The Midwest Paddle League has a great 2020 season planned with someone for everyone. One of the league’s priorities this year is to continue to promote our events as not just a race, but also destination worthy recreation opportunities. The league has been working with our event promoters to offer more than just races, but also Friday night gatherings, clinics, and post-race activities.

Come for the race, stay for the weekend.  Or better yet, there are several opportunities with races on back to back to back weekends to make a vacation out of it.

Most people don’t realize it, but the Midwest offers places that are some of the most beautiful in the US and the world, this season preview is intended to give you some ideas on where our events are planned and what else there is to do with the rest of your weekend or week-long paddle vacation.

Schedule at-a-glance (click to jump to preview):

MAY 30-Gun Lake Paddle Battle (MI)
JUN 20-Sprint & Splash (MI)
JUN 20-45th Parallel Paddle Festival (MI)
JUN 27-Great Lakes Paddle Challenge (MI)
JUL 11-Midwest Paddle Festival (WI)
JUL 18-Up North SUP Classic (MI)
JUL 25-Clear Lake Paddlefest (IA)
JUL 25-Washburn Across the Bay (WI)
AUG 01-Lagoonapalooza (IL)
AUG 02-Lake Michigan Challenge (IL)
AUG 08-Power Island RAPA NUI (MI)
AUG 15-Beach2Beach (IL)
AUG 23-Sky an Oar for Guardian Angels (IN)
AUG 29-Lexington Huron Paddlefest (MI)
SEP 12-Paddle for YOUR Cause (MI)
SEP 19-Whatever It Takes on Gun Lake (MI)

 

Gun Lake Paddle Battle

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Shelbyville, Michigan

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Gun Lake Paddle Battle 2019
Photo Doug Vojtko

 

The event: The first race of the season is always an exciting time, Midwest paddlers are itching to get back on the water after a long cold winter of being locked out of paddling due to ice.   Last year’s event featured over 40 paddlers. This year with the inclusion of the open class, attendance should be well over 50.

Stuff to do: Gun Lake is ideally situated just north of Kalamazoo and just south of Grand Rapids. That places it in the middle of Michigan micro-brew nirvana. Sample Grand Rapids best by visiting Founder’s, Perrin, And Brewery Vivant. Head south to Kalamazoo and hit up Bell’s, or head west, for a paddle on Lake Michigan with stops at New Holland and Odd Side Ales.

If beer isn’t your thing, there’s also a casino within a couple miles of the lake. There’s also a state park on the lake that offers hiking and mountain bike riding.

How to get there: Just a few miles of US-131, or an easy 30-minute drive from Grand Rapids International Airport.

Where to stay: Camp at Yankee Springs State Park, Get an AirBNB on or near the lake, or stay at a local hotel. Bay Point Inn is right on the water.

 

45th Parallel Paddle Festival

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Suttons Bay, Michigan

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Photo Harrison Withers

The event: The most scenic event on our schedule features 3 days of awesome fun.

Day 1: Friday (June 19) will be our annual Solstice paddle which will be held on Old mission peninsula in front of the Jolly Pumpkin. You can paddle around along the beach or go longer and head out to Power Island (6 Miles round trip)

Day 2: Saturday (June 20) will be the main events. 6-mile elite race 3-mile Recreational race, and a short Technical race. There will also be a free kids race. 13 and under. The race venue and after-party will be at French Valley Vineyards, a working vineyard with a tasting room located right on the shore of Suttons bay (Lake Michigan)

Day 3: Sunday (June 21) will be a fun adventure paddle out to either some cool spot or hopefully a shipwreck. (details are still in the works)

Stuff to do: Traverse City is where Michigan goes to play. The area features a wide variety of outdoor activities and is well-known for it’s biking and golf. It is also Michigan’s chief wine-producing area with dozens of wineries in addition to the event venue. The area also has several breweries and distilleries. However, the real draw is the scenery. It’s an absolutely beautiful are that should definitely be on your bucket list.

How to get there: It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. United, American, Delta, and Allegiant fly into Cherry Capitol Airport (TVC), but flights are limited and tend to be more expensive. It’s a 3 Hour drive from Grand Rapids International (GRR) and 4.5 hours from Detroit (DTW). Fortunately, there will be plenty of folks heading up for the weekend from those areas and I’m betting you could hitch a ride.

