Another Time Around Belle Isle: Paddle Racing Makes Triumphant Return to the Motor City

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Kim Barnes Flying Fish Midwest Paddle League
Global Partner

The MidWest Paddle League launches into the Summer’22 SUP racing season with the Belle Isle Classic in Detroit, Michigan!  A great day on the Detroit river.  Check it out here…

Belle Isle Midwest Paddle League SUP racing
Racers jostle at the start of the Belle Isle Classic with women’s leader Kim Barnes looking for clear water to establish her lead. Photo: Terry McNamara

Belle Isle Classic, Detroit:  Midwest Paddle League Kick-Off Event

July 17, 20220 Detroit, MI – It’s hard to pick a storyline, there are so many angles to approach how significant Sunday’s Belle Isle Classic race was to the Midwest paddle racing scene, and ultimately to city of Detroit itself. Depending on your perspective all of the following could be interesting themes:

  • A race once thought lost makes a phoenix-like return from the ashes.
  • 120 paddlers show up based on a promise and a memory of a thing that once was and is again. 
  • The Midwest Paddle League Community rises to welcome new paddlers into the fold. 
  • The determination of Dan Novak overcomes all obstacles. 
  • Volunteers from many areas of the community make it happen.
  • Paddlers from 7 different countries show up for a race that happens in two.
Belle Isle Classic Midwest paddle league
With the great city of Detroit as a backdrop, racers like Eri Torino (pictured here) take on the Detroit river. Photo by:  Terry McNamara

Community is Everything:  Midwest Paddle League

If you were there, you get to pick your own storyline, for the rest of you, you’ll just have to settle for this description of events and live in the regret that you really should have made more of an effort to attend. The good news is, there is next year. This is the first time in several years that can be said.

As dawn broke over the beach at Belle Isle on race morning, there was a definite sense of anticipation, uncertainty, and hope. Anticipation of fun, competition, and camaraderie. Uncertainty, about whether or not it would be as fun as the predecessor race (OABI). Some real uncertainty about the start location and condition of the beach (c’mon State of Michigan, you can do better). Uncertainty that the weather would hold out (it did).

And hope.

Hope for a brand-new era, a brand-new audience, a brand-new set of participants to enjoy a lap around Belle Isle. One way or another, that hope was fulfilled.

Belle Isle Classic Detroit River Michigan
One lap around Belle Isle in the midst of the Detroit river is the race course for this Midwest Paddle League’s kickoff event. Photo by: Courtney Welch

Belle Isle Classic:  Detroit River SUP Racing

The race concept is simple, one clockwise lap of Belle Isle, a historic island nestled in the Detroit River, mere feet from the Canadian border. The reality is that the race is a mile-and-half slog up-river against the current only to be faced by swirling current making its way around the tip of island. On a good day, like race day this year, once you make it around the tip, your treated to a fast downriver 3-mile jaunt with minimal boat wake. Though this year’s race was visited briefly by a passing freighter. The finish is a challenging ~1.5 mile segment back upriver to the start/finish line.

Tandem Racing: Surfskis and Coastal Rowers

With 100+ paddlers, a mass water start was the order of the day. In a unique twist, there was one tandem coastal scull, captained by Roseann Kirchoff, that completed the course in an unbelievable 54 minutes and change.

There were several other tandem craft, Michael Meredith and Sarah Jones piloted a 2-up surfski, while Chuck Sisunik and Jacque Sisunik bested Chris Murphy and  Andrea Waters in the OC2 division.

Solo Paddlers:  Surfski, OC-1 and SUP

Scott Cummins on a surfski was the fastest single-occupant craft on the day with a very fast 56 minute time. Mark Irish and John Alguire rounded out the sufrski podium.

The OC1/C1 division was also hotly contested with Ted Burnell, Shane Peterson, and Christopher Devries all with a few minutes of each other.

Belle Isle Classic Detroit River Midwest Paddle League
Men’s 14′ SUP Winners from L to R: John Meskauskas (4th), John Batson (2nd), Eri Tenorio (1st), Derek Schrotter (5th). Photo by: Courtney Welch

The SUP 14’ division was dominated by Flying Fish team riders from both Florida and Canada.

Eri Tenorio set the pace, but just missed the one-hour mark. John Batson from Canada took 2nd in Men’s, with teammates John Meskauskas, and Derek Schrotter finishing 4th and 5th. Team rider Kimberly Barnes was the runaway winner in the women’s 14’ division.

Midwest local Jay James preserved some Midwest pride by claiming the 3rd spot on the men’s 14’ podium.

Kim Barnes Flying Fish Midwest Paddle League
Female racers make the charge on the Detroit River at the Belle Isle Classic in Michigan. Photo by: Terry McNamara

As per usual this season, some of the most exciting racing came in the women’s 14’ division, and while world class athlete Kim Barnes took off at the front, Canadian Danielle Holdsworth showed real strength in her 2nd place finish. Julie Miller turned in her best paddle of the season beating both strong competitors Kattie Carpenter and Kirsten Marina Lefeldt.

In the under 17’ Kayak/Surfski class Robert Drummond led Tim Shellabarger and Caleb Alley for the men’s. Missy Kinyon led Gwenn Stevenson and Patricia Fedewa for the ladies.

Kim Barnes Midwest Paddle League Belle Isle Classic
Kim Barnes (1st) is no stranger to the podium, she is joined by Canadian Danielle Holdsworth (2nd), Julie Miller (3rd), Kattie Carpenter (4th) and Kirsten Marina Lefeldt (5th). Photo by: Courtney Welch

Race director Daniel Novak bested Tristan Patrona and Tim Saunders on prone boards.

A few brave souls braved the racecourse on boards under 14’. Zachary Root was the fastest of them, followed by Kenneth Mckay. Kyrra Springer was the fastest lady, followed by Rebecca Trapp, and Bonnie Fahoome.

Full results can be found here.

Stay tuned for MORE news from the Midwest Paddle League as the summer season unfolds ahead

 



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Harrison is an avid paddler and mid-to-back-of-pack racer who currently resides in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Harrison serves on the boards of the Midwest Paddle League and USA SUP. Currently trying his hand at prone and has grand designs on an OC1 if he ever gets a garage big enough to store it. Harrison is an Org Design/Development/Performance Improvement Consultant by day and regularly publishes on business topics. He is also the author of Organization Horsepower (RockBench 2014).