Paddler dies while canoe racing in northern Michigan

Paddler dies while racing in northern Michigan
Posted at 12:03 PM, Oct 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-10 17:06:37-04

FRANKFORT, Mich. — A man has died while participating in a northern Michigan canoe race over the weekend.

The Frankfort Fire Department (FFD) says its fire and rescue team responded to reports of a kayaker in Lake Michigan at 2:10 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 8 near Point Betsie.

We’re told search efforts were shifted to the Crystal Downs area a half hour later following reports that someone had spotted the kayaker there.

Authorities then located the kayaker and a helicopter was called in to retrieve them from the water, according to FFD.

The Michigan Canoe Racing Association, who states is not in any way affiliated with Saturday’s race, released the following statement from one of the other competitors in the race, identifying the victim as Nick Walton:

“Our friend Nick Walton died today doing what he was known for - not quitting. We were competing in a downwind race from Point Betsie to Peterson Beach on Lake Michigan. The air temps were in the low 50s and the water was probably even colder. The waves were big and the wind was strong. Nick and many others fell off of there boats multiple times just trying to get out through the surf. Nick wouldn’t quit remounting and managed to make it a couple miles down the shore, but he was in the water as much or more than he was paddling. The race organizers could see him with binoculars and he just kept getting back on on trying again. The coast guard was called when they saw him no longer mounting his boat. They picked him up by helicopter and he was taken to the hospital immediately. We learned he had no pulse when he arrived, but they were still trying to warm him. Nick died fighting today, and I believe he wouldn’t have had it any other way. Many feel blessed to have called him a canoe partner and a friend. He will be missed deeply in our paddling community.”

FFD credits the following for their assistance in responding to the incident: Benzie County Sheriff’s Office, Frankfort Police Department, Sleeping Bear Dune National Lakeshore, Benzie County EMS, U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and Benzie County Central Dispatch.

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