Lake Max Challenge hits Culver's beach this weekend

As its organizers planned, the Lake Max Challenge Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) event, which debuted last summer, has become an annual event and will take place this June 28 through 30, though with expanded offerings and opportunities to experience what is becoming an increasingly popular water-based activity.

Stand Up Paddleboarding utilizes a board similar to a surf board, and paddle, as one more non-motorized, fitness-friendly means of enjoying the outdoors and area bodies of water. In spite of having to operate without electricity last year due to a severe thunderstorm knocking out Culver's power, last year's premiere Lake Max Challenge was a success, says Ed Furry of Culver, one of the event organizers.

Furry and his wife Becky -- who head up Sail22, an international sailing organization -- were told any number over 20 paddlers for their new event last year was a success. Instead, 53 paddlers from multiple states took part in the Culver town park-based event, while many more came down to observe and try out the boards. This year, Ed says the goal is 100 participants, though with 70 or 80 they would still be "in great shape." And while there are repeat racers signed up already, a great many are new to the event, and home bases range from Minnesota to a former Culverite traveling here from Georgia for the race.

This year's event (details are available at was designed to be more spectator-friendly, says Furry, and a timing system has been added to enhance participants' records of their times.

Another major addition is Friday night racing more on the "fun side" for less serious racers on the "high end" of the sport. Included will be short course heat races, with Sail22 providing boards. These brief races will function as elimination rounds, giving racers of all skill levels and exposures to the sport a chance to take part.

Also new is a paddle stroke clinic Friday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., for those hoping to improve their SUP technique.

The Saturday Challenge itself will be similar to last year's event, but organizers have added an open division option which will include surf skis, 20 feet long and of kayak type design (the Lake Max Challenge is part of the Great Lakes Division for the devices), as well as kayaks and any other device using paddles. This will be an around-the-lake race to accommodate the lengthy surf skis.

"We want to promote non-motorized water sports," notes Furry. "Surf skis are another 'clean' group of people into fitness; they want longer courses, so this race is lengthy."

Responding to requests from last year, the Challenge this year includes a food festival component, in which local vendors will offer a range of options from barbecue to pizza, fruit cups to salads.

As was the case last year, demo boards will be on hand for the newcomer interested in simply hitting the water to try the sport on for size. Also repeating from last year, local musician Chad Van Herk will be on hand in the afternoon, playing live music to accompany the fun.

An important addition to this year's event will take place Sunday, when a World Paddling Association instructor will offer a trainer clinic for people ranging from racers to fitness paddle boarders, who may have a boarding business or offer tours, for whom the clinic will facilitate certification. As a specialty offering in the paddle boarding world, Furry says such courses are rare (one just sold out in Chicago, he explains), so this one will be a major attraction for the dozen or so people attending. Those, he points out, may be couples and families who otherwise wouldn't be in Culver on a Sunday, enjoying the town and its restaurants and other businesses.

The town park has designated Saturday the 29th as a free day for everyone at the park and beach, as well as parking, to encourage people to come and take part in, or simply observe the event.

"We're pretty excited about it," says Furry of the Challenge event overall. "Support-wise it's been really great."

The Furrys will also be featured on Elkhart PBS affiliate WNIT-TV's "Experience Michiana" again this year, prior to the event, and Ed notes they've advertised it heavily on a regional basis.

And what about area residents interested in trying out the sport the rest of the year? Furry says after last year's event, people showed up at the Sail22 offices (which are also the Furrys’ home just outside Culver) seeking to buy or rent boards. As a result, the company does have some rental boards available and keeps a few in stock to sell, with an option to order any others a customer might want. Three local high school students have been employed to help out the business as well, he notes.

Those with an interest, or with questions about the Lake Max Challenge, may contact Sail22 at or 574-889-0022.

"We hope to grow from there," Furry says of the event. "We want to keep promoting a healthy lifestyle and using the water as well as the beach, taking advantage of what a great park and beach we have."


Friday, June 28

4:30 - 6:30p.m. – SUP Paddle Stroke Clinic by Westy (limited to the first 10 people; email for details)
5 - 7 p.m. – SUP board demos
7 p.m. – Short Course Racing off the Culver beach. Boards provided. No experience necessary! Participants will race in heats with five to six racers per heat.
Awards and gathering with drink specials to follow racing at The Lakehouse Grille, Lake Shore Drive.

Saturday, June 29

8:30 - 10 a.m. – Registration and packet pick up
10 a.m. – Welcome and racer instruction meeting
11 a.m. – First race start with subsequent races to follow and SUP demos start
-Approximate time of races: Lake Max Challenge (11 a.m.), Rec Race (11:05 a.m.), Kids Race (noon), Elite Race (1 p.m.)
11 a.m.- 5 p.m. – Food festival in the Culver Town Park
Awards and live music immediately following racing
* SUP demos available all day. All activities are open to the public.

Sunday, June 30

WPA Instructor certification course for Class I Certification: certified to give lessons and instruct paddlers. five hours of class instruction. Must pass certification exam with an 80 percent or greater.