Skip to main content

     Minnesota Canoe Association website header
HomeRacing FAQ
Check the Racing Forum for this week's location and cancellations due to weather: 

 

Links:
John Winters - has a page with a ton if great info on choosing a canoe and a lot about frictional resistance and hull speed.
Rapids Riders - White Water paddlers
Zaveral Racing Equipment  makes the Gold Standard for carbon fiber racing paddles.
Wenonah Canoes makes many types of canoes, including Racing canoes.
Savage River makes high quality carbon fiber canoes and SUP's.
Grasse River makes high quality carbon fiber canoes
Other great builders without websites:
Cal Stenso builds beautiful wood strip boats under the Velocity brand
Everett Crozier builds some of the best canoes available. Crozier canoes are in such demand he has never needed a website. Give him a call if you're interested in one of his boats.
FAQ's
Who races canoes?

Everyone. We have racers from 14-75 years old and everything in between. One unique thing about canoe racing is that the strongest person often does not win. Fitness and strength matter, but skill and experience are what wins a race. The best racers in our group are 45-75 years old! There is a learning curve and it takes a couple seasons to get good at racing, but it’s a very fun and rewarding learning experience and the Racing community is very friendly.

 
 

How do I learn to race?

The best way is to come to Monday Night Rookies. Experienced racers come and share their gear and knowledge with the rookies. After a few weeks you’ll have an understanding of the strokes and strategy you’ll need to be competitive. This is free to MCA members or $5 per night if you’re not.  

 

If you’re the type that likes to dive in the deep end (no pun intended), you can just come to a race and sign up. Most races have Recreational or Stock classes that are approachable by anyone with some paddling experience. The Hoigaards Paddle Derby is a great series of races that offers many classes and distances that suit everyone from novice racers to the pros. It runs every Thursday from June to mid August.

 

There are also training events every weekend where intermediate-advanced racers do a 10 mile paddle at about 80% of race speed in a tight pack. This is great training for riding a wake, popping it up in the shallows, dealing with the waves of other boats, and paddling in a current effectively. Once you know the basics of racing and want to take your skills to the next level this is the place to do it. Contact us for further information on these events.

 
How long are canoe races?
Local races are commonly between 5 and 20 miles. This translates to 1-3 hours of paddling. Some of the national races are up to 120 miles and 18 hours long; the most common ones are 7-12 miles. The Hoigaards Paddle Derby offers 5, 6, or 7 mile courses and are a great place to start. The 3 most famous, top level national races are all 80-120 miles over 1 or 3 days.
 

 

What equipment do I need to start?

The MCA has boats, paddles, and PFDs you can use at Monday night Rookies, Tuesday night ‘Learn to paddle’ and Thursday night Hoigaard’s Paddle Derby. You can just show up (with your MCA membership of course) we’ll handle the rest. Bring your own water bottle and sunscreen

 

If you give it a try and like racing, you’ll probably want to invest in your own equipment. Some things to get early on include a paddling oriented PFD, a light weight paddle (most likely Carbon Fiber weighing <12 oz. with a bent shaft), a water bottle with hands free drinking tube, water shoes, and sun hat. The folks at races are happy to recommend specific products if you need advice on what or to buy.

 

As for finding a boat, you can use one of our Jensen 18 canoes in the Stock class of the races the MCA attends.  Also, racers with their own boats are constantly looking for partners to paddle with. Show up to Rookies or a Paddle Derby and we can find you a partner. If you want to buy your own boat, come ask us for recommendations. Used Stock class boats can usually be found for less than $800 and used Pro boats can be found for less than $1000. New race boats are usually $3000+.
Do I have to have a racing boat to compete in a race?
No! You can race in anything. There are different classes for different styles of boats. You can race in anything from a carbon fiber Pro boat to an Alumacraft or Coleman plastic boat. Your class will be determined by your boat. Often the classes are defined similar to these generic specs:
Pro boats - 3x27 (Pro) spec boats
Stock boats 17-18.5' long and at least 32" wide. also 4x32 spec racing boats are in this category.
Recreational boats <17' and >60 lbs. 
To see what classes the race offers, see the race website or coordinator.
 

Where can I find information on upcoming races?

We post most regional races on our event calendar so check that frequently. The USCA (US Canoe Association) website has a nationwide event calendar also. If you’re unsure of details you can email us for more information too.

 
 

How do I find a group to paddle with?

The best way to meet other people to paddle with is to come to any of our events. You are sure to find someone in your area to paddle with. We have members all over the Twin Cities and state wide that paddle regularly. They range in paddling style; from wide slow rivers to fast narrow white water, from aggressive racing to relaxed wilderness tripping or just some casual fitness paddling, we have a group for everyone. The River Ramblers group slowly meanders the rivers of Minnesota. The Rapids Riders do a lot of white water paddling. The MCA hosts Rookies, Learn to Paddle, and some other events. We are connected with people in every area of paddling and can find you a group with a similar paddling style and goals. You can also email us to get you pointed in the right direction.

