well stocked with yachts, sailboats, and sport fishing boats.

photos by Todd Michael Jolicoeur

Great Lakes Surf Shop and race organizes Brian LeFeve and Kevin Cansiani are well connected in this part of the state and the event took place on a private beach just south of the municipal marina and breakwater. Some people even camped on the beach the night before the race. It was the perfect location for this annual low-key grassroots race.

Early morning clouds and rain showers quickly gave way to sunshine and bluebird skies. Temps in the low 80’s. a perfect Michigan day except…

S SSW winds 13 gusting to 17.

photos by Todd Michael Jolicoeur
photos by Todd Michael Jolicoeur

Luckily, the North/South orientation of the beach allowed for the 7-mile Long course to be se directly up wind/downwind with a short side-wind section directly in front of the start/finish area. The long race consisted of three laps with a beach start and finish.

The long race took of shortly after 9am. The start was fairly clean, with just a couple get-offs. Midwest powerhouse Alex Sandler was first to the initial buoy but took a wide line into open water. Brian LeFeve powered underneath and immediately went to work pulling away from the field. Kevin Cansiani an Tristan Patrona were left to battle for third, followed by the husband and wife team of Jen and Nick Yates. Wendy Anderson gave chase.

Brian Lefeve was able to establish a huge lead on the rest of field, his experience in these waters and superior fitness was clearly evident. Once the race order was established there were very little changes in positions throughout the remainder of the race. The upwind sections were tough, with wind and waves from 1-3 feet and the occasional boat wake, but the struggle proved worth it as the down wind sections were just flat out fun.

At the race’s end, it was Brian Lefeve, Alex Sandler, and Kevin Cansiani for the men and Jen Yates over Wendy Anderson for the women. Nick Yates was the lone 12’6” entry. Mike Bartos once again tackled a long race on a surfstyle and was the only entry for the class.   

Women’s long race winner Jen Yates was clearly stoked about the downwind conditions and when asked to comment on her win, she commented:

“Bumps!, Bumps! , Bumps!”

3rd place Men’s finisher Alex Sandler:

I had a really good start, once Brian went “snorkeling ” at the very beginning. Felt great leading the group into the 1st upwind leg. However, sure enough Brian regained his dominance soon and came ahead of me before the upwind buoy. The downwind section of the course was really choppy. I was soooo hoping that my beautiful NSP Carolina will show me her best qualities, but, alas, I couldn’t really enjoy the effortless ride for the 1st downwind section towards the beach. I was not able to relax and ride the bumps. I had to put the hammer down and sprint – sprint-sprint.

I tried everything to stick close to Brian, but at the beach turning buoy I was at least 100 yards behind that Beast! Have to mention that not being able to see the buoy played a cruel role in my performance. I ended up getting so far into the lake on the upwind section and kept falling into the same trap over and over on each lap. I am not bummed with the result at all though! I was finally able to relax more on the finishing leg and that gave me an ability to totally appreciate the strength and direction of the wind. That was so remarkable!

Conditions got a little worse after the long race with the wind picking up a little more. Fortunately, the short course was a bit different with the course turning north into the protected waters of the break wall after a brief side swell leg. Again, a beach start and finish with three laps for just over 2 miles.

In most events it seems that the long race gets’ s top billing, but at the Lexington Huron Paddlefest, the women’s short race stole the show. Laura Kinnie, Gail Olsen, and Julie Ann went at it hard, hanging positions multiple times each and every lap. It would be easy to imagine the competition as red-faced and stern, but that wasn’t the case at all. You could clearly hear them cheering each other on and just flat out having a good time with it. Gail Olsen came in first, and added some drama when she couldn’t quite get her leash off, it looked like Julie Ann might be able to beat her on the run to the line, but Gail was able to pull it together for the win, Laura Kinnie was mere seconds behind. Race winner Gail Olsen after the race:

This is my second season paddling and my first win!!!   After happily coming in last place with a personal best in the 6-mile race last week at the Up North Classic, it was such a shock to come in first in the rec race at the Lexington Huron Paddlefest!  The cheering and support from fellow paddlers and friends gave me the energy to keep going when I felt like slowing down! Hope to see more newbies like me in upcoming races!

Julie Ann commented:

It was a great group of people, with some tough wind conditions.  I loved the intense competitive spirit, balanced with camaraderie and sincerely cheering each other on.  Great times!

3rd place Finisher Laura Kinne:

I’m grateful the organizers changed the course for 2-mile race based on the winds for our safety. It was still a challenging course with a great group of paddlers. It was a close race with 3 or 4 lead changes. We all capitalized at different times, learned from each other & cheered everyone on.  At the finish line we congratulated each other and said how much fun that was.  In the end that’s what matters, having fun & finishing.

Bill Marttila edged out Scott Meade in the short race.

Full race results here.

After the day’s races were done, it was a short walk to the Windjammer restaurant for awards, food and drink. The perfect end to an almost perfect Michigan race day. Race organizer Kevin Cansiani commented:

I want to thank everyone for coming out to yesterday’s race! Brian (LeFeve) and I are so proud of all the racers. Every year we put on a tough race, and this year, every racer took that challenge to heart.  I saw a lot of adversity, but through it all, there were a ton of smiles!!!

Midwest Paddle League heads to the windy city next weekend for Lagoonapalooza and the Chicago SUP Lake Michigan Open Water Challenge.  This is a two-day event featuring both protected 3- and 6-mile races on Saturday, with a 10-mile open water race on Sunday.

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.