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6/4/2022 Shelbyville, MI aka Gun Lake Paddle Battle. This is at least the 4th time I’ve written a race recap for this race.

Sometimes it’s warm.

Sometimes it’s windy.

Sometimes the course zigs when it should have zagged.

Regardless of the weather the course or any other such detail, the Gun Lake Paddle Battle is ALWAYS the first race of the Midwest Paddle League schedule, and it’s ALWAYS a great race ran by the excellent folks at Shaka SUP Racing.

This year is absolutly no exception, sunny, slightly breezy, and a counter-clockwise 4-bouy diamond shaped course. Simple out and back for the 1-mile rec race. 2 laps for the 5k, 4 laps for 10k.

There was racing, sometimes it was close, but the real story of the 20022 season opener was 18 first time racers! A dozen and half brand spanking new addiction candidates just waiting to get hooked on the best drug since coffee. That’s more fresh meat than Alice’s boyfriend the butcher from the Brady Bunch had on a Tuesday morning. And the vast majority of them were women. That’s what our sport needs more than anything, the nourishment and replenishment that comes with new paddlers from all walks of life.

It's really something the league has only tracked since they started handing out new paddler welcome gifts last season, but no one can remember a single event that even came close.

The all-female one-mile race set off first, Jennifer Pollock was first across the line followed by Hollee Meged in the kayak division, the hotly contested SUP division was won by Joyce Beukema, Autumn Hogle, and Lisa Wright flanked the podium.

Next up was the 1Ok race with the surfskis setting the pace. New comer Pieter Visser blistered the course, followed my Mark Irish, and Jon Henderson. Kilted Dan Novak took an early lead and never looked back. Alex Sandler and Jay James took 2nd and third respectively.

Yeah, the dudes were fast, but for my money, the women’s division is more fun to watch. Kattie Carpenter has been on fire the last two season sand she came out swinging in the opening round, but Julie Miller has been training hard and has made up some ground in the offseason. I can’t wait to see what happens as the season unfolds.

Hilary Bryson came out on her OC1, tristan patrona came saw and conquered on a prone, and Al Mussman braved the 10k on a 12’6” inflatable.

After the 10k, got started, the 5k competitors took to the blocks. A crowded field of almost 40, the popularity of the manageable and fun 5k is proving out in paddling as it has in running. For the men, a familiar trio of Doug Vojtko, Adam Rivera, and Ofer Meged led the way on 14’ boards. Jessi Lynn won for the women after being absent from the races for a little while. In just her second season, Risa Starkopf is coming on strong, Ryan Meade continues to show that she’s a factor in every race she enters.

The 12’6” is alive and well in Shaka SUP events with Aaron Lugo, Chad Retzlaff, and Bill Essling making the men’s podium, and Rebecca Trapp, Christine Armstrong, and Misty Marcum Rolfs taking top honors for the women.

Full results can be found here.

Lots of pictures are here.

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

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