Cardboard Kayak Race

Story and Photos by John Bolivar

Canoe & Kayak Web Exclusive

The contest is simple. Teams of designers are given an unlimited amount of tape and a pile of cardboard to build a kayak of any shape. No knives, scissors, or sharp objects are allowed. The first-place finishers get an honorary place in the cardboard kayak Hall of Fame located at the Port Townsend Recycle Center at the Town Dump.

This year four teams of designers came up with a flotilla of boats that look like rejects from a Dali museum, and the team names were as intriguing as their creations.

The first-place finishers get an honorary place in the cardboard kayak Hall of Fame located at the Port Townsend Recycle Center at the Town Dump.

The Never Say Die team formed a boat that could only be described as a floating banana, while the PT Cruisers,a team of local aficionados, fashioned a sit-on-top arrow wrapped in tape. This was the year’s only departure from traditional kayak styling but did fit the mold of previous years’ winners: a rigid boat completely wrapped in tape that you sit on to paddle.

A team of traditionalists, the Big Dogs, came out with something that actually looked like a real kayak, with narrow bow and stern and symmetrical hull with a cockpit.

Then there were the Humboldt Honeys, a saucy quartet of California babes who came out with a cardboard rendition that can only be described as a “Blob.” It sort of looked like a wad of paper wrapped in packing tape that incidentally had a hole for a paddler to perch in. The surprising thing is it floated like a champ – testament to all those oddball creative ideals we all have.

The teams lined up on the beach for a LeMans’ style start, meaning the paddlers must run down to the water carrying their boats, leap in, and paddle off. They raced around a buoy anchored 100 yards out in the ice cold water.

The Big Dogs took the early lead, closely followed by PT Cruisers and Never Say Die. The Humboldt Honeys overcame early confusion and finished the first 30 yards in second place. Big Dog’s early lead vanished as their boat succumbed to waterlogging and became the first boat to imitate a submarine, but their paddler bravely kept paddling. Luckily all the paddlers were wearing drysuits in the 47-degree water.

….. the Humboldt Honeys might be looking for a “Sugar Momma” to sponsor them next year.

Next down went the Never Say Die team as their boat sunk about a foot under the flashing paddles of their kamikaze paddler. Surprisingly the Humboldt Honeys and their unique creation kept afloat long enough to take second place (you might say they had a “sweet design”) as they pulled to the beach and a roaring crowd. First place went to the local team, the PT Cruisers and their cardboard sit-on-top which stayed together just long enough to finish the race.

Rumor has it that the designers are going back to the boards planning new futuristic designs for next years boats. Plus I hear the Humboldt Honeys might be looking for a “sugar momma” to sponsor them. At this point it’s just a rumor though.

And once again, this years contest confirmed that old adage “spare the tape, lose the race.”

Happy Paddling…see you next year at the race.