Letters 11-23-2015

Cheering From Petoskey While red-eyed rats boil fanatically up from the ancient sewers of Paris to feast on pools of French blood, at the G20 meeting the farcical pied piper of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue thrusts a bony finger at the president of the Russian Federation and yells: “liberté, égalité, fraternité, Clinton, Kerry--Obamaism!”

The Other Mothers And Fathers Regarding the very nice recent article on “The First Lady of Yoga,” I have taken many classes with Sandy Carden, and I consider her to be a great teacher. However, I feel the article is remiss to not even give acknowledgement to other very important yoga influences in northern Michigan...

Drop The Blue Angels The last time I went to the National Cherry Festival, I picked the wrong day. The Blue Angels were forcing everyone to duck and cover from the earsplitting cacophony overhead...

Real Advice For The Sick In the Nov. 16 article “Flu Fighters,” author Kristi Kates fails to mention the most basic tool in our arsenal during Influenza season... the flu vaccine! I understand you might be afraid of being the victim of Jenny McCarthyism, but the science is there...

Keeping Traverse City in the Dark Our environment is our greatest asset. It sustains our lives; it drives our economy. We ignore it at our peril. Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) has submitted letters of concern to both the city commission and planning commission regarding the proposed 9-story buildings on Pine Street. We have requested an independent environmental assessment with clear answers before a land use permit is granted...

All About Them Another cartoon by Jen Sorensen that brings out the truth! Most of her cartoons are too slanted in a Socialist manner, but when she gets it correct, she hits the nail on the target! “Arizona is the first state to put a 12-month lifetime limit on welfare benefits.” That quote is in the opening panel... 

Unfair To County Employees It appears that the commissioners of Grand Traverse County will seek to remedy a shortfall in the 2016 budget by instituting cuts in expenditures, the most notable the reduction of contributions to various insurance benefits in place for county employees. As one example, the county’s contributions to health insurance premiums will decrease from ten to six percent in 2016. What this means, of course, is that if a county employee wishes to maintain coverage at the current level next year, the employee will have to come up with the difference...

Up, Not Out I would like to congratulate the Traverse City Planning Commission on their decision to approve the River West development. Traverse City will either grow up or grow out. For countless reasons, up is better than out. Or do we enjoy such things as traffic congestion and replacing wooded hillsides with hideous spectacles like the one behind Tom’s West Bay. At least that one is on the edge of town as opposed to in the formerly beautiful rolling meadows of Acme Township...

Lessons In Winning War I am saddened to hear the response of so many of legislators tasked with keeping our country safe. I listen and wonder if they know what “winning” this kind of conflict requires or even means? Did we win in Korea? Did we win in Vietnam? Are we winning in Afghanistan? How is Israel winning against the Palestinians? Will they “take out” Hezbollah...

Home · Articles · News · Art · Art to be ‘Used and Abused’
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Art to be ‘Used and Abused’

Al Parker - June 16th, 2014  

Growing up in Petoskey, Jason Thelen dreamed of being a surfer and riding the big saltwater waves. But fate kept him near fresh water, so he adapted accordingly and began building custom standup paddleboards that “take the big lake’s little waves,” he said.

“My paddle boards are perfectly designed for all facets of the ride,” said Thelen, who opened Little Bay Boards in 2012. “Surf, fl at, yoga, relax…anything you want to do on a board.”

With contrasting woods and a gleaming fi nish, Thelen’s boards are one-of-a-kind art works that salvaged. He picks up red and white cedar and basswood that mills don’t want.

“Every part of my boards is okay to the world,” said Thelen, who also uses VOC compliant resins. “I fi nd the stuff mills are thinking about burning or throwing out and I try very hard to use all scraps from my boards. A half a trash can is usually what is left after a build.”

Little Bay Boards is a one-man shop making one board at a time…but they aren’t too precious to be used and “abused,” Thelen said.

“This is art, yes and these boards are amazingly beautiful, but they are more than that. They are built to ride – to be used and abused,” he said. “I get the biggest kick out of stories of clients hauling their boards off the car and inside for the night ‘cause it was going to rain! It’s a paddle board and supposed to be in water!”


Honestly I couldn’t afford to buy [a paddleboard.] My father-in-law John Plichta taught me everything I know to be a great carpenter and always told me I was smart enough to do anything if I put my mind to it.

So, if you can’t buy, you learn how to build. And learn is what I did. The wood was the easy part. Learning volumes and float calcs as well as all things in design was the tricky part.

Teaming up with Lake Affect and Paul Jensen proved to be priceless. When I started to learn design of boards, I discovered some amazing things. Unless your board was built for you, it’s not the right size.

Pro paddlers don’t ride boards off a shelf.

They have them built for them. Why? Almost always a board is too big. Who wants to lug around an awkward thing to carry that’s too big? That’s how Little Bay Boards was born. Why buy something that’s decent when you can have something perfect?


My whole life I’ve been around these lakes. Some of my first memories are looking at that horizon line … As a child, I’d seen every kind of wave out there. With my little child imagination creating a surfer riding one in. I’d dream of being able to do that. To be like the guys on TV, surfing. Carelessly coasting on nature’s momentum, from the deep to the shallows and back again.

I remember asking my parents for a surfboard when I was very little. And I remember losing my dream when Dad explained why our lakes weren’t like the oceans. Dad was the smartest man I ever knew and he always explained things to me. I fully understood what he was saying when I realized growing up to be a surfer wasn’t going to happen here at home… When life made its circle around and it was little copies of my own eyes looking up at me and asking that same surfing question, I decided it was time to change the answer. I’m smart enough to know it’s not the lake’s fault that I can’t surf it. It’s my fault for not designing a board that can be surfed on fresh water. So that’s what I did.


I’d say my family. My wife and my girls mean everything to me. Making them proud of me is priceless. My extended Lake Affect family is so wonderful also.


You wouldn’t believe the amount of dedication it takes to make these beauties. Building a wood board is something that’ll challenge you as a person, trying your talents, your patience, your temper, your tools and your emotions.


Paul Jensen, the originator of the modern day hollow wood boards. His boards are unbelievable. He’s helped me time and time again. I’m proud to be able to say I know him and have a deal with him to make his frame designs for Lake Affect.


Never let your dreams go. Life comes in waves, learn to ride them!


At Lake Affect in Petoskey or lakeeffect.com.

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