On Saturday, April 1, the Bowdoin Outing Club (BOC) rolled out its new whitewater canoe racing team at the 48th Annual Passagassawakeag River Race in Waldo. With two paddlers per boat over a seven-mile stretch, the team had a strong performance that included three top-three finishes across divisions.
The race, hosted by the Maine Canoe & Kayak Racing Organization (MaCKRO), drew a sizable group of competitors despite the day’s cold and rainy weather. Assistant Director of the Outing Club Eric Guiang ’18 described interacting with the Maine paddle sports community as one of the highlights of the race.
“[MaCKRO] organizes great events, and we are thrilled to be able to participate. I think the students that raced on the Passagassawakeag really appreciated the opportunity to be a part of that community (and perhaps [were] surprised by the number of folks that turn[ed] up to race a canoe when it’s 40°F and raining),” Guiang wrote in an email to the Orient.
The idea to bring competitive canoe racing to the BOC originally came from Guiang, who mobilized club members to compete in a canoeing race during his senior year at Bowdoin. When Guiang told BOC Officer Annie Mahoney ’23 about the 2018 race earlier this semester, she was inspired to bring the sport back to the BOC by organizing an unofficial team.
“I really latched onto the idea [to race] because it seemed like such a cool way to engage with the broader community and add an element of competition to this thing that’s already very fun,” Mahoney said. “I started telling people about it, and it just started building momentum— there was a lot of interest.”
Though BOC members are expected to have experience with canoeing before joining the team, racing presents the opportunity to apply paddle skills to a new, adrenaline-pumped setting. At the Passagassawakeag race, many BOC members experienced this shift for the first time.
“I feel like my relationship with canoeing in the past has been very easygoing, like, ‘We get there when we get there…’ So it was really fun to switch that up and try to go as fast as I can and see what that looks like,” Deva Holliman ’23 said.
Holliman successfully embraced her competitive side at the race, finishing first in the co-ed novice division with her teammate Ely Miller-Wilson ’23.
The team hopes to rack up more medals tomorrow at its second race, the Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race in Bangor. The race will stretch over 16 miles and is a highly anticipated event among the New England paddling community.
“The race is the biggest one that happens [each year], and there’s a long tradition around it,” Mahoney said. “There’s a lot of people that will dress in costume, so it’s very silly. It’s simultaneously the most intense and the most fun and goofy race.”
The team practices every Friday on the Androscoggin River and is open to all canoeing enthusiasts. Guiang underscored that the team’s competitive spirit lies secondary to something much greater.
“While the competition aspect certainly adds a degree of excitement (and maybe motivation to paddle faster), it’s really about getting a group of people excited about paddling a canoe out on the water and having a good time,” Guiang wrote.