Paddling season kicks off with 42nd Annual St. George River Race

85 canoes and kayaks took on the race, attracting newcomers and veterans alike.
Published: Mar. 25, 2023 at 11:50 PM EDT
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SEARSMONT, Maine (WABI) - There may have been snow on the ground, but people were still springing into action at the 42nd Annual St. George River Race!

85 canoes and kayaks took on the race, attracting newcomers and veterans alike.

Such as Phoebe Jekielek, who entered for the first time this year with her friend. “Dragged an old canoe that he had on his land out of the woods, and we don’t even know if it floats yet,” she humorously explains. When asked about her predictions for the race, she said, “Winning is not a thing. Winning is not a consideration. I think it’d be great. It’ll just be a lot of fun.”

So how did she do?

“We came in last which was perfect for us. Yeah, just really fun, great day,” Jekielek recounts with a laugh.

Win or lose, everyone is gaining something from the race, and trying to pass along the tradition.

“It’s really neat to see families out here. You know, there’s younger people that are paddling today, parents, grandparents,” says race committee member Aaron Cross. “My kids and my family have been part of this race for a long time.”

“I mean, I really feel like the paddling community is just that -- a paddling community,” explains Renee O’Donald. “We first started racing. I didn’t have children. I brought my kids to the race. they grew up. The people we raced with had kids, I took their kids from the start of the race to the end of the race. We’ve watched everybody come and go, it’s just a good community.”

While encouraging new generations to get engaged in the activity, there was still room for reflection on past community members. Renee and her husband Rick honored his longtime paddling partner who recently passed, Paul Brown, by casting his ashes in the St. George River.

“Paul was a fierce competitor, and many times over national paddling champion and a generous paddling teacher. And just a good man,” O’Donald reads from a tribute she had written for Brown.

Saturday’s race marked the first competition in the canoe and kayak season, which continues all the way into the fall.

“Yeah, the Passy next weekend, looking forward to that! Feeling strong, feeling really strong. Looking forward to do more,” says racer Damon Galipau.

The paddling season continues next Saturday on April 1st, as racers face off again for some friendly competition at the Passagassawakeag Stream.

For more information and the full race schedule, visit the MACKRO website.