The Boathouse District on the Oklahoma River will be the site of national championship racing Saturday and Sunday as USA Canoe/Kayak is holding its Canoe Marathon National Championships.
This is the first time the event has been held on the Oklahoma River, which also will be the site of the International Canoe Federation’s Canoe World Championships on Sept. 26-28.
Men and women will be racing in single and two-person canoes and kayaks for distances of 11.6 miles, 13.9 miles and 16.2 miles in four divisions: masters (age 30 and older), senior (elite level ages 23 and older), under 23 and junior (younger than 19) divisions.
Depending on the distance of the race, competitors must complete from four to seven laps on a 2.3-mile course of the Oklahoma River. The rules of the event even require the paddlers to portage a distance of 131 yards after each lap except the first one.
Portage is the act of carrying the kayak or canoe from one point of navigable water to another. Competitors must dock then sprint with boat and paddles in hand to the launching point to try to get back on the water as fast as possible.
The portage area will be in front of the Chesapeake Finish Line Tower, which has terrace seating for the public. Sometimes a race can be won or loss during the portage.
“It’s important to get in and out really quick, but it’s more important not to mess up,” said Kaitlyn McElroy of Oklahoma City, who will be trying this weekend to qualify for her third consecutive World Championships with partner Maggie Hogan.
Dropping the boat and paddles during the portage or being squeezed out when docking by other racers can cost valuable time, McElroy said.
Time penalties are also assessed for infractions during the race. Much like a penalty box in hockey, competitors will have to serve any time penalty on land in the portage area.
The two-day national championships will determine who will represent the United States in the World Championships in September, which is expected to draw representatives from at least 30 countries.
On Saturday, races begin at 8 a.m., 11 and 2:30 p.m. On Sunday, racing begins at 8 a.m. only.
The races are free and open to the public. RIVERSPORT Adventures will be open during the competition, but kayaking, dragon boating and stand up paddle boarding will not be available until after 4 p.m.