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Whitewater canoe race brings thrill and excitement to students

April 12, 2024

Courtesy of Aggie Macy
BAIL OF A TIME: Lillian Frank ’25 and Andrea Rodriguez ’24 on the river during the Annual Whitewater Recreational Canoe Race on April 30. The BOC whitewater canoe team will return to the water for a race this Sunday.

On April 30, a group of students and staff members of the Bowdoin Outing Club (BOC) competed in the 43rd Annual Whitewater Recreational Canoe Race on the St. George River. Hosted by the Maine Canoe and Kayak Racing Organization, around 150 canoers swarmed the three mile course for a wild day of competition.

On Saturday morning, the Bowdoin contingent headed over to the river and scouted out some of the spots they would be paddling through during the race.

Aggie Macy ’24 recounted the challenging conditions awaiting the crew as it began to race. Many people participating began to lose control of their boats quickly.

“Down the rapid, there were canoes strewn everywhere across the river. They were wrapped around trees, some of them just floating upside down. We saw a couple that split in half completely. In total, 24 canoes were abandoned floating down the river,” Macy said.

Safety personnel lined the river in case of an accident, but no Bowdoin students suffered any incidents and each boat ended up placing in the top four within their category.

Anna Bastidas, Associate Director of the Outing Club, attributes this success to racers’ previous experience on the water.

“All of the race participants had previous whitewater canoe experience—some of them learned to paddle whitewater canoes at the BOC—and I think that experience helped them to navigate the race successfully,” Bastidas said.

However, a few boats were overwhelmed by the Class II plus rapids on the river with waves reaching as high as three feet tall and pouring over the edge of the canoe.

“We started to take on lots of water from hitting these big standing waves,” Tess Mooney ’26 said. “We had to get out of the boat a few times to dump out the water so we were not sinking, especially when we got to the end of the more challenging section. We felt very lucky that we were not one of the boats who flipped.”

Despite abandoned canoes and stops for bailing out water, the camaraderie and excitement remained high throughout the day.

“The vibes were definitely chill and really fun. As you’re passing people, you’re chatting with them on the river,” Macy said. “Everyone was joking around and cheering each other on. So it was really not intense at all, but a really fun environment.”

But the whitewater canoeing does not end here. The BOC is hosting practices from now until the end of the semester to help students learn to brave canoeing mechanics in whitewater.

“During our practices, we’ll continue to teach and learn about paddling whitewater, refining our paddle strokes and steering, working with the water to cruise around bends in the river and continuing to just go out and enjoy time out on a river together,” Bastidas said.

Outing Club Officer Andrea Rodriguez ’24 hopes for more competition later this season.

“‘Till the end of the semester, there’s at least one [race] per weekend,” Rodriguez said. “Which means we can get more people out there on flat water locally and hopefully set them up for weekend races later on.”

Anyone is welcome to join the BOC canoeing team to learn more about the sport and improve their skills out on the water.

“It has been a really fun new skill for me to learn and you definitely can learn quickly,” Mooney said.  “No one should hold back.”

Lillian Frank ’25 is a member of the Bowdoin Orient. 


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