Riding the rapids with the annual St. George River Race

Posted:  Monday, April 3, 2017 - 1:15pm

SEARSMONT — The 38th annual St. George River Race took place April 2, just over a week after the original race date. The original date for the event, which is organized by the Waldo County YMCA, was set for March 25. The date was changed due to new ice forming on the river, turning what would have been the first river race of the season into the second, with the 44th annual Passy Race taking place yesterday.  (View more photos here)

Both sides of the road in Searsmont Village were lined with cars as competitors hauled their vessels to the river’s edge. The river itself, calm at the starting section, quickly filled with a mixture of kayaks, canoes, and a lone paddle boarder, all waiting for their starting call.

The start of the crafts were staggered by officials, while family and friends looked on and cheered. Some competitors took off silently, while others let out excited yells as they went under the overpass and quickly disappeared around the first corner of the race course.

The race spans six miles, beginning at St. George Bridge in Searsmont, and encompasses both calm waters and rapids that can reportedly reach Class III, depending on the water level at the time.

One kayaker, who was briefly snagged on a rock at a rougher section of the course, called out to spectators that the water was running low as she shimmied her vessel back into the current.

One first time racer from Bath agreed.

After completing the race, Aili Hartikka, said the waters were “very rocky,” due to the low water levels.

“There were lots of trees down in the first three miles,” she said of the course. “[Race organizers] clearly had to cut through the trees to create a path through.”

This made the run “pretty technical,” she said.

“I got hung up a little bit, but kayaks are more forgiving [of rocks] than canoes. They can take more,” she said.

Hartikka chose the St. George River Race as her first ever because of her interest in the upcoming Kenduskeag River Race, which clocks in at 16.5 miles. “It’s a lot longer and has much bigger rapids,” she said.

While Hartikka traveled from Bath, other competitors came from all over the state to participate in the event, which concluded at the Route 105 bridge in North Appleton.

With 79 different crafts participating in the event, completion times varied from just under 53 minutes for the fastest run, to close to 90 minutes for the longest.

The total revenue gained from the $20 charge per participating paddler goes directly to the Waldo County YMCA, to help with the funding of children's programs.

For additional photos, click here.

Erica Thoms can be reached at news@penbaypilot.com