I’ve done the Chattajack race religiously since 2017. For those of you who don’t know what the Chattajack race is, it’s a 32-mile race down the Tennessee River. Yes, that’s right! Tennessee. It’s a well-organized and put together race and although it’s flat water, I find myself wanting to come back year after year because of the people and the challenge. The desire to come back to a flat-water race is a challenge in itself for a guy from Hawaii. Us Hawaiians don’t enjoy flat water; we want to hunt for the surf.
The last two years I really had fun on the racecourse. My first year I paddled the OC-1 and because it was my first year, I didn’t know what to expect so every turn and bend in the river was something new and exciting. Last year we put together an OC-6 team, which was fun because we had good company in the canoe and with six guys talking and giving each other encouragement, the race just went by really fast. This year the challenge was real.
This year Lex Raas and I teamed up in the OC-2 division and Lex had some serious goals he wanted to accomplish, so the pressure was on. The weather for our race was perfect racing weather – the mid to high sixties. Overheating wouldn’t be a problem. Keeping hydrated and comfortable was my goal. On our warm-up, I noticed my left side was tight. I figured once we got going the tightness would slowly loosen as my body got warm. To my demise, by hour two the pain had become more intense, to the point I was wondering if I would be able to finish the race. I was getting pretty worried because I didn’t want to let Lex down and this was the second time this year that the same issue had occurred. I remembered Lex had brought Advil, so I asked him for some and popped two. I stopped to try and stretch out my back and then got on with paddling again but in funny positions to avoid the pain. I had to do this for about a good hour to an hour and a half.
Luckily for us, we weren’t losing any ground on Brian Meyers and his partner. Those two guys were hammering and battling with us side-by-side for the first two hours until I had to stop and take the Advil and stretch. By the time we got going again they had a good lead, but to my surprise we were able to hold the gap and sometimes make some ground up in certain parts of the river.
Because of the wind on race day, there were a couple short sections where some bumps (small waves) materialized and we were able to play. On the final bend in the river, we decided to go outside in the middle and gamble, because of our position there was nothing to lose. As we veered out our speed began to slowly rise and by the time we hit the middle we were going almost 1.5 mph faster.
The wind produced some small but very surfable bumps, so we took full advantage of our situation. Once we began to link some waves into the run ahead, I had a good feeling that we would be in a good position to surprise our opponents on the inside. As we crept up, our speeds maintained, and we moved right by them. They saw our line and tried to come out to join us but by then it was too late. With the ability to surf, the adrenaline kicked in and the pain was all of the sudden gone. Our rate came up in the excitement and we turned it on as best we could. Once we had the finish in sight, we checked our position and were excited to find that we had put on a good lead in that short time.
For me, I was pretty happy. First off, I didn’t let my partner down and with the pain I was dealing with, which was the main concern on my mind. Secondly, the comeback. What a comeback! It happened with about 15 minutes left in the race; that is one that I will never forget.
To add some icing on the cake the Ares showed her true colors. Taking the top 3 places in the Open Men’s division. We sadly hear from our competitors that she’s only good in the downwind, however, in reality, we designed her to be a faster flat-water canoe. The idea was to make the Ares an all-around performing canoe no matter what the conditions. Don’t let us be the judge, give her a try and we believe she won’t disappoint you.
I’m writing this as I’m flying home with some pain and discomfort from the race, but Tennessee always provides a fun experience. We got to watch the Titans win at home on Sunday live at the stadium then headed into the strip to enjoy some of the craziness Nashville has to offer. We had some good BBQ and local beers to end off the trip. On our connecting flight in Denver, we got to witness a snowstorm which is something we’ll never see at home so all in all, it was another great mission due to our wonderful sport of paddling.