April 18, 2019

Fall of 2017 I, and fellow paddler & local race organizer, Dan Novak started talking about the crazy idea of starting a canoe club here in Traverse city, MI. This is unheard of here because we are hundreds of miles away from the nearest ocean. The one thing we do have? We are surrounded by the beautiful fresh water of the the Great Lakes. Miraculously Dan had got wind of two, 6 man outrigger canoes that had been locked in storage for years that were only a few hours away. So we loaded up & borrowed a friend’s truck to tow them back to Traverse City.

I remember the maiden voyage and how excited we were to get them in the water. We went out in two groups on a bay connected to Lake Michigan. Somehow with all the open water we managed to have a full-on collision rounding a buoy. Luckily no major damage was sustained. The biggest thing we left with that day was how stoked we were to be paddling in sync with 6 of our close friends!

Since then we have a regular Monday night practice and pretty consistently have both 6 man canoes filled. Most of us had never paddled outrigger before, but have a background of SUP, surfski or C1 paddling. The rest come from multi-sport backgrounds or people that have come up to us during practice, hopped in a seat and got hooked! Many people are shocked to see the canoes here as they are the only ones I am aware of in Michigan. This seems crazy since we are literally surrounded by fresh water in every direction.

One of the most memorable trips the group does is paddle from our town, north about 6.5 miles, to a small island (Power Island). Once there we grill food, hang on the beach and maybe even have a beverage or two before paddling back to town. This in my mind is what paddling is all about, spending time connecting with friends together on the water!

Ben Gareiss

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