Traverse City Record-Eagle

September 20, 2013

Singles Kayaking for the Cause is unconventional

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Denise Worthington is too old for the bar dating scene and too young to spend the best years of her life alone.

“I’m single and it’s hard to meet single professionals,” said Worthington, a Traverse City nurse. “I’m in my 30s and all my friends are married and have kids.”

Hers was a common refrain at a recent Singles Kayaking for the Cause, a combination pub crawl, fundraiser and speed dating event via kayak. Worthington was among 14 participants from 20- to 60-something who bicycled from The River at Clinch Park to The Filling Station Microbrewery near Hull Park, where they broke the ice over pizza and beer samplers.

They then paired up aboard double kayaks for a route across the Boardman Lake and down the Boardman River, with several stops along the way for refreshments and to switch partners.

“You can tell a lot about someone from the way they paddle,” quipped Norm Bowbeer, 44, a human resources trainer from Traverse City.

Organizer Lisa Foley came up with the unconventional dating game last year while trying to raise money for a charity marathon. She partnered with Mike Sutherland, owner of The River livery in Glen Arbor and Traverse City, which provides cycles and kayaks and guides the event.

“It was my idea as a way to meet a lot of people in a short amount of time and to raise money,” said Foley, 41, an accountant and single woman from Traverse City. “The idea of speed dating is intriguing but I don’t like to keep switching tables at a bar. Here you’re enjoying the scenery and having some exercise. And there are four people at a table, so it’s not so uncomfortable.”

Singles donated a minimum of $50 each to participate, which Foley said will be divided up between local charities Single MOMM, the Women’s Resource Center and Big Brothers/Big Sisters.

Cousins Paul Grace of Westland and Tim Gallanek of Elk Rapids attended last year’s event and decided to return. Though neither made a love connection the first time around, “it’s as much for the social and fun aspect,” said Grace, 41, a soft drink distributor.

After paddling together across the Boardman River, Grace and Sherry Jenicke climbed over the guardrail at Seventeenth Street, then crossed to the group’s second stop, Right Brain Brewery.

“I found out she’s a dentist,” Grace said, of the pair’s opening conversation.

“And I found out he’s giving up pop,” Jenicke replied.

Jenicke, 35, came to the event from Cadillac with her friend, Christina Vipond, a speech pathologist with the Wexford-Missaukee Intermediate School District. Jenicke said it was a first step in “getting out there” after a recent breakup.

“It’s worse in Cadillac because it’s much smaller,” she said. “I think the population is about 10,000.”

For Jenicke, Gallanek and Julie Schmuckal, a physical trainer from Traverse City, the event was more about socializing than finding a mate.

“I like to get out and It’s nice to have a partner to do things with once in a while,” said Schmuckal, 53, who also liked the charity component of the event. “It’s not necessarily about finding your love match.”

“I’m single and I work around the country,” said Gallanek, 63, a painting contractor. “So it’s nice just to have a social network. It’s a lot different than being around married people with kids.”

Vipond, 41, has been divorced for four years and is a little more serious about finding a relationship.

“I’m looking for a Lexus, not a Chevy,” she said. “And I don’t want to be busy with a Chevy when my Lexus comes.”