Long Lake Paddle Cross challenges racers in and out of the water

Paddlers start the Long Lake Paddle Cross on July 18 as spectators and swimmers look on. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)
The race course included a short portage in the vein of the obstacles commonly found in cyclocross races. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)
A tandem canoe settles back into rhythm after portaging during the first lap of the Long Lake Paddle Cross. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)
Paddlers race around the buoys setup on Long Lake for the Paddle Cross on July 18. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)

Fifteen paddlers, including both marathon paddlers and sprint paddlers from Flatwater North – took to the water at Long Lake on July 18 for a first-of-its-kind race in the Yukon.

The Long Lake Paddle Cross — a race described as being “inspired by cyclocross, but with floaty things” — hosted by Flatwater North saw racers in canoes, kayaks and on standup paddleboards race to complete a set number of laps around a buoy-marked course on Long Lake.

Incorporated into the race were sandbars and shallow water, sharp turns, and even a short portage.

Race organizer Jake Paleczny explained the idea was to take the spirit of cyclocross and put it on the water.

“The goal here was to create a race … (where) there would be these challenges that would test your full range of skills,” said Paleczny, adding marathon paddlers miss out on a lot of the technical challenges other paddlers might encounter.

“Can you make a sharp turn? We don’t do that very often and it requires a pretty specific set of skills. The people who are good at it, they pull ahead on those things. There is shallow water. A lot of the rest of North America is used to paddling in a pretty good range of conditions — they get sandbars and that kind of thing – but most of us up here don’t do that very often because the Yukon River is big and wide and deep. Again, a different set of skills,” he explained.

The portage, while not “soul-crushing” like one might find in Northern Ontario, was added in a similar vein.

“It can be just a little thing to make it fun,” said Paleczny.

The portage — no more than 10 metres in length — was a bit of a bottleneck and made for some interesting moments, like when the tandem canoe paddled by Rob and Alex — the race only included first names in the results — caught up to the kayak of Rogan on the final lap just metres from the finish.

“(Rogan) got hung up coming out of the portage … and Rob and Alex were right there,” said Paleczny. “I guess Rob thought it’s now or never and made a pretty big move — he really gave the boat a good push as he got in to try and get ahead — but Alex in the front was not quite balanced, so he ended up turfing her out of the boat. They lost it 50 metres from the finish line. That was pretty funny.”

The winner of the five-lap wreck category was solo kayaker Cole, with Rogan finishing second and Rob and Alex finishing third.

In the three-lap rec category, kayaker James was the winner, with kayaker Mason finishing second and Lindsay, a standup paddleboarder, finishing third.

“People just had fun,” said Paleczny. “We’re definitely going to do it again next year. I heard from a lot of people who said, ‘Oh man, I’m not going to be able to make it but we’d love to do this,’ so hopefully we’ll get a bigger crowd out next year.”

Paleczny said the race wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Flatwater North and the parents of the younger paddlers. He also said Pat McKenna’s treats were a hit afterwards.

“She was really keen on it and ended up making some twist and swirl inspired food inspired by the race,” said Paleczny. “She sent treats even though she couldn’t make it herself. It’s awesome when you’ve got a community like that making something like that happen.”

Kaleb and Joel won the award for best costume at the race, while Lindsay and the duo of Calla and Hailey won awards for the hardest workers.

Contact John Hopkins-Hill at john.hopkinshill@yukon-news.com

Long Lake Paddle Cross 2019 results

Rec class — 3 laps

1 James 27:12

2 Mason 29:09

3 Lindsay 38:05

Wreck class — 5 laps

1 Cole 39:13

2 Rogan 40:13

3 Rob & Alex 40:35

4 Carmen & Sarah 46:36

5 Kaleb & Joel 49:17

6 Alison 49:52

7 Bruce 53:58

8 Calla & Hailey 58:41

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