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First Singletrack Canoe Race a Success!
May 14, 2012

We had a blast canoe racing a couple days ago as the finale of our neighborhood Adventure Race.

It was a several-mile leg that really challenged our skills. We had four teams and all boats and paddlers had differing skillsets -- it was neat to see it all play out.

The river was VERY challenging -- very twisty with 3 portages and a dozen runnable obstacles, including layback duck-unders.

The boats stayed surprisingly close together, considering that I was in the lead most of the way in an old woodstrip pro-boat.

The race boat had a decent advantage on the straights but its ends are badly hogged -- the midsection has sagged and flattened so that the ends have reverse rocker making cornering nearly impossible. I had to do braking-pries around many bends.

It was also neat to finally realize how important technique is. My first-timer bowman was going great but when we realized how tight the race was -- by being passed at a portage! -- I finally gave him a couple forward stroke technique tips and we took off like a bolt! The fun really picked up for both of us then. It was neat feeling the boat surge ahead. I was surprised, though, that hull-speed alone wasn't helping us more. Our closest rivals were using our (also) old Mad River Malecite -- a shorter, wider boat with some rocker -- they were slewing those corners just dandy. ...And sparked up the Spirit of the Attack in the portages. They were beasts!

Anyway, the nature of this mild, shallow, flatwater river really allowed for an honest ton o' fun in the handling skills department. It was constantly tricky to figure out what to do.

So, I'd say that Singletrack Canoeing is a GO!

Whitewater certainly can't claim all the fun in terms of canoe-skill.

I suppose people like it in part because of the speed -- but a fast flatwater hull can give you plenty of speed, too. Sure, there's the fresh, white, pushy frothiness of WW -- and nothing beats that, so enjoy it if ya got it -- but it isn't the only game in the house.

Singletrack canoeing certainly would give tasty rewards to a team that had its act together and used the right boat to allow all forward strokes to smoothly connect the dots of such a tricky course. It would be really fun for a team that had the art of lean-turns down pat. Narrowly missing all those obstacles at full speed would be a thrill.

I must confess that I would be totally game to acquire a boat (again) that had a cute little rudder. Sure, that would take most of the skill and teamwork out of the equation, but it would still be fun. Yeah, a rudder does cost 1/2-mph, but if you have a more casual team, why not.

Anyway, if you live in an area that has twisty, narrow water, go play in it! If you insist on easy travel you might be frustrated but if you get positive about the challenges you can see a whole different side.

For instance, I'd say there are many young outdoorsfolk around here who hardly ever paddle on our local river, preferring instead to mope until they get the chance for an (expensive) roadtrip to faraway WW. That's just the wrong approach. So, do that roadtrip -- but when you're home paddle local! Don't neglect the possibilities for fun on nearby waters!

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