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Tom Helbig taking on the river with a stand-up paddleboard

Tom Helbig has 50 miles of his journey behind him and 106 miles to go.
Tom Helbig has 50 miles of his journey behind him and 106 miles to go.
Photograph taken by Danielle Coots

Tom Helbig, a Tipp City business owner of Tomfoolery Outdoors, is putting his passion for the outdoors to the test by attempting to be the first person to travel down the length of the Great Miami River to the Ohio River on a stand-up paddleboard. His trip, the SUP 156, began at Indian Lake and will continue down the river while making stops and camping at some quaint towns throughout his 158 mile journey. He stopped at Treasure Island on June 1, one of many stops along his journey; 50 miles down and 106 miles to go.

Attempting to be the first to stand-up paddleboard the entire river
Photograph taken by Danielle Coots

“For the business side, this trip is about live active, laugh more and inspire all and promoting all the communities along the way, to promote Ohio’s great corridor and show that if these communities embrace outdoor recreation, biking, paddling or whatever, it could be really good for the image of the town, for the health and vitality of its citizens and then hopefully draw in people to visit the towns that will benefit the local economies,” Helbig said. “But for the personal side, I just love to be on the river. What better way to spend two weeks than living on the river?”

Helbig began his journey on May 28 at the headwaters of the Great Miami River at Indian Lake near Russell’s Point. He will paddle, camp and fly fish along his adventure, while documenting his experiences on social media through photos, videos and media stops.

Waiting on the banks of Treasure Island Park, spectators could see a small glimpse of Helbig’s head as he rounded the corner of the bank. Sun kissed and weathered, Helbig and his followers joined Troy’s Mayor, Michael Beamish and a member of the Ohio’s Great Corridor Association and councilman of the Troy, Tom Kendall, along with many supporters from the River’s Institute. The Mayor brought chicken, goodies and water for the welcoming and Helbig ended his stop with a quick standup paddleboard lesson for the Mayor.

Not long after he began, the river threw him his first obstacle- rain, mud and river blocks. On his Facebook page, he posted a video describing this small setback. After spending an hour waiting out the storm under a bridge, he decided he had to move on and go around the small logged dam area. “I am a muddy disaster, but my friend Dave Cornthwaite told me that you just keep smiling. I totally agree because that’s the only way you keep going,” Helbig said. “Keep smiling.”

During Helbig’s journey, he plans to document suggestions for river improvement as far as access, paddling friendly amenities and better collaboration among Great Miami River communities. This mission is right in line with that of Ohio’s Great Corridor Association, to create or seize river-related opportunities for urban and rural communities to cooperate to bring vitality to Ohio’s Great Corridor by leveraging the assets of its communities, thus adding value to the regional economy.

“We are proud to partner with Tom as he begins his SUP journey down Great Miami River,” President of Ohio’s Great Corridor Association, Stan Kegley stated. “It’s the perfect way to raise awareness for the work of our association, its members and the possibilities for economic development along the corridor.”

Upcoming river edge stops:

June 2- Downtown Dayton at Island MetroPark
June 3- Miamisburg and Franklin at Star City Brewing Company and Great Miami Outfitters
June 4- in the Trenton area
June 5- in the Hamilton area
June 6-South of New Baltimore Dam
June 7- near confluence of whitewater river
June 8 – finish and shuttle at the Ohio River

Helbig’s trip continued down the river along with supporters and followers as he makes his way to the Adventures of the Great Miami to camp for the night before continuing on to the Dayton area.

Helbig’s SUP 156 river challenge is being sponsored by Ohio’s Great Corridor Association, Great Miami Outfitters, Adventures on the Great Miami and Our Life Outside. Follow his Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/tomfooleryoutdoors.