It was a great day on the Suwannee River. The river gauge at White Springs showed 60 ft. above sea level which meant a fast run down the Suwannee. For those of us who ran the race last year at less than 52 ft., the extra water was very welcome.
In the 26 (some say 27) mile marathon race, 15 paddlers started down the Suwannee at the Rt. 6 bridge above White Springs. Brint Adams, the overall winner for the last six years, was back to defend his title. This year he had some serious competition from three other kayakers. Xavier Comelli, a previous Challenge winner, quickly opened a lead on the rest of the field. Brint, Marty Sullivan and Peter Gelzinis were all close to each other in second place. Marty really wanted to run the Shoals, but after scouting the rapids on Friday evening decided it was not worth the risk. Marty was able to hold off Peter and Brint on the portage and cruise to a second overall finish. Xavier was the overall winner in a time of 3:31:14.
The first wave of boats in the 52 mile Challenge race left Fargo. GA at 7:15 am. A total of 21
paddlers in solo and tandem canoes and kayaks were competing in the event. Suwannee River
veteran Larry Frederick showed he could wield a kayak paddle as well as a canoe paddle. Larry recorded his fastest Challenge time in a surf ski and dominated the field with a time of 7:16:00. The battle for second place ended when Paul Cox and Rod Price decided to take a five minute break at the halfway point. Bob Waters, paddling a kayak, kept on going and built a ten minute lead. Anita Allen (kayak) was the fastest female paddler with a time of 7:44:32.
At a level of 60 ft. above sea level, Big Shoals was roaring. The race organizers leave it up to each paddler to make their own decision about the class III rapids. The last two kayakers in the Challenge made a bad choice. Mike Stelljes and Mike Woodside both tried to run the Shoals and flipped their kayaks in the whitewater. When Woodside bailed out of his capsized kayak, his boat hit him in the head causing a serious gash. The two Mikes finished the race about 7:40 pm. Woodside had a makeshift bandage wrapped around his head and was going to the hospital in Lake City.
It was nice to see some old friends at the race. Jack and Nancy Lamar (NC) have been married for 59 years and finished the Challenge in a tandem canoe with a time of 8:49:39. Linda and Laverne Young drove over from Niceville, FL for the race. Larry Castillo and Diana Gafford (Atlanta) battled through back and shoulder injuries to make it to the finish. The father and son team of Joe and Andrew Spooner completed their first challenge in a tandem kayak. Special thanks to Stacey Roberts for patiently recording all of our racing times while we played on the river.
1st Overall – Xavier Comelli – Unl. Kayak – 3:31:14
1st Unlimited Kayak – Marty Sullivan – 3:40:17
1st Sea Kayak – Peter Gelzinis – 3:42:41
2nd Unlimited Kayak – Brint Adams – 3:43:41
2nd Sea Kayak – Doug Lindsay – 3:47:56
1st Solo Canoe – Laverne Young – 3:53:56
3rd Sea Kayak – Buddy Hudson – 3:54:00
1st Sea Kayak Women – Marion Feusner – 4:43:13
1st Unl. Kayak Women – Marilyn Ward – 5:12:07
1st Tandem Kayak – Steven Gregg / Beth Whatley – 5:40:11
4th Sea Kayak – Joe Cona – 6:36:15
1st Rec, Kayak Women – Lori Cona – 6:36:20
5th Sea Kayak – Joe Perry – 7:05:50
2nd Sea Kayak Women – Sara Perry – 7:06:20
1st Overall – Larry Frederick – Surf Ski – 7:16:00
1st Unlimited Kayak – Bob Waters – 7:29:09
1st Unl. Kayak Women – Anita Allen – 7:44:32
1st Unlimited Canoe – Paul Cox / Rod Price – 7:47:55
1st Sea Kayak Men – David Morse – 8:20:06
1st Rec. Tandem Canoe – Nancy & Jack Lamar – 8:49:39
1st Surf Ski Women – Cheryl Smith – 8:56:10
1st Expedition Canoe – Tom Dyll – 8:56:19
1st Tandem Sea Kayak – Jim O’Connell / Will Schaet – 9:21:06
2nd Sea Kayak Men – Paul Mehring – 9:53:48
1st Tandem Kayak – Kent Overmeyer/ Ray Tipton – 9:54:36
2nd Tandem Kayak – Andrew & Joe Spooner – 10:17:44
1st Tandem Racing C-2 – Larry Castillo / Diana Gafford – 10:45:14
3rd Sea Kayak Men – Mike Stelljes – 11:54:14
3rd Sea Kayak Men – Mike Woodside – 11:54:14