Ryan Bryker, and his wife, Katie, grew up on the water at their families’ cottages, but it wasn’t until the COVID-19 pandemic summer of 2020 that they fell in love with paddling.
Beyond the sport and fitness aspects, the Muskegon couple says the friendship and camaraderie hooked them. Their “paddle crew” grew to a group of six, who gathered to paddle daily. Eventually, they discovered an even bigger community of paddle races in the form of the Midwest Paddle League.
With a friend, Ryan Bryker co-founded the Muskegon Lakeshore Paddle Club (MLPC). The newly formed nonprofit combines the sport with raising money for local charities.
“We wanted to share and express our gratitude for our paddling experience to the community and, most importantly, support local mental health awareness programs. Paddling helped us deepen friendships and strengthen our personal relationships. The charity element seemed to be the least we could do for how much we have gained,” he says.
Ryan Bryker is the co-founder of the Muskegon Lakeshore Paddle Club.
The MLPC’s inaugural 2021 race series includes Saturday races on June 12 and Aug. 28. Both races will be held on Mona Lake at Ross Park, 82 Randall Road in Norton Shores.
“Mona Lake and Ross Park offer an impeccable race location for paddlers of all experience levels,” says Ryan Bryker. “With the entire racecourse being viewable from shore, we’re excited to provide a fun, family-friendly event for racers and spectators alike.”
Supporting mental health
The 2021 fundraising and race proceeds will benefit the mental health education programs of the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan.
“The past year has highlighted the critical need for mental health awareness and support,” Bryker says. “We’re honored to have the opportunity to team up with the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan and support the Be Nice. campaign and their essential work in our community.”
He says he became hooked on the water sport after entering his first race — the Rapa Nui Race in Traverse City.
“That first race was an experience I will never forget. We raced in the worst weather in the race’s seven-year history. We paddled out through the whitecap waves, ran around an island, then paddled back again. It was intense, but we did it. We all left that race thinking, 'we must bring this to Muskegon,'” he says.
About the events
MLPC will offer a FUN ONE, a 1-mile paddle, and 5K and 10K races. The FUN ONE will feature a water start, while the 5K and 10K races will have a running beach start and finish. The 5K and 10K races will earn racers points for the Midwest Paddle League.
Race classes include a 14-foot stand-up paddleboard, 12½-foot stand-up paddleboard, surfski, kayak, and outrigger.
Check-in for the June 12 race will be from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m., with a mandatory race
meeting beginning at 8:30 a.m. The races will begin at 9 a.m., with an awards ceremony immediately following. Race registration must be completed prior to June 12 via paddleguru.com/races/MonaLakePaddleRaceI
Racers who sign up for the 5K or 10K before 11:59 p.m. June 1 will receive a 10-ounce MLPC-branded Yeti Rambler. All 5K and 10K racers will receive a long-sleeve, hooded MLPC sport shirt. All registrants who sign up for the FUN ONE will receive an MLPC hat.
For additional race or sponsorship information, visit the Muskegon Lakeshore Paddle Club