I think I first heard about the Texas Water Safari in the late 1980s. I had started winning a few “short” canoe races around Florida and following a race in Cocoa Beach someone came up to me and said, “Hey, aren’t you Rod Price? You did the Texas Water Safari didn’t you?” When I said “no” he asked if I was sure. I think I would have remembered it.
Depending on who you talk to, the TWS is between 260 and 265 miles long. Once you paddle 260 miles – a few extra miles isn’t a big deal. Billed as “the world’s toughest canoe race,” paddlers must contend with rapids, portages, log jams and the Texas heat. Started in 1963, this year will be the 52nd running of the race. The TWS begins in San Marcos and ends at Seadrift, TX on the Gulf of Mexico.
When I decided to do the race, I wanted to do it in a tandem canoe. I started contacting my list of “usual suspects.” Previous partners, TWS veterans, experienced long distance paddlers . . .nothing. Everyone seemed to have a valid reason for not doing the race. A few had committed to do the MR 340 in July. Just when I was beginning to contemplate a solo attempt, the name Tom Dyll popped up in my memory banks. Tom was a WaterTribe racer. He had completed three, 300-mile Everglades Challenges. This past March, he raced with his daughter in a Kruger sailing canoe. They went through the “wilderness waterway” which is over 80 miles of paddling in the Everglades. You have to be tough to finish three Everglades Challenges. In a multi-day race, I think being tough is more important than being experienced. Tom also lives in Central Florida. We would have time to train together. I called Tom about the end of March and a few days later he accepted.
I decided it would be easier to fly to Texas and rent a canoe. When dealing with rapids, I like an aluminum canoe. The TWS has an aluminum canoe division and a novice division that requires recreational canoes. The race officials strongly urge first time TWS paddlers to enter the novice class. In this sense, the term “novice” does not mean you are new to canoeing. Since this was technically Tom’s first canoe race, I thought the novice division would be appropriate. In my mind, I’ll be trying to finish ahead of all the aluminum canoes. We rented an aluminum canoe with a spray skirt from a local outfitter.
The Texas Water Safari has some interesting rules. Each team can only receive water and ice from a designated team captain. We must take everything else with us. Tom and I have 100 hours to finish the race. We hope to do it in about half that time. Water levels will have a big impact on our speed. There are eleven checkpoints during the race where we can have contact with our team captain. Tom will have a SPOT tracker as required by the regulations. He will also be in charge of the GPS for navigating. My navigation skills are pretty much limited to what I can see in front of me. Another interesting rule concerns the bay crossing to the finish. If the bay is too rough to paddle, you are allowed to take a piece of your boat (like a rudder) and run several miles along the shoreline to the finish. I’m not sure what we could take off of an aluminum canoe. I’ll be hoping for calm conditions.
A local friend, Ed Morris, will be serving as our team captain. Ed is an experienced triathlete and military veteran. The team captain is a vital part of our race effort. I’m sure we can depend on Ed to be at the checkpoints with water and ice and to help us with our race strategy.
Next Friday morning we fly to San Antonio, TX. At 9 am on Saturday, June 14th the TWS starts on Spring Lake and flows into the San Marcos River. There are approximately 100 canoes and kayaks in the race. About 13 of the entries are in the novice class. Hopefully, Ed will be able to provide some updates during the race. Here is the link to Tom’s SPOT – http://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0MMVmdsLqYGGsEOedBZ4fE79Bay31tNqI
Now we get to see how tough the Texas Water Safari is…
Click below to check out the Texas Water Safari website: