Paddles, pizza, and pints: Big Island and Back a success!

August 13th 2022 – Kayakers, canoers and paddleboarders began to arrive at Excelsior Beach around 8AM. Some participants were there to race competitively, while others were just excited to get out on the water for a more leisurely paddle under the shining Minnesota sun. Freshwater program associate Lila Franklin, intern Bri Jol and volunteer Jeremy Gilbertson were stationed at the registration table near the beach where they checked in the 120 people who had registered for the event. By 9AM, racers were in the water, the horns had sounded, and the paddlers were off!

Bri and Jeremy at the registration table. All smiles!

BIAB has been an annual Minnesota summer tradition for the past 9 years. The course begins at Excelsior Beach, and as the name states, participants race toward Big Island on Lake Minnetonka, work their way around the island, and race back. The course ends up being around 10K round trip.

Once all the paddlers made it back to the beach, it was time to head over to Excelsior Brewery for the post-race festivities - beer, pizza and prizes! Bri and Lila chatted with countless racers at the brewery to hear about the race, and to speak with them about Freshwater. The winners of the race included a canoe duo who paddled the race course in 53 minutes, while the second-place winner was a kayaker and the third-place winner was a paddle boarder (which is rare!) The wind was 10mph, which gave racers an additional challenge throughout the course. There were also prizes awarded for “Best Costume” which went to a group of four that came dressed as loons. After all the winners had claimed their prizes and door prizes were distributed, the participating sponsors and organizers took to the microphone to speak to the room full of people. Deirdre Coleman, long time organizer of the event and friend of Freshwater, announced that the event had raised over $6,000 to be split between Freshwater and the ICA Food Shelf.

Paddlers racing toward Big Island - notice the loon kayak!

Freshwater would like to thank Dana Mavros with Keller Williams, Cross Country Mortgage, and Watermark Title Co.  for their generous sponsorships of the event, Minnetonka Power Squadron for keeping an eye out for the paddlers, Tonka Paparazzi for great photos, Excelsior Brewery for hosting the after-party, Faribault Woollen Mills and Jes Naturals CBD Wellness for our top prize giveaways, and last but not least Deirdre Coleman for continuing to organize and execute such a wonderful summer event.

Stay on the lookout for more information about next year’s Big Island and Back, and consider coming out to participate!


Lila Franklin, Program Associate