Five years ago, a friend bet Michael Westenberger he couldn’t complete the 12-mile Key West Paddleboard Classic. With a mere two weeks of training, Westy placed second in the event and went on to become KWPBC’s race director. After competing in races all over Florida, Jeff Archer, owner of YOLO Board, invited Westy to join his sponsored race team.
Among his many race accomplishments, Westy, co-owner of Chicago Paddle Company, particularly takes pride in his first-place finish in last season’s Chicago Skyline Classic. “It was great to have a World Paddle Association-sanctioned event right in my backyard and the conditions were extremely difficult so I definitely give credit to all competitors that finished that race last year,” Westy says.
But SUP competition isn’t always about finishing first. Sometimes, endurance makes a race memorable. Westy recounts another proud moment, when he finished about 20th in the 2011 Florida State Championships.
“I had trained hard and felt strong but a collision at the start put a hole in the nose of my board, and as my board continued to take on water I kept falling off,” Westy says. “Many times I thought of quitting but just stayed focused mentally until the end. When I crossed the finish a board handler realized my board was about 15 pounds heavier with all the water I had taken on.”
This season, Westy will race stand up paddle boards every weekend in the WPA Midwest point series races. In the late summer and into fall he will travel to Louisiana, Florida and California for stand up paddle races. Westy also races competitively in outrigger canoes, both in one-man canoes and as part of a nine-man team. He is grateful to racing sponsors YOLO Board and KIALO Paddles, as well as to his nutritional sponsor Garden of Life, for allowing him to continue his racing career.