Angelenos have been leisurely enjoying the Los Angeles River for the past three years, but every good pastime has a competitive aspect. This year, the folks at LA River Expeditions have opened registration for its inaugural Los Angeles River Boat Race coming August 30.
"As with the guided trips that we've been doing since 2011, this will help to drive home the idea that you don't need to drive for hours to find nature right here in Los Angeles," says Anthea Raymond of L.A. River Expeditions. "In fact, here is where lush nature lives juxtaposed with three freeways. Take that Yosemite!"
According to the L.A. River Expeditions, the idea was a natural fit for the company, which has been involved in guided kayak tours of the Los Angeles River since recreational zones were first introduced to the city. "Our guides and other staff love paddle sports. Many are nationally certified kayak and rescue instructors. Some have competed in slalom racing too," says George Wolfe, founder the river guiding company. Though competitions are naturally divisive, there are ways communities can bond together in support of particular participants. Apart from Wolfe, organizers include Raymond and Brendan Nelson, who both have taught sea and whitewater kayaking and safety for many years at the University of California Los Angeles, and worked as L.A. river guides for three summers.
The rules of the race are intentionally simple, says Wolfe. For a suggested donation fee of $40 or another sum, 100 participants can paddle, kayak, or stand-up paddle on a 3/4-mile stretch of Glendale Narrows using their own equipment, racing each other to win prizes that are yet to be determined. There is also an option to rent equipment from the L.A. River Expeditions. Though the race will all occur at the same time, L.A. River Expeditions will be categorizing each participant into classes according to their chosen craft. Thus, kayakers will have one winner, as will stand-up paddleboarders.
Participants can expect to navigate a small rapid near Fletcher Drive, continuing down to flatwater near Marsh Park, and then loop back around the same calm water. Competitors will shoot rapids and round buoys, but organizers emphasize that no alterations will be made to the river.
Knowing that events like these can sometimes alienate the local areas in which they occur, organizers have also taken steps to ensure that the event doesn't only benefit greater Los Angeles, but the neighborhood itself. Interested locals can register by donating what they can. Younger residents, below the minimum participating age of 16, can also volunteer to be timers, starters, scorekeepers, and runners. "We hope they'll consider getting their feet wet as volunteers," adds Raymond.
No matter if you're a competitor, volunteer, or cheerleader in the sidelines, Wolfe promises a good time. The organizers also hope events like these will further endear the river to Los Angeles. Wolfe adds, "Everyone wins in the L.A. River Boat Race and we mean it."