By Rob Casey
Glassy water and uncharacteristically dry, chilly temps greeted 103 committed Pacific Northwest paddlers who competed on Jan. 7 for Seattle’s third annual New Year’s Challenge paddling race. As the third race in the Paddling Dynamics ‘Race for Your Life’ points series, proceeds went to the ‘Kin On’ community care center that provides support to Asian seniors and families. The six-mile course started on Lake Union in the heart of Seattle and ran through the Montlake Cut to Lake Washington finishing on the north side of Sand Point. All types of crafts competed, ranging from SUPs and sea kayaks to canoes, OC-1s, OC-2s, OC-6s, dragon boats, prone paddleboards, rowing shells, racing kayaks, and surfskis.
“The weather was especially kind to us yesterday,” Surfskier Shane Baker said. “It could have been snowing, freezing, rainy, or as windy as hell.”
“It was really encouraging to see so many paddlers show up to race in the midde of winter,” added Sean Thomas, who competed with his homemade SUP and paddle. Heidi Caster Henry, who won the women’s SUP division concurred. “What I really like about the event is that it brings all types of paddlers from different sports together,” she said.
A triple scull with Jeff Bernard, Kelly Lockhart and Howard Lee won the race with a time of 52 minutes, 49 seconds. Surfskier Gabe Newton, not far behind, finished at 53:06.
“Gabe was awesome, he had a great stroke rate—his strokes were amazing,” said Howard Lee from the winning the triple team. “He was with us all the way to the finish where we took up the rate to get some separation.” Commenting on race strategy, standup paddler Beau Whitehead added, “I did some drafting and had people drafting me, all good fun.” Whitehead won the men’s SUP 14-foot division in 1:16:06.
An OC-2 powered by Alan Lipp and Eric Gerstl won their division in 58:31. Other top scorers included racing kayaker Doug Peele who finished in 1:05:58, plus Outrriggah Ninjaz, an OC-6 Mix team who finished in 1:07:53 and OC-1 women’s division winner Minnie Fontenelle (1:18:08). See full results HERE
“There is no way to ignore the energy in the air—each racer is poised to grab their boat, and paddle to the starting line,” said C&K‘s Sales, Marketing and Events Coordinator Michael Gordon, who competed at the Saturday event. “At this point, I realize that I am surrounded by the fastest-looking open canoes, surfskis, SUPs, kayaks and outriggers that I have ever seen—the park is an explosion of space-age materials.
“The race has quickly evolved from seven-mile race into a competition showcasing some of the fastest paddlers in the Northwest.”