Days of Paddling

Year Six of the Annual Washington Island Canoe & Kayak Event launches June 13, 14, and 15. The full day Sea Kayak Symposium is offered for beginner and intermediate paddlers.

“Teaching water safety is our mission,” said event registrar Carol Meyer, “because of where we live.”

A triathlon – paddle, bike, run – is added to the Island event for the first time this year. “Our rural, forested setting, and surrounding waters make Washington Island an ideal outdoor competitive venue,” said event director Valerie Fons.

A marathon race circumnavigating Washington Island draws paddlers from across the United States to Washington Island. Paddlers return year after year with their families to participate in what John Abrahams termed the “premier race in the Midwest.”

Stand-up paddlers (SUPs) and sea kayaks are invited to register for the half marathon race, which begins in an exciting mass start with the marathon paddlers from Gislason Beach.

The racing events on June 14, are flanked by an expedition to Rock Island on June 13, and a crossing of Death’s Door on June 14.

“Crossing Death’s Door has always been on my bucket list,” said Doug Retz, who paddled with a voyageur canoe crew in 2013. The event provides the opportunity to paddle Death’s Door with experienced paddlers and safety boats. A celebratory lunch is shared at Northport upon landing.

Steve Schmidt, naturalist and educator, is guiding the 2014 Eco-Tour. The location of the tour will be decided race-day morning dependent upon weather conditions.

On June 14 at 7:30 pm, Washington Island resident Valerie Fons will be the keynote presenter at the Trueblood Performing Arts Center. Fons is a 21,000-mile paddler, who paddled along the Arctic Ocean, Northwest Territories and Canada to Cape Horn, Chili, in a solo canoe. Fons and partner Verlen Kruger raced the 2,348-mile length of the Mississippi River in 23 days, 10 hours, 20 minutes, and achieved a Guinness World Record.

A lifetime paddling total of 30,000 miles equipped Fons to believe all things are possible. Lessons learned at the waterline prepared her to endure Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and bone marrow transplant. For the keynote presentation, Fons will share the adventure, challenges and consequences of choosing to paddle past the pond. For more information visit