The challenge of paddling in a race for 24 hours can be intriguing for some and out of the question for most. This monumental race on the Muskoka River includes 20 portages and check points where paddlers must meet the time limits. A third of the teams drop out before the finish. Learn about how this unlikely duo took the challenge and enjoyed all of the trials they met along the way.
This is not your traditional marathon event. In the toughest single-day expedition paddling race in the world, canoes, kayaks and paddleboards traverse two rivers systems, three lakes and 20 portages. It’s a total of 130 kilometers in less than 24 hours. No assistance, no support and no mercy. Each year more than a third of teams drop out. British adventurer Richard Harpham takes on the challenge.
I’m no stranger to long distance canoe and kayak racing. I’ve weathered the 715-kilometer Yukon River Quest and the so-called “Everest” of paddling races, the Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race. Yet, even with those exploits behind me, the Muskoka River X—heralded as the toughest single day canoe race in the world—caught my eye.
I picked Hap Wilson for my paddling partner. Hap’s reputation precedes him. The Canadian paddling icon is known for his work as an environmentalist and author of multiple canoeing guidebooks. He’s even written a guidebook on the Muskoka River system we would be paddling. No question, he seemed like the ideal partner.
Hap set the tone of our partnership at the outset with a brief email: “One warning about the race,” he wrote. “I’m a canoe tripper, not a racer. So I hope you aren’t disappointed.”
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