Where to stay: This is a very tourist-oriented area and as such there are a myriad of options from camping, hotels, and AirBNB. The Vineyard Inn and The Carriage House are super close to the venue. Traverse City State Park is 30 minutes away.

The big trip: Come in for this race, spend the week paddling around Michigan and go to the Great Lakes Challenge the following weekend, Two races, one trip!

 

Sprint & Splash

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Harrison Township, Michigan

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photo Harrison Withers

The event: Multi-discipline event featuring a 5k, duathlon, 2-mile kayak, and short and long SUP classes. This race get’s a ton of community support and has a festival-like atmosphere in a clean and well-kept park. The racecourse is challenging as it’s on a windy part of Lake St. Clair and can get some rough water. He long distance course features an open water leg, that rounds a very technical breakwater before heading into a protected residential channel. Rough water in the Midwest is pretty different than the ocean as wave intervals are much shorter and less predictable than the ocean. This race can be a real challenge!

Stuff to do: The race venue is pretty close to downtown Detroit, so recreational opportunities are city oriented. Despite it’s rough reputation, Detroit is a great city with world-class museums, restaurants and 3 big casinos. If you want to stay on the water, take a lap of Belle Isle (the OABI Course) or book a a folil lesson with Brian LeFeve at Great Lakes Surf Shop.

How to get there: 40 Minutes from Detroit’s airport, and hour from Flint’s Bishop Airport (FNT). Just a few miles off I-94.

Where to stay: Not a super tourist-oriented area, hotels are nearby in St. Clair Shores or Mt. Clemons. Make friends with someone on the Midwest Paddle League Facebook page, and invite yourself to stay with them.

The big trip: Come in for this race, spend the week paddling around Michigan and go to the Great Lakes Challenge the following weekend, Two races, one trip!

 

Great Lakes Paddle Challenge

Saturday, June 27, 2020

West Olive, Michigan

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Photo Deric Curtis

The event: This event is quickly becoming one of the premier events on the Midwest schedule. Race organizer Dave Meade is a master organizer who has set his goal of having over 100 paddlers at this year’s event and in all likelihood will surpass those expectations. This is a Lake Michigan open-water race, meaning it could get a little bumpy. In any case this race will give you a spectacular experience as you paddle along pristine white-sand beach leading up to enormous sand bluffs and Caribbean blue water. The schedule is jam packed with Friday-night social paddles and a clinic put on by 404 team rider Matt Hassenrink. Race day has a full set of classes including surfskis and outriggers. There is also bonus technical races and even a relay. Kid’s race is also on the docket. Last year the event also featured thousands of dollars in free raffle prizes in addition to one of the best swag bags on the schedule. If you can only make one race in the Midwest, this one deserves to be on the short list.

Stuff to do: The west coast of Michigan is all out about the beach, which rivals beaches anywhere in the world. If you can’t find something to do here, you probably don’t like the water that much. Surfing, kiting, foiling, downwinders are all on the docket. But for night life, Grand Haven, Holland, and a Saugatuck are all close. Saugatuck is an almost stereotypical Lake Michigan tourist town but jam packed with art galleries and boutique shops. Holland is a bit larger with a vibrant downtown. Grand Haven boasts a musical fountain that goes off at dusk every night with a super walk-able downtown. If you have to bribe the kids, Michigan’s Adventure theme park is just north.

How to get there: Less than an hour from the Grand Rapids airport, less than 3 from Detroit, and Less than 3 hours from Chicago’s Midway. Amtrak is an option from the latter with a nice ride along the coast up to Holland.

Where to stay: Camping, Hotels, and VRBO/AirBNB are all available options.

The big trip: Make a week out of it! There are two races in Michigan the weekend before this one, pick one and enjoy what Michigan has to offer in between!

 

Midwest Paddle Festival

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Oconomowoc, Wisconsin

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Photo Doug Vojtko

The event: Put on by Paddleboard Specialists one of the premier shops in the US, this event is another of the larger events on our schedule. Clinics and SUP yoga are on the agenda as well as a full spread of race classes.

