Tuesday, April 19, 2016

50 Years of the Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race

Lani and I at drop 2 of Shopping Cart Rapids. Justin Russell Photography

One of my favorite things about competing in different events is what I learn about the event's history and the people, culture, and communities that host the event. This weekend, I had the privilege of being one of nearly a thousand participants to take part in the 50th annual Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race. In lieu of a lengthy race report, I think that a few interesting facts about the race and some great photos will suffice. This race speaks for itself, and a good picture says a whole lot of words!

Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race tidbits: (if someone has additional tidbits or photos, please let me know, I'd love to add them!)

  • First run in 1967, the inaugural race was put on by Sonny Colburn and Lew Gilman.  There were 32 canoes and fifty thousand spectators. No, that is not a typo. Reports suggest that seven of the boats never made it to the finish. Sonny Colburn was present at the race this year to kick off the 50th anniversary of the race.

  • The Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race is the largest canoe race in New England. Over the event's history, over 30,000 paddlers have participated. There were participants in attendance who have raced the event more than forty times. 

It is astonishing to see what thousands of people in the tiny town of Kenduskeag (population of about 1,300) actually looks like.

  • The race covers a 16-mile stretch of the Kenduskeag that includes 9 miles of flatwater and 7 miles of class I to III whitewater with two mandatory portages (and one optional at 6-mile falls).

Lani and I making our way down the Kenduskeag. Photo Chip Cochrane.

  • Canadian kayaker Trevor MacLean won this year's race in a field of 493 boats (921 participants). This is his 12th win, tying for the record of most times won.

Trevor MacLean paddles one of the narrow, sleek kayaks seen on the river. 
My guess is that most of these fragile boats portage the 
bigger rapids.
Photo Michele Barker Photography.

  • Not all competitors are as serious, however; many teams come dressed in costume. The Gumby boat, for example, has been paddling the Kenduskeag since the early 1990's and was once featured in Sports Illustrated. We also saw Minions, Ghostbusters, zombies, superheros, bananas, ducks, and bubble machines traveling downriver. Some folks come to the Kenduskeag in traditional canoes ("recreational boats"), others kevlar race boats, and some war canoes.

I am pretty sure when we passed these gals, Lani yelled "who ya gonna call?". How original. Photo Whittling Fog Photography

I have no idea how the guy in the stern can see over Gumby. Lani complains about not being able to see over my big head. Photo Michele Barker Photography.

  • The best place for viewing the carnage is at six mile falls, but by no means is this the only place where boats flip. In 2010, Hank Garfield of the Bangor Daily News did an informal count of vehicles of "river vultures" (a term used for spectators who follow the race by car to watch the carnage) at six-mile falls. He quit counting at 700 vehicles. Another popular viewing spot for river vultures is the rapid known as Shopping Cart, named aptly after several shopping carts mysteriously appeared on the riverbanks several years ago.

  • WABI also covers the carnage on channel 5 for those who can't get out to watch the fun. This includes a full two hours of coverage from six-mile falls. My children were glued to the event from home.

I love this sequence of these two fellas trying so desperately to stay in their boat. I am not sure how things ended up for them, but I think I have an idea. It is worth noting that many people who take a dunk in the river get back in pretty quickly and put in a solid finish time.
 Photo Michele Barker Photography.

  • I attempted to uncover statistics on the Dump Rate, DNF statistics, or some data on lost/destroyed boats each year. Obviously, data would vary depending on flow conditions, but it turns out, that there is no such data. On this search, I got distracted on a 2007 lost-and-found thread where people were posting information regarding lost boats. I stopped after reading about at least twenty lost boats from that year.

I can honestly say, I have never seen this before. Whittling Fog Photography

A z-drag rescue for an unlucky boat wrapped around a rock below six-mile falls this year. This would be an example of how people DNF this race. Photo Michele Barker Photography

As for our part, Lani had an awesome run this year! After losing our division in 2014 by a margin of just 31 seconds, we came ready to put it all out there. Putting in the 18th fastest time of the day (amongst all crafts- first in our division), we had our best day paddling yet!

Thanks Michele Barker photography for a cool action sequence of Lani and I in the final drop of six mile falls. I always look so serious in these photos. Photo Michele Barker Photography.

Super big smile for an awesome effort. The wooden canoes are the coolest prizes of any race! Photo Lani Cochrane.
Thanks to Michele Barker Photography, Whittling Fog Photography and Justin Russell Photography for catching fun action shots of the event. Also thanks to Hammer Nutrition (use this link for 15% off your first order) for great fuel and Spandits for my awesome tights and hat (use code SPANDITSLOVE and tell them I sent you for 10% off)!
This is my "I wish I wore a visor" game face. Whittling Fog Photography

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