paddle relay around michigan

Update:  Please note two major updates to this original blog post.  We have now updated the schedule to reflect the relay starting and ending in Belle Isle, Detroit.    The segment dates are now final.    We have also tweaked the event name to be “Paddle Relay Around Lower Michigan” this is critical as we want to make every effort to ensure this is a very open event for all paddlers to participate in.  It is in no way intended to be exclusive to surfskis.  In the ideal scenario we want to see kayaks, canoes, SUPs, all surrounding the flagship V7 and all the paddlers getting a chance to try it out.

Disclaimer:  I can’t take any credit for the below.  This was all the brainchild of James Dagg one of my many great customers at TC SURFSKI.   James brought this idea to me and has done 95% of the leg work.   We will be working together with the help of many volunteers to make this concept become a reality next summer.   

Event Details:

What:  A non competitive relay tour around the shoreline of Lower Michigan to celebrate the Great Lakes

Why:  Encourage friendly competition among segments to raise money for their selected charities, and give people a chance to experience the all new Epic V7 Surfski

When: Starting the end of May 2015  and running through the end of Aug 2015

Where: Along the shoreline of Lower Michigan.  Starting and finishing at Belle Isle in the Detroit Area

How: We are dividing the coast line into 13, 80 mile segments.  Each segment will be targeted for completion in a week and will have a segment captain to help coordinate the details.  We will further divide each segment into very manageable distances of 2-10 miles and anyone can then sign up to paddle a segment

More Details

This event is  not a race or an an extreme adventure or challenge, it’s a tour to showcase surfski paddling,  build the paddling community, and bring awareness to multiple different charities

High Level Plan
  • A brand new Epic V7 Surfski with carbon paddle will be provided as the “flagship” boat that will be used to cover the entire shoreline of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.
  • It will run Late May-Aug, covering the 1060+ miles of coastline from Indiana to Ohio.  The pace is planned to be “touring speed” and teams can optionally explore nearby rivers/lakes/islands as they pass by if they have time.
  • We will segment the coastline into 13 80-mile sections, each section to be completed by a relay team of several people (probably 4 or more) over the course of a week.
Segment Specifics
  • Suggested put-ins and take-outs for all the individual legs within each 80 mile section will be determined by the segment captain and posted on the website well in advance.  Individual legs will typically range from 2-10 miles.
  • Each individual leg can decide which direction to paddle.  Nobody likes paddling into the wind and we only care about covering the shoreline and having fun,  so no strict rules on direction.
  • Teams are encouraged to bring additional kayaks, canoes, SUPs,  to accompany the V7 flagship.
  • Group paddling is encouraged over solo paddling and we hope that the entire group can try the V7 at some point during or after the paddle leg.
  • Team members are responsible for
    • Following safety rules which include staying within one mile of shore and wearing a PFD at all times
    • Providing their own lodging/camping/meals
    • Bringing their own boats and equipment
  • Teams are encouraged to spend some time together at the hand-offs to meet each other and share their experiences and take group photos for the website.
  • In selected cities (e.g. Holland, Grand Haven, TC, Mackinac, Tawas, Detroit) we hope to have larger team sizes with more members paddling many smaller legs of the section. We will try to arrange for some promotional events at these cities to increase participation and bring exposure to the event and to surfski paddling and to the V7.
Paddler Requirements
  • In the interest of simplicity and inclusiveness, there will be very limited pre-requisites or requirements to paddle the V7.
  • Paddlers will have the option to buy a high performance event paddling short sleeve shirt for a very reasonable fee
  • Paddlers will be encouraged to sign the boat
  • Paddlers will be encouraged to give a donation to the segment charity
  • Paddlers are encouraged to take pictures, and do a brief write up on their experience to be posted on their own social networks as well as the event website
Safety Considerations

The fundamental basis behind this event is to raise money for charity and provide an opportunity for those who have never paddled a surfski to give it a try.   Lake Michigan and Lake Huron are large bodies of water and the conditions along the shoreline can be challenging when the winds and waves are high and the water is cold.  We are fully aware of this and safety will be a top concern.   The following is how we plan to ensure this event is as safe as it can possibly be:

  • Segment captains will evaluate each paddler to ensure they are prepared to paddle the V7
  • Segment captains will be constantly evaluating wind and wave patterns and will call off paddles as needed (note:  this event is not intended to be a technical record or competition of any sort – if we have to skip a leg due to weather and to keep the schedule that will be completely acceptable over taking any risk and the captains will be instructed as such)
  • Paddlers will be required to wear clothing appropriate for extended immersion in the water (cold water gear will be provided with the V7 in case the paddler does not have their own)
  • Paddlers will be instructed on remounting a surfski and asked to perform a remount prior to starting the paddle leg
  • Paddlers will be required to wear a PFD at all times while in the V7 along with a body leash to the boat and paddle leash
  • The V7 will be equipped with a GPS Spot tracker that the paddler will be requested to wear on themselves during the paddle.  This Spot tracker will have the ability to function as a personal emergency locator beacon.
  • The V7 will be equipped with a Marine Radio that the paddler will also be asked to wear on their PFD and they will be instructed on using it to call for help
  • The V7 will be accompanied by at least one other experienced paddler and ideally 3-4 others at all times
  • It will be requested that the V7 remain within a 1/2 mile of the shoreline at all times and within 1/4 mile on rough days or when there is a strong off-shore wind
Charity Details
  • The “Alliance for the Great Lakes”, will be our default charity.   However, each segment captain also has the option to select the charity of their choice (as long as it is a 501.c we can make it work).   This whole effort will rely heavily on the segment captains and we want to give them the option to select a charity that they and/or the local area is passionate about.
  • We will solicit corporate sponsors (via a direct donation to the segment charity)  and they will get their logo on the website, the option to put a sticker on the boat, and mention in local press releases
  • Individuals who participate will be asked to give a donation of their choice to the segment charity, they will also be asked to solicit friends to “sponsor” them via a small donation as well.
  • Donations will be made direct to the charity via the event website which will utilize the CrowdRise platform
  • A week after the event completes, we will calculate the total amounts raised by each segment.  We hope to find a donor who will match the amount of the winning segment to double the contribution to their selected charity.
  • We plan to launch a full scale PR campaign in early March to promote the event and start soliciting sponsors and paddlers
Event Website
  • We plan to launch the initial basic event website in late January on the URL:
  • Ultimately the website will include:
    • A dedicated page for each segment that will have a segment description, sponsors, pictures of the area, a captain profile,  charity description, running total of funds raised, log of paddle sections and confirmed V7 paddlers for each leg, pictures and brief blogs/write ups from the segment paddlers
    • Donations will be made directly to the charity from the segment page
    • GPS tracking of the boat so everyone can track the progress
Currently Seeking Section Captains

Section captains will be enlisted to oversee each section. The section captains will be responsible for

  • Determining the segment charity (if other than default)
  • Communicating issues back to the event organizers
  • Coordinating the section team
  • Arranging for boat pick up from the preceding team
  • Arranging for boat hand-off to next team
  • Checking the condition of the equipment to ensure that it is in proper working condition (boat, paddles, gps, pfd’s, etc)
  • Coordinating team/boat transportation along the section
  • Ensuring that safety rules are followed
  • Making go/no-go decisions concerning paddling condition

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This blog is essentially a dump of our brainstorming ideas over the past couple of weeks.  We still have a lot of work to do as we put all the details together,  and we are open to feedback and suggestions from the paddling community.

If you would like to volunteer as a section captain or to provide support to this effort in any other way,  please contact myself and/or James at:


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