Boaters turn out for South Yadkin Canoe Race

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 15, 2011

By David Freeze
For the Salisbury Post
Participants from as far as West Virginia came to the Salisbury area for the 24th Annual South Yadkin Canoe and Kayak Race on Saturday.
The race consisted of six miles of flatwater (non-rapids), starting at the U.S. 601 bridge and continuing to the Salisbury Pump Station.
The race is sponsored by the Mocksville/Davie Parks and Recreation Department and the Land Trust for Central North Carolina, in association with the Rowan Paddlers. Sam Bonds and Jeff Gobble served as race directors.
Nancy and Jack LaMare from Bakersville competed in the competition kayak division. Their daughter, Nancy Washko, lives in Salisbury, so the LaMares return often to race the South Yadkin.
“We paddlers are all friends, and everybody knows just about everybody. We buy and sell boats from each other, too,” Nancy LeMare said.
Paddlers have many reasons for taking up the sport.
Melissa Maedgen of Rock Hill has won her class three years in a row, with her latest win on Saturday.
Maedgen started competing in paddle sports after a running injury, but she soon found that long-distance paddling has injuries too. She has suffered tailbone chafing and neck and shoulder injuries, but she still loves to compete in endurance races as long as 260 miles.
She’ll gladly travel as far as Texas to pursue her competitive hobby.
Most canoe and kayak races are small and organizers can be flexible on the classes offered, depending on how many show up. Boats are judged by the race chairman and assigned to classes to even out the competition.
Other racers came from the Rowan County area.
Dr. Gordon Senter of Salisbury recently retired and is pursuing his hobby of racing kayaks. Saturday’s race was his first, and he admitted to learning a lot.
“Other competitors are really helpful, and at least one time I found myself in the wrong spot in the river,” said Senter, who placed in his class.
Butch Hollifield of Salisbury brought daughters Dawn and Jennifer, and his granddaughter, Hailey, to race the river. Hollifield has done 23 of the 24 South Yadkin events, and now is happy to spend time here with his family.
William and Lynn McDuffie are canoe-racing professionals who live in Robbins, near Southern Pines. They race whitewater and flatwater, and have traveled as far as Colorado, Maine and Massachusetts.
“This is family fun. There is something for everybody. It is a sport where you can spend as much as you want, up to $5,000 for the best boats. Or you can compete in the recreational classes, and just enjoy the time on the water. Most of the paddlers are environmentally conscious. Everyone is glad to offer assistance,”Lynn McDuffie said.
The McDuffies won the mixed-competition class.
Many of the competition classes are filled with those who have quite a history in other sports.
Mickey Turlington of Hope Mills has traveled the world as a mountain climber. He has conquered many of the world’s major peaks.
“Canoeing is great lifetime sport. You can make the training as intense as you want,”Turlington said.
He started in whitewater racing, and now prefers flatwater events. Turlington and Laura Kerr of Albemarle placed in the mixed recreation class.
At the pre-race meeting, Co-Race Director Bonds told everyone, “The Yadkin is a simple river, so today just stay in the middle.”
He also reminded everyone that the Rowan County Rescue Squad was on hand if needed, and at least one rescue was made during the race. Most of the race was held in a steady drizzle.
One of the most notable winning teams was Mike Corey of Charleston, W.Va., and Neal Sanders of Johnson City, Tenn.
Corey is 67 and Sanders is 71. They placed in the competition cruisers class.
Both are longtime racers, and have competed in National Class races. Corey, also a cyclist, wants to live to be 100 and is more determined after his dad died at an early age.
Overall winners with the fastest time in the competition cruising class were Steve Rosenau and Scott Roth in a time of 43 minutes and 47 seconds.
Lynn McDuffie summed up the competition by saying, “ In the North, this is a much bigger sport. It is catching on in our area. Our sport has a community feeling. We love canoeing and we want to share it with others.”