Stuff to do: Located between Madison and Milwaukee in an area with a ton of lakes and the Rock River, you’ll have no trouble finding great paddling. Head over to Madison for a great college town vibe, or Milwaukee to re-enact your favorite Laverne & Shirley fantasies. The Wisconsin Dells (waterpark mecca) are less than 2 hours away if you need to bribe the kids. All the PBR and cheese your heart can take.

How to get there: Milwaukee’s Mitchell airport (MKE) is less than 45 minutes away, or Chicago O’Hare is just a touch over 2 hours. For an added adventure, the is a high speed car ferry that crosses lake Michigan from Muskegon to Milwaukee.

Where to stay: the race has an awesome resource site to book lodging here.

The big trip: Come in for this race, spend the week paddling around in either Wisconsin or Michigan, and then take the ferry from Milwaukee to Muskegon and head north for the Up North Classic the following weekend. Two races, one trip!

 

Up North SUP Classic

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Beulah, Michigan

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Photo Doug Vojtko

The event: Back to the Traverse City are in Michigan, but this time in a lower key, smaller town setting. All the beauty, without as large of a crowd. Race venue is a city park with great walking access to a small downtown area. Course is in the east end of the bay and crosses the bay, so the potential for wind related challenge is a possibility. Race is super well run with Friday night social, and full race class schedule, including kids races. This race is pretty unique in that is also features a Downwind race.

Stuff to do: Traverse City is where Michigan goes to play. The area features a wide variety of outdoor activities and is well-known for its biking and golf. It is also Michigan’s chief wine-producing area with dozens of wineries in addition to the event venue. The area also has several breweries and distilleries. However, the real draw is the scenery. It’s an absolutely beautiful are that should definitely be on your bucket list.

How to get there: It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. United, American, Delta, and Allegiant fly into Cherry Capitol Airport (TVC), but flights are limited and tend to be more expensive. It’s a 3 Hour drive from Grand Rapids International (GRR) and 4.5 hours from Detroit (DTW). Fortunately, there will be plenty of folks heading up for the weekend from those areas and I’m betting you could hitch a ride.

Where to stay: Beulah has a very small town feel and doesn’t really have any chain hotels. VRBO/AirBNB are possibilities and camping is relatively close by. Last year I stayed at the Cold Creek Inn, which an old style hotel above a bar/restaurant. Drink up, then stumble up.

The big trip: Come in the week before and do the Midwest Paddle Festival, spend the week paddling around in either Wisconsin or Michigan, and then take the ferry from Milwaukee to Muskegon and head north for this race. Two races, one trip!

-or-

Come in for this race, take the trip of a lifetime through the Upper Peninsula (U.P.) of Michigan on your way to the Washburn Across the Bay race the following weekend. The UP is an amazing place filled with waterfalls and amazing paddling/hiking/biking.

 

Board Across the Bay

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Washburn, Wisconsin

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Photo Karl Eugster

The event: THE ONLY LAKE SUPERIOR RACE! You want to paddle the largest freshwater lake in the US, this is it, this is your chance. Race also offers a 14-mile option in addition to 3 and 7-mile options. Friday night social/historical paddle from race registration site at Memorial Park, starting at 6PM. Memorial Park was a favorite haunt of Tom Blake, the legendary surfer who grew up in Washburn. Tom would paddle from the park along the shoreline to Houghton’s Point where he would enjoy the scenery and sea cliffs along the way.

Group paddle will follow his route with options to turn back at any time to shorten the trip. For those up for the full paddle, we’ll stop at Houghton’s Point for a hike up Echo Dells and check out the point where nature-lovers used to catch the ferry to Madeline Island.

Stuff to do: Held in conjunction with the Washburn Homecoming festival there is a full list of activities including:

  • Car Show & Live Music
  • Art & Craft Vendors
  • Food
  • Huge Parade with Professional Bands
  • Family Activities
  • Historic Tours
  • Street Dance Friday and Saturday Night
  • Fireworks

How to get there: Anyway you cut it, Washburn is pretty remote. Your going to have to drive a ways unless you fly into Duluth, MN. (DLH) which is about an hour away. What you get in return for your travel efforts is a super cute little town, amazing Lake Superior views and the kind of stuff you only get when you an hour from the closest airport.

