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Hi-Line Athlete Profile: Tony Filler, SupFest

Former Pony loves life on the board

 

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Havre's Tony Filler paddle boards at Bear Paw Lake south of Havre during last weekend's third-annual Bears Paw SUPfest. Filler and his wife Cortney created the event as a way to showcase the sport of paddle boarding in the Havre area.

When it comes to outdoor sporting events, Havre might not have the same reputation as places like Kalispell or Missoula or some of the many other Montana communities known for their easily accessible outdoor activities, however, one local couple is trying to change that perception and with their own unique event.

It appears to be working.

Tony Filler, a former basketball player for the Havre Blue Ponies and Cortney Filler, his wife, got involved in paddle boarding a few years ago and after enjoying that experience, they wanted to share it, which eventually led to the creation of the Bears Paw SUPfest.

SUPfest is an annual event that showcases paddle boarding and all its glory out at Beaver Creek Reservoir. This year was the third edition of the two-day festival and despite some rain and storms, it ended up being a glorious weekend for those that love the outdoors.

"Honestly the storm was beautiful and it came during dinner and awards and then cleared up for SUP boxing," Tony Filler said. "Overall things went pretty well."

While getting people outdoors and introducing them to paddle boarding is the main point of the weekend, the Fillers have tried to find new and innovative ways to make it even more fun and inclusive. In the past, this has included yoga, competitions and races and this year, it included boxing.

"Basically, it's two people on paddleboards with oversized gloves," Tony Filler said. "It's exactly what you think. Then you have to knock the other person into the water a certain number of times to win."

The festival has grown tremendously over the past few years. It started with around 30 people the first year before getting more than 60 in year two. Over the weekend, Filler reported that there were 52 participants in the events and even more total in attendance than that.

"Not sure as an overall number but we had 52 participants," Filler said. "Down 10 from last year but still a fantastic turnout."

While the numbers may have been slightly down, in part, likely due to weather, there is no question that SUPfest is here to stay, and if you know the Fillers, you also know a little rain will never dampen their sunshine. So to learn a little more about SUPfest, the Havre Daily News caught up with Tony Filler for five questions.

HDN: So what made you want to start SUPfest?

Filler: "It started because we started doing paddle boarding and we had a lot of fun with it and wanted to share it. We wanted to give people another reason to get out and do something and it's just a fun activity that just about anybody can do."

HDN: What do you think the response says about the need for more outdoor activities in this area?

Filler: "The response has been great and I think it just shows that people really want to get out and do things. They don't want to sit around inside all day. People want to break out and do things; they are just afraid sometimes and they don't know what's out there."

HDN: What do you like most about paddle boarding?

Filler: "The versatility is something I like the most about it. I can go out and dip my extremities in and take my wife and take my dogs and go for a float. You can take it on a river, take it on a lake. You can do so much and you change from day to day, so that's nice because you can change what you want to do with a paddle board. You can do yoga, we are doing boxing. There just is so much you can do."

HDN: What would you say to people that think paddle boarding isn't for them?

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

The 2019 Bear Paw SupFest last weekend in Beaver Creek Park.

Filler: "Paddle boarding is for everybody. Whether you are a kid or you are 90 years old, everyone can paddle board. That's what makes it so great is that it offers something for everyone. We are having people do races and we will also have people just come out and relax and enjoy the water. That versatility is really cool and that's something we wanted to show with SUPfest."

HDN: What was your favorite part of this year's SUPfest?

Filler: "Corts (Cortney Filler) favorite part was seeing all the people that came out, and she gave the first-ever SUP pup a medal for a race it won with its owner, Sam Lippy. The whole weekend was honestly my favorite. If I had to narrow it down it would have been the tandem race. Watching two strangers on one paddle board figuring out how to paddle and race together was amazing. The adult and kids had so many people laughing and falling off. So in short, all the laughter was my favorite part of the weekend."

 

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