5 paddling events for 2020
BY REBECCA DAVIS
At the beginning of each year, I start mapping out my races and events for the next season. I have some old favorites that always make the calendar, but I also aim to fit in a new event or two. It gets me excited to push through with my training, even when the weather isn’t the best for paddling. I like to focus on developing new skills that might come in handy for the different events, and I enjoy meeting people that I may not see at my usual events. Simply put, trying new things helps me grow, keeps me engaged, and makes it fun. Here are a few “under the radar” races that have caught my eye for 2020. As a disclaimer, these dates are tentative, so make sure to check websites and Facebook for more information.
M-22 Challenge June 13, 2020
The M-22 challenge is definitely the largest event on the list, but as it is not the typical ultra, it may not be a “peak” event for a pure paddler. It is a triathlon taking place on the Sleeping Bear Dunes Lakeshore near Glen Arbor, MI, with one leg each trail run, road bike, and paddling. M-22 Challenge definitely boasts a high level of competition, and attracts athletes from all three disciplines looking to show their dominance. The course is part of what makes the event so challenging, and unique. Racers start by running 2.5 miles, which involves running up and down and sand dune. Next, they transition to a 17 mile road bike that is lauded as one of the most scenic courses in Michigan, complete with requisite hills. The race finishes with a 2.5 mile paddle across Little Glen Lake- a stretch that is known to be a bit rough. All crafts and abilities are welcome- SUP, surfski, kayak, outrigger, canoe, and any other solo craft can be seen on the water. Mark your calendar for March 1st if you want to have a shot at this event, usually the race will sell out within a few hours of opening registration.
Al’s Round Robin July, 2020
Have you always wanted to race with someone, but don’t have the courage to ask? Do you want to sharpen your skills in one action-packed weekend? Check out Al’s Round Robin- a semi-annual event in Minneapolis, Minnesota where racers compete C2 in a series of small lap courses with every person signed up for the event. At the end of the day, times for each person are tallied, and the individual with the lowest time is deemed the winner. If it sounds a little confusing, just sign up and join in the fun, the seasoned pros will point you in the right direction. While I have not participated in this event yet, it is definitely a “must-do” in the upcoming year.
Wisconsin River Race July 11-12, 2020
Affectionately known as “Muscoda” by local paddlers, the Wisconsin River Race is one of the bigger Wisconsin events, positioned right in the center of the best month of canoe racing. This weekend is action packed with events for all ages and abilities. The Wisconsin River on this stretch is federally protected and boasts the longest “dam-less” section of river in the Midwest- 92 miles. Saturday has a 4 mile solo race to “pre-game” before the big events on Sunday. Racers can choose from 21, 15, or 8 mile courses, which all end at the same park. The big draw is to earn points for your State- the State with the most points is deemed the winner, and receives a traveling trophy along with other prizes. The after party goes on well after the races end, and makes for a fun weekend getaway.
USCA Nationals August 13-16, 2020
Near and dear to my heart, the United States Canoe Association Nationals are coming back to the Midwest this year in Newaygo, Michigan. Typical events in this four day weekend include youth sprints, and various classes of kayaks, canoes, surfskis, SUPs, and outriggers- if you can race it, the USCA will accommodate you with a competition class. The best part of the Nationals is getting to compete in each day of racing if you so choose- for a canoer like myself, there is are C1, C2 Mixed (or Adult/Junior), and C2 Women’s (or Men’s) events that I will enter in over the three marathon distance days of competition. The total course is about 14 miles on the gorgeous Muskegon River, perfect for multiple days of racing. If a single or weekend worth of fun, competitors can choose to do just one or two events, or for anyone who likes to try different crafts, they can choose multiple disciplines within the 3 days. Competitors travel to the Nationals from all over the United States and Canada, resulting in a varied field, while vendors from the top names in paddlesports bring boats, paddles, and other equipment for racers to demo.
Ride the Wave Regatta September 12, 2020
Looking for some bigger water to tackle in the Midwest? Are small, technical courses more your style? The Ride the Wave Regatta in Michigan City, Indiana, gives racers the choice. Outriggers, SUPS, and surfskis can tackle the 8 mile “Open Water” Course along the shores of Lake Michigan, giving racers the opportunity to showcase what the ocean boats can really do, without having to travel outside of the Great Lakes Region. It is a great way to test the waters if you are interested in traveling to the Carolina Cup, or Blackburn Challenge, but aren’t sure of your comfort level on big water. For those looking to avoid Lake Michigan, open canoes, kayaks, SUPs, etc. can choose the 8 mile Trail Creek Course. This race starts and finishes in the same Marina is the Open Water Race, but mainly travels up and down Trail Creek- showcasing steering, navigating river obstacles, and buoy turns to challenge competitors.