Great Lakes Surfski

Great Lakes Surfski Season Recap

As I sit down to write this season recap I’m actually wondering if it might be a little premature.   It is Oct 25th and I just got in a great paddle out on West Bay in 70 degree temps and gusts out of the south up to 35 mph.   There were some really nice 4-5 footers building down the bay. (not the picture above)  I had a great time paddling my Epic V12 Ultra for the first time in decent downwind conditions, safe to say that boat loves the downwind run.    As nice as it was, I know this was short lived and by morning we are supposed to be in the low 40s,  so I’m quite confident for most,  the season is starting to wrap up or at least slow down considerably.

It was a great first season for TC Surfski and I want to first thank all of those who reached out and supported us one way or another this year.   I started the business on a whim this spring and didn’t really know what to expect, but can say now that I could not have asked for a better first summer in business.   I am extremely optimistic on the long term potential for surfskis and performance paddling in the Great Lakes Region.  I believe there are hundreds if not thousands of very talented athletes and adventurous spirits in our region who will be inspired to take the surfski journey in the coming years.

I could not be happier with the two surfski lines that I decided to start carrying in my first season.  Both Epic and Stellar continue to lead the surfski market with innovative designs and phenomenal boats.   I recently signed on as a dealer for NRS so will be able to offer some great paddling gear to keep us all properly dressed and safe out on the water regardless of the season.  Rest assured, I’ll be on a never ending quest to identify the most optimal gear for all conditions and will plan to do some blogging about my gear experiences and preferences throughout the off season.

Race Season Recap

The varied list of races I attended  this year kept my summer very busy but also very fun.    I was a complete paddle racing rookie coming into this season with only one prior pure paddle race under my belt.   This year I kicked off the season with the Shorts to Shorts Paddle Tour in April.   I took a break in May as I recovered from Shorts and got serious about starting  TC Surfski.  Then in June I raced the M22 Challenge, followed by the Back to Black Paddle Odyssey.   I was busy time trialing boats and doing demos through most of July.   At the end of July I competed in the Kensington Metro Park race.  Then starting in August I had the Chicago Shoreline “attempted race”,  then the first annual TC Waterman and finally capping  off the month with the Suttons Bay Floatilla.   In mid September it was down to Michigan City for the Ride the Wave Regatta and then at the very end of September down to Grand Ledge for the Grand Adventure Race.

All in all it was a great mix of events including a long but grueling tour,   multi-sport races, long paddle marathons, shorter paddle sprints, downwinders, and the Floatilla.   These are all great events showcasing the myriad of beautiful fresh water we have surrounding us in the Great Lakes Region.   This series of events covered everything from small inland lakes and rivers, to the Grand Traverse Bay, to open Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.

Having never raced in my first seven years of paddling, I didn’t have any real reference point  to how well I stacked up against other paddlers.  It became easy to convince myself that I was moving into the realm of advanced paddlers and then I had the fortune to race against Rob Hartman, Simon Longdill, and Steve Corlew and was quickly reminded that I was indeed still an intermediate level paddler with a long way to go to reach the elite level.   It was great to have these guys to compete against as provide an example of what is possible in these boats and a challenge to strive for.  We are extremely fortunate to have such talented paddlers in Michigan and I suspect that with such a strong paddling heritage in Michigan,  there are several others out there in our region who will convert to surfski racing in the next coupe of years.  This will ensure that we continue to see an extremely competitive field of world class paddlers in our races.

Overall Learning

Having a full complement of demo boats available to paddle when I wasn’t racing, really made for a fun and educational summer.   It was a lot of fun not only to paddle and time trial all the boats myself but also to put so many first time paddlers in the different boats to catch their first reactions and experiences.

I’m currently working on another blog that I’ll post soon focusing on efficiency with some interesting statistics,  but  the net learning I had this year is that the number one mistake many paddlers make is choosing a boat that is too advanced for their skills.  As I’m learning even now with almost 8 years of surfski paddling,  it is an extremely long learning curve to become truly proficient in the advanced boats in all conditions.   This is especially true if you are only paddling a few days a week and 6 months or less of the year.

Simple Tips for the Off Season

If you don’t have the gear or desire to be out paddling in the colder months there are still lots of areas to work on to prepare for next season.

  1. Technique:  Watch as many technique videos as you possibly can
  2. Balance:  Get a balance ball and practice your core balance and stroke (some good videos on YouTube for developing paddle specific balance)
  3. Strength:  Keep it simple – pushups and pull-ups
  4. Cardio:  Run, cross country ski, snow shoe, mountain bike, spin
  5. Downwind Surf skills : this is a tough one, watch videos and read technique
  6. Yoga to help build more flexibility, strength, balance, and stamina  and recover from any over use injuries you may have developed from poor technique

Looking Forward to Next Season

I am extremely excited and confident that we will see continued strong growth in surfski racing in Michigan next year.   I want to make sure we kick off the season with a bang and I’m currently working to organize a 3 day surfski immersion vacation experience the weekend before Memorial Day.    I’m really excited that this will be a phenomenal opportunity for those new to the sport as well as experienced paddlers who are looking for an intensive few days of paddling and instruction to kick off their season.   Not to mention a rare opportunity for a husband/wife getaway with luxurious accommodations.   More to come on this shortly.

I expect to see growth in all of the paddling races in the Michigan area next year and am setting a personal goal of having 30 surfskis racing the local Traverse City TC Waterman Event.    Additionally,  I’m excited about working with the team that organized the Suttons Bay Floatilla  over Labor Day weekend and I suspect we’ll add some racing events to the world record attempt.   No details yet, but I want to make sure it is very beginner friendly and fun.

Both Stellar and Epic have some great new projects in the works and I expect to see some very innovative new boats being released next year as well as continuous improvements to their existing lines.   Additionally I’ll start to stock NRS gear that I’ve personally tested and find to work well for surfski paddling.   I’m also working with a few other paddle specific gear manufacturers and am hoping to have a full complement of gear options for the growing paddle community.  I am also very excited to have an Epic V8 on display in Downtown Traverse City courtesy of the M22 Crew.  This will undoubtedly help to get some great surfski exposure

Stay Tuned – More Content Coming

Stay tuned to the website and be sure to like us on Facebook so you can keep current on all the latest and greatest at TC Surfski.   I’ll continue to post blogs through the off-season and try to keep content fresh on the website to keep the excitement and interest high for a strong start in the spring.  I’m currently planning the following blogs to be published in the next month or two:  The Best Boat for Multi-Sport RacingEfficiency is EverythingSurfski Vacation DetailsThe Right Gear

If you’re still out there paddling keep at it and be safe!  As for me, I plan to keep paddling until the snow flies