Kayak Racing?

I have a Necky Arluk IV not the fastest I know 16’ long and 24.5" beam I think. I would like to do some racing in the Southeast U.S. this year. Is there a class for boats like mine and where would I find these type of races/river fests?

Sea Kayak Races
The Necky Arluk probably fits most Sea Kayak classes. You don’t say where you are in the southeast, you might go to the links section of www.necanoe.org and see if the Triangle Paddle Racing Club, Lanier, or Mid-Atlantic clubs have anything close to you. There’s also the Southeast Paddlers in Georgia and the Pennsylvania Kayaking and Canoeing group. You can also access race information through www.uscanoe.com. Pam

Georgia Flatwater Racing Series
There is a flatwater racing sereis in Ga. Many of the racers race in sea kayaks like yours. There are several races in GA. I’m not sure of any AL, but there probably are some. There really isn’t a website for the georgia flatwater recing series. There are races on the Oostanalu (check with Coosa Basin River Initiative), the Chattahoochee (check with Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeepers) and one on the suwannee river in fall. One of the first races is on lake lanier (lula bridge race…check with Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club LCKC).

You might want to try to join the Roswell Canoe and Kayak yahoo group…there are lot of racers on that yahoo group. The LCKC and Southeast Paddlers are mostly sprint boat competitors. I’m a member of southeast paddlers and they seem only interested in sprint boat racing (mostly sprint, but some marathon events).

Anyway, good luck.


To have race classes or not?
For many years I have been a strong advocate of three racing classes based on a ratio of a kayak’s waterline beam to waterline length. As far as I know the Sound Rowers in the Seattle area are the only organization to incorporate a system like this. It appears that kayak racing thrives in the Northwest due in part to boat class specs based on hydrodynamic principles.

Now I am for eliminating classes altogether. More on this later, but first a little history is in order for those who have not been following this subject for the last 10 years.

The United States Canoe Association (USCA) in an effort to attract new kayak padddling members to their canoe racing organization has been struggling to develop racing specs for about a decade. Unfortunately, for the sport and many paddlers of popular sea kayaks, their specs require you to paddle a very specific looking boat in order to be competitive. It seems they are taking a non-inclusive approach that will alienate anyone unless they purchase a kayak designed specifically to the USCA specs. To prove this I designed a kayak optimized to their “Sea Kayak” spec about 7 years ago and it has gone on to win their championships many times now. Epic and KayakPro have recently introduced new designs optimized to the USCA spec and they all pretty much look alike.

These class-optimized designs are faster than the QCC700, CD Extreme, Greenlander Pro, Seda Glider or many of the other popular fast sea kayaks that used to race in good numbers at local races. Because the USCA rules are not based on hydrodynamic principles, these popular and more sea worthy kayaks are now forced to race in a faster class against the much speedier niche boats.

In the Northeast we are seeing the number of sea kayaks dwindle significantly at races. However, attendance by surfskis and other Unlimited boats are surging. Most of these new surfskiers have came out of the fast sea kayaks that used to be commonly seen at races. They started racing in the sea kayak classes when you could compete somewhat fairly in your everyday boat. I don’t know if it’s just a coincidence, but when some local races started adopting the USCA specs or similar variations, many sea kayakers either moved into surfskis or just stopped coming to the races.

The local surfskiers are excited to see their ranks grow, however I do not see where the next generation of surfskiers will come from since all the popular fast sea kayaks have been made obsolete by the USCA specs.

Now there are very few sea kayakers even bothering to come to the races. Some good local races have been cancelled because they were sponsored by sea kayaking shops whose primary customers are sea kayakers, not people that want to buy a specific boat that is good just on race day. Perhaps, there are other explanations, but I can’t help but feel some of the blame should be put on the influence of the USCA’s non-inclusive boat specs.

To attrract more people to racing we need to appeal to the masses, not the asses. I believe racing will grow if we let everyone race together in one big class in whatever boat they feel comfortable in. It should be geared more like road running races/fun runs. The better paddlers will naturally gravitate toward narrower boats and finish in a better position as everyone expects they should. The entry level paddler will be in a more stabile boat and just have fun being out there surrounded by others of similar ability in similar boats. They won’t feel the need to get a medal because everyone knows only the best paddlers will deservedly end up on the podium. Small informal races will be taking place within the fleet. Individual pace will take precedence over getting a medal. Perhaps beating last year’s time in the same race will be ones goal. Some groups will just paddle together as a social event. Courses could be designed so the slower paddlers will be able to watch the top guys. Classes should be divided by age group and gender only. This way younger paddlers and more women would be encouraged to attend and perhaps work their way into faster boats as they improve. I guarantee the more competitive personalities will work their way into longer narrower boats over time and ultimately there will be more serious racers than we see today, and also many more beginner and intermediate paddlers.

There are enough people with kayaks that some charity fun races should draw hundreds of participants of all levels. I believe eliminating kayak classes will reduce individual expecations and increase attendance. All will be better served from the newbies in their plastic rec boat to the elites in their surfskis. More attendance will mean a bigger party afterwards to tell stories, give away T-shirts, have raffles, etc…

The USCA could still have a role and even grow their membership. Perhaps they should focus on providing blanket insurance coverage for paddling events and provide a handbook for race organizers (I heard this may be in the works). Members of the USCA could save on entrance fees. This way a paddler who attends 3 or 4 races in a season has a reason to join. The USCA could have a desk at the event to recruit new members or even make it an option on the race application. However, the current USCA kayak class system discourages racing becasue it is not fair, non-inclusive to many popular kayaks, and creates an overly competitive environment that turns many off. For these reasons I am for eliminating boat classes altogether.

Whoa, I was not expecting to write all that. I don’t even remember what the original question was at the top of this thread. But, I bet if we all raced in one big class it wouldn’t matter.

Typical Transition
In the Northeast, we still see most paddle racers starting in Sea Kayaks, however since Surfskis have become more popular and since there are many more entry level and stable race boats available, paddlers who get into performance paddling seem to quickly gravitate towards faster craft. Same as the entry level ICF trainers that more and more local outfitters are selling. Several years ago it seems that the majority of kayaks available in the United States were either purely recreational kayaks, sea kayaks, racing ICF, and the Westside unlimiteds. Then surfskis became popular and trainer ICF kayaks started surfacing. Now manufacturers like KayakPro, Epic, Simon River, Think, and Ruahine have boats for all abilities, even Nigel Foster and Valley have introduced a racing style craft. With more types of craft easily available to the general public, it’s just a natural transition that someone starting racing in a sea kayak might gravitate to one of the newer performance boats.

Southeast race schedule
Hey Padlnrun,

I’m in Atlanta and do a bunch of races in Georgia and South Carolina. Many of them have classes for 16’ and under. Send me your email address and I’ll send you the latest schedule. It’s in a spreadsheet, don’t see a way to attach it here.

Robert O

Thanks for the reply. It was full of good info and great ideas. I am an avid runner and had never really thought about it but you’re right the races should be handled like your local 5k, most people just having fun or trying to PR.

If you ever want to come to New England, we have lots of really good races, and we could find you a variety of different kayaks to try. Pam