Where to stay: You have about a half dozen options in the area, with the fanciest being a Best Western, but if your concerned with such things, this probably isn’t your kind of race anyway. The is a campground in Ashland very close to the finish line.

The big trip:  Come in the weekend before to do the Up North Classic, take the trip of a lifetime through the Upper Peninsula (U.P.) of Michigan on your way to this race. The UP is an amazing place filled with waterfalls and amazing paddling/hiking/biking.

-or-

Come in for this race and drive down to Chicago for back-to-back races the very next weekend.

 

Clear Lake Paddlefest

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Clear Lake, Iowa

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The event: Kinda funny to think about, but this is the most “Midwest” race in the Midwest series. Really big lake in a really small town, this event is dominated by kayaks and canoes, with a small but dedicated contingent of passionate paddlers. Well run event with a large contingent of classes.

Stuff to do: Clear Lake is the attraction in this town, and the town is built around the tourism it attracts. Quaint downtown. A historical side note, the Surf Ballroom downtown is the site where Buddy Holley, Ritchie Valens, and “the Big Bopper” played their last show and is the site of the plane crash.

How to get there: Not easily. Des Moines and Minneapolis are the closes major cities with airports and both are about 120 miles away.

Where to stay: The chamber of commerce has a supper friendly directory of places to stay here.

The big trip:  Come in for this race and make the 6-hour drive to Chicago for back-to-back races the very next weekend.

 

The Chicago Weekend

Lagoonapalooza

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Chicago, Illinois

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AND

Lake Michigan Challenge

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Chicago, Illinois

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Photo Shannon Carr

The event: These two races are the Midwest’s “big city” events and take place right in the heart of Chicago. Lagoonapalooza is a more technical race in the protected waters of a lagoon, whereas the Lake Michigan challenge is an open water 10-mile affair.

Stuff to do: You may need to check your pulse if you need a guide to what to do in the 3rd largest city in the US. In short, you do whatever you want to, and there are at least 3 places to do anything you can think of.

How to get there: Trains, planes, and automobiles are all viable options.

Where to stay: All options available in terms of accommodations but comes with the challenges of being in a big city. Board storage has been available in years past. Might be a better idea to stay in the ‘burbs and drive in for the race each day.

The big trip:  Come in the weekend before for either Clear Lake and make the 6-hour drive to Chicago, or Washburn Across the Bay and drive 7 hours.

OR

Fly in for this weekend and then head north for Rapi Nui the following weekend.

 

Power Island RAPA NUI

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Traverse City, Michigan

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Photo Jody Mackey

The event: Rapa Nui is a different kind of race. Paddle 3 miles out to Power Island in the bay, run a lap of the island (about 2 miles), and paddle 3 miles back. Race organizer Dan Novak offers cash prizes if you can set a course record in any class and there seems to be a class for about every kind of boat and board. This year Dan has some big things planned including a group campsite and a relay race where every person on the team has to paddle a different kind of craft. Everyone who goes to this race has LOVED it.

Stuff to do: This is the league’s 3rd and final race in the Traverse City area, and the myriad of recreation has been covered in the other two previews. But this race promises to be jam packed with group activities for those that want to participate. You will not be bored unless you want to be.

How to get there: It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. United, American, Delta, and Allegiant fly into Cherry Capitol Airport (TVC), but flights are limited and tend to be more expensive. It’s a 3 Hour drive from Grand Rapids International (GRR) and 4.5 hours from Detroit (DTW). Fortunately, there will be plenty of folks heading up for the weekend from those areas and I’m betting you could hitch a ride.

Where to stay: The group campsite that is being set up promised to be super fun, but if your not a sleep in a tent kinda person. There are plenty of hotels and rentals in the area.

The big trip:  Come in the weekend before for Chicago and drive up the West Michigan coast stopping at any number of beach towns along the way.

OR

Fly in for this weekend and then head south for Beach2Beach the following weekend.

