Canoe racer dies in race near Point Betsie | Local News

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FRANKFORT — Professional canoe racer Nick Walton, 49, of Michigan died Saturday while racing from Point Betsie to Peterson Beach on Lake Michigan, according to a statement from the Michigan Canoe Racing Association.

At approximately 2:10 p.m., the City of Frankfort Fire and Rescue Team responded to a countywide call from the Benzie County dispatcher for a water rescue on Lake Michigan during the Inspiration Point Downwind Race .

Shortly after their arrival, a US Coast Guard helicopter lifted Walton out of the water near Beach Road in the Crystal Downs area. He was taken to Munson Medical Center. When he arrived at the hospital, the rescuers said they could find no pulse.

MCRA officials said Saturday’s race was not affiliated with or sponsored by their organization, but released a statement made by one of Walton’s other competitors on Saturday.

Conditions were difficult, the statement said.

“Our friend Nick Walton passed away today doing what he was known for – not giving up. We were competing in a downwind race from Point Betsie to Peterson Beach on Lake Michigan. Air temperatures were in the 50’s and the water was probably even colder. The waves were big and the wind was strong. Nick and many others fell out of their boats multiple times just trying to get out through the waves. Nick n kept climbing and managed to descend a few miles from shore, but was in the water as much or more than he was paddling,” the statement provided by MCRA said.

“Race organizers could see him through binoculars and he kept trying again. Coastguards were called when they saw him no longer getting on his boat. They picked him up by helicopter and immediately transported him to the hospital. We learned that he had no pulse when he arrived, but they were still trying to get him warm. Nick died fighting today, and I believe that “He couldn’t have done it any other way. Many feel blessed to have called him a paddling partner and friend. He will be deeply missed by our paddling community.”

Walton began competing professionally in canoe races at age 31, according to Texas Water Safari, a race he has completed three times and won twice, in 2018 and 2021.

He has also participated in the AuSable Canoe Marathon 17 times during his career, according to the same release.

Walton previously worked for Michigan State University in their infrastructure and facilities planning department, where he previously said he grew up as a Spartan in the area.

The City of Frankfort Fire & Rescue was assisted by Benzie County Sheriff’s Office, Frankfort Police Department, Benzie County Emergency Department, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan Department of Natural Resources and US Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City.

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