 
 
Are race canoes tippy?

Some are, some aren’t. Stock class canoes are a great combination of speed and stability. Our Jensen 18s are a great example of this. They are fast while still having enough stability to make most people feel comfortable in them. These boats meet the 4x32 spec (32” waterline width at 4” draft). We recommend you start with a boat like this and move up to faster and less stable boats if you want. Many people just like racing in the stock class, or move up to Pro class if you want more speed and competition.

 

As you move up to the Pro class canoes that meet the 3x27 spec (27” waterline width at 3” draft), you gain speed at the expense of stability. Pro boats have low initial stability, but they flair outwards at the gunwale and gain secondary stability as they are leaned. This can lead some people to feel uncomfortable in Pro boats, but as you spend time in the seat you get used to their feel. I remember my first time in a Pro boat; It was somewhat unnerving, but by the end of the summer I felt comfortable in them so don’t give up the first time you’re in one. If you have experience with narrow kayaks or surf skis the transition will be easy, but anyone can become comfortable with some seat time.

 
 

 

I want to start a race. How do I do that?

We will be creating a new web page dedicated to this shortly, but in the mean time email the racing director for a Word document with some guidelines. The MCA does not directly provide insurance or sponsor races for other groups. We can help promote your race, guide you through the process, and provide operational knowledge. You will most likely get insurance through the USCA. Please refer to their website for more information on insurance and sanctioning.

 
 

Can I race in a Kayak?

In general, most races will have classes for Canoes, Kayaks, and other boats (Surf skis or Stand up paddle boards).  Refer to the race website for a breakdown of the classes the race offers. Some races are exclusively for canoes or kayaks, but most offer a class for everyone.

 
 

Is racing hard?

It can be as hard and serious as you want to take it. Some prefer the recreational classes and just do it for fitness or to challenge themselves. Others take it very seriously and are extremely competitive. You can find a class that suits your desired level of competition at most races.

 


How long does it take to be “good” at racing?

An experienced racer told me “You’ll be ok in 2 years, good in 5, and a veteran in 10-15”.  That sounds like a long time, but time flies when you’re having fun! There is a lot to learn about racing and most of it can’t be taught from a book. You need to be in the seat and get experience by doing. The difference between a rookie and a veteran is the “feel” they develop. Knowing when to rest or sprint, how to ride a wake, when to brace, and all the little tricks of racing is something you only develop from time in the seat. The more often you paddle the faster you gain skill. Even if you’re just starting out you can be successful in Rec or Stock classes. I placed 2nd in my very first race! You will gain skill faster if you paddle with experienced folks at Rookies, or our other training events so come on out!

If I want to buy a canoe for racing, what should I look into?

 

Anything designed by Gene Jensen. He was an Anoka native that basically invented canoe racing as we know it. You’ll see that many of the boats we recommend are his designs.

 

Tandem Stock Class Boats:

Jensen 17’ and 18’ - made by Wenonah or Clipper. These are great, fast, all around boats. They are relatively shallow so they do well in the wind. That means they’re not the best suited for large loads or deep wilderness tripping, although some people take them to the BWCA. The MCA just bought six Jensen 18’s, so that shows you what we think of them.

 

Wenonah MNII – Designed by Gene Jensen. It has similar measurements to a Jensen 17 or 18 but with more depth. It is a great tripping canoe that does well in stock class races too. (the Escape is the same boat, but a foot shorter. It would be a good stock class boat as well)

 

Wenonah Sundowner 18 – Now discontinued, but you can find used ones. Similar to a MNII or Jensen. Not a bad third choice if you find one for a good price.

 

Solo Stock Class Boats:

The Wenonah Advantage is a great stock class boat. It has a lot of tumble home which makes padding easier. It has enough depth to be very versatile but still shallow enough that it isn’t a sail in the wind

The Bell Magic is just coming back into production after a few years off. It is similar to an Advantage but slightly shorter and has some rocker unlike the other boats mentioned. That would make it better on small streams where turning is important.

 

Pro Boats:
Tandem:
The V1-Pro is made by many different manufacturers. It is Gene Jensen’s pro boat that has been the most popular tandem pro boat for many years. It is built to the 3x27 spec. Some builders include Wenonah, Grasse River, Savage River, Crozier, Velocity, and Clipper

Solo:
The dominant Solo Pro boat has been Jensen’s J series boats. They include the J-180, J-190, and J-200. The newer versions are called the J-193 and J-203. They all have the same hull shape but have more or less length and volume so they have the ideal amount of draft for a given paddler based on their weight. The J-190 is good for <180 lbs and the J-200 is good for <220 lbs or so. They have a radical ‘wing’ design so that you use less than their full waterline width to increase their speed, but that reduces initial stability too.