 

BEACH2BEACH

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Highland Park, IL

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The event: This is a new event on the schedule, but we have some great expectations. The race is in Highland Park which is just north of Chicago, the plan is to start on one beach and finish at another, so downwind conditions could be possible. This is an open water Lake Michigan race and will present a challenging course as such

Stuff to do: This is essentially Chicago, so the city sits at your feet. Do city stuff, or stay near the beach and enjoy the big lake.

How to get there: Planes, trains, and automobiles, all modes stop in Chicago.

Where to stay: Kind of a high rent neighborhood so the hotels are a short drive from the water, but the usual chains are all present. AirBNB/VRBO maybe a better option for this one.

The big trip: Come in the weekend before for Rapa Nui, and head down for this race the following weekend.

 

Sky an Oar for Guardian Angels

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Noblesville, Indiana

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Photo Doug Vojtko

 

The event: this is the 5th year running for this event, which is low key but with a lot of local participation. Lot’s of kids and families at this one and a great atmosphere.  

Stuff to do: Noblesville is just north of Indianapolis, so go kiss the bricks at the speedway or partake of what the city has to offer, or stay local and enjoy  the busy and vibrant reservoir.

How to get there: Indianapolis airport (IND) is less than an hour away

Where to stay: Lots of Hotels and rentals in the area. Camping is a little further away.

The big trip: Come in the weekend before for Beach2Beach, and head down for this race the following weekend.

 

Lexington Huron SUP Challenge

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Lexington, Michigan

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photo by Todd Michael Jolicoeur

The event: Low key race on a beautiful beach on Lake Huron right next to a super cute downtown area. Short races are on the lee side of a breakwater and marina, long course braves open water. Super popular and fun relay races, with an after party at a restaurant within walking distance.

Stuff to do: Great little beach town, fishing charters, and of course paddling, abound.

How to get there: 1.5 hours from either Detroit or Flint airports

Where to stay: Race venue is on a private residential beach adjacent to a marina. Years past, beach camping was available on site. Several small hotels and B&B’s close by.

The big trip: Come in the weekend before for Noblesville, and head down for this race the following weekend.

 

Paddle for YOUR Cause

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Lake Lansing, Michigan

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Photo Doug Vojtko

The event: Last chance to earn some points before the season finale. Small low-traffic lake in mid-Michigan. Well attended last year, and a lot of fun with an after party at a bar adjacent to the beach.

Stuff to do: College town (Michigan State) with lot’s of stuff to do, or stay off the beaten path and paddle the hundred of lakes that dot the surrounding areas.

How to get there: 1.25 hours from Detroit airport or just 20 minutes from the Capital Region International (LAN).

Where to stay: Hotels are plentiful and cheap in Lansing, a short 15-minute drive away.

The big trip: Come in for this race and stay for the season finale the following weekend.

 

Whatever it Takes on Gun Lake

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Shelbyville, Michigan

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Photo Doug Vojtko

The event: Last race of the season! Well attended race with season end awards at a bar just down the street. Over 50 paddlers last year and this year promises to be even bigger.

Stuff to do: Gun Lake is ideally situated just north of Kalamazoo and just south of Grand Rapids. That places it in the middle of Michigan micro-brew nirvana. Sample Grand Rapids best by visiting Founder’s, Perrin, And Brewery Vivant. Head south to Kalamazoo and hit up Bell’s, or head west, for a paddle on Lake Michigan with stops at New Holland and Odd Side Ales.

If beer isn’t your thing, there’s also a casino within a couple miles of the lake. There’s also a state park on the lake that offers hiking and mountain bike riding.

How to get there: Just a few miles of US-131, or an easy 30-minute drive from Grand Rapids International Airport.

Where to stay: Camp at Yankee Springs State Park, Get an AirBNB on or near the lake, or stay at a local hotel. Bay Point Inn is right on the water.

The big trip: Come in the week before for Lake Lansing, and stay for the season finale, just a short 1.5 hours away!

 

About the Midwest Paddle League

Welcome to the Midwest Paddle League – designated for paddlers, by paddlers. If you’ve never raced before, or you race most weekends, with kids 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.

www.midwestpaddleleague.com

The Midwest Paddle League is proudly sponsored by Aqua Adventures, Footstake, and Paddle Monster.

 

 

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