Oct. 11 – 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, emergency responders said they couldn’t find a 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. The air temperature was in the 50s 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 going up and managed to get a few miles on shore, but he was in the water as much or more than he was paddling,’ the statement provided by MCRA reads.
“The race organizers could see him through binoculars and he kept trying again. The coast guard was called when they saw him no longer on his boat. helicopter and he was immediately rushed to the hospital. We learned 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 wouldn’t have it any other way. Many feel blessed to have called him a canoeing 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 also competed 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.