We grew up here. In these woods, on this lake. Neahtawanta, a small piece of land hooked around the waters of Bower’s Harbor on Old Mission Peninsula. Far from town, in a log cabin our dad built. Out here, all we had was the land, the water, and each other. As brothers, we worked, we cut wood to heat our home, we explored trails.
As soon as we could—like so many kids with dreams—we left to see what else was out there. Interested in kiteboarding, we traveled the world in search of wind and waves. Together, we started Broneah Kiteboarding (that’s “brother” and “Neahtawanta” combined) and became well known in the kiting world. Still, the more we traveled, the more we realized the sacredness of our own home. There was no other place like it—miles of flat, fresh water, sandy bottom lakes, remote beaches. It was hard to describe northern Michigan to anyone. No one had heard of it or even cared. It was the kiting world’s best-kept secret.
Years later, we came back (though in our hearts we never really left) to plant permanent roots. We opened up a kiteboarding shop across from west bay in Traverse City—a run-down, hole-in-the-wall building the size of a closet, but it was all we needed. The world was ours. Whenever we could, we’d drive along M-22—that superbly scenic, winding road circling the best parts of the Leelanau Peninsula—in search of kiting spots. The road became a part of everyday life. If we saw a dusty two-track, we’d see where it would take us. We studied the weather like sailors, understood the currents likes surfers. We’d end up miles off shore, only a board under our feet, powered by nothing but the wind. We truly respected nature for this simple phenomenon and it was our bliss. It was a privilege to be here, and we wanted a way to show our pride and passion.
The idea was simple enough. A symbol, just for us, to wear proudly; something that meant so much: M22. Put it on a shirt for friends and family and spread that Michigan love around a bit. That was as far as we thought it would go, honestly, until we started getting requests. Wearing our shirts, we were often stopped. “I love M-22. Where can I get one of those?” We ended up giving many away. Some to complete strangers. The more people talked to us, the more we realized M22 wasn’t just about our passion. For us, it meant kiting: wind, waves, uncrowded water. But for others, it could mean anything from a killer campsite, an unmarked trail, a childhood memory, or an escape. Everyone had a different story. It was then we realized that we were definitely part of something bigger than just us. M22 was a shared experience that belonged to everyone.
That's when it exploded. Around this time, a local magazine did a feature on Broneah. Coincidentally, Keegan wore an M22 shirt the day of the photo shoot, and that image ended up on the cover. Requests poured in and we scrambled to order more. We made space in our closet-sized shop by taking down kites from a dusty shelf and placing shirts there instead. Ten years later, our warehouse is full of rows upon rows of shelves and could fit a hundred closets.
Looking back, we never expected to be selling shirts. That’s never what it was about. In fact, it still isn’t. At the heart of everything we do is a desire to share passion for this insanely amazing place. Not just the road, not just northern Michigan, but all of the Great Lakes. We’re here to reconnect people and weave a common thread. To inspire others to put down their phones, leave their desks, and explore. To protect the places we love for the future. We still kiteboard whenever we can and now when we travel, we’ll see the M22 logo and share a smile—and mutual understanding—with a stranger. As we watch our little shop grow and have families of our own, we’re still motivated to wake up everyday and keep doing this. It was always bigger than us and it always will be.