Chattajack 31 is a bucket list race for sure. Just to experience Tennessee with the cities of Nashville and Chattanooga is well worth the trip.
The Chattajack 31 is a 31.8 mile race in the Tennessee River Gorge that is offered to SUP, Prone Paddleboard, Kayak, Marathon Canoes, River Canoes, OC-1, OC-2, OC-3, OC-6, Surfski, and 2-man Surfski. With such a variety of disciplines there are many contestants. This year there were well over 500 participants tackling the Chattajack and pushing their way thru the river enjoying wonderful sites of fall leaves and gorgeous country back drop the Tennessee River has to offer. Last year was my first time to participate in this race and although we paddlers from Hawaii would never think of paddling 31 miles of flat water for enjoyment, I actually had fun and kept this years race on my radar and was ready for the challenge once again. A big reason why I wanted to head back to Chattajack 31 is that it's a very well organized race, Ben and Kim Friberg do a great job of catering to the athlete and making one feel welcome to the event. They also have this really cool belt buckle that you can earn by participating in the event for 5 consecutive years.
I went solo last year on my Ares design and enjoyed how well I felt thru the whole race due to the comfort and speed of this design. It was a long session but due to the constant bending of the river and not being able to see my distance for no more than 3/4 of a mile the race went by pretty quick. The hours came faster than I had anticipated and the third hour was there before I knew it. This year was no different. Lex and Jean Raas of Crazy
Paddlers in Clearwater Florida gave me a call to jump in with several of our good friends and participate in the OC-6 at this years Chattajack. I was stoked, after going solo last year I thought it may be more enjoyable sharing the experience with someone rather than just going alone. We had, what I call, a mixed plate crew. Some older, some younger, and some of us middle aged guys to fill out our roster. The youngest was Will Reichenstein from NAC, the middle aged paddlers were Jean Raas from Florida, Felipe Gomes and myself from Maui. Frank Zajack from Maui along with our Team Captain Lex Raas from Florida rounded it out for our two 60 plus guys (Uncle status). Lex had some serious goals set for us but I think for all of us it was about getting out and having a fun paddle with each other and giving our goal the best shot we could. We all had never paddled together before as a crew so what to expect was unexpected, main thing was to enjoy the adventure together. The day before race day the river was running with good current from the dam discharge and excitement was brewing amongst the competitors. Times could be fast if this flow continued through race day and with the constant rain the day before it looked as if it would. Well,... to our dismay they turned the flow down on race morning and rumors of them shutting the flow off completely for a couple hours were circulating thru the competitors area. What could we do but chalk it up, go out with our main goal of enjoying the ride together and keep in mind that it could be worse so it’s still pretty positive. Throughout the race we seemed to hold consistent speed and already knowing the course really helped me gage when to pace out the stroke and when to give a little extra in between. As the year before, the minutes went by pretty fast and in the end surprisingly we were able to harness a pretty fast time without the running river. We finished and the time on our watch was 3:46. We could only imagine what could have been if we had the flow of the river with us. I want to thank Lex and Jean Raas for putting this team together and for housing us in Chattanooga. It’s always a pleasure for me to paddle with Will and Felipe but it is always exciting to paddle with someone new as well, thank you Frank for making it happen and thanks for cooking up the breakfast all weekend. That was great coffee on race morning by the way.
I also want to thank Jeff Schnelle, our Ozone Midwest dealer who organized clinics and brought some of our Kaiwa'a designed canoes for people to demo and race. We were stoked to see some of our new friends from Michigan take home first place finishes on both the Ares (OC1 Mens - Michael Davis) and Gemini (OC2 Mix - Bruce Barton and Rebecca Davis)
. Being able to catch up with old friends like Cowboy and Joe Bark and meet new friends in the midwest and east coast paddling communities has truly been a joy. I am excited to see the sport growing throughout the country and always fun to hear their stoke on paddling. My wife, Kealani and I are on our way back home after having a really fun night in Nashville, a must when in Tennessee. We’ve only been gone a week but miss our little guy and teenage girl a ton and are looking forward to these next couple months of holidays and family. Thank you to their Grandparents for watching over them while we were away. Until the next adventure...
Check out Chattajack Website for more info HERE
Check out 2018 Chattajack RESULTS
Photos by: Richard Klapper, Dianne Blankenbaker, Lawson Whitaker and Deb S.