Paddler joins marathon canoe race tradition

 In Sports

Jay Naismith has wanted to compete in the Mattawa River Canoe Race since he was a child.

The Creemore resident will get his chance this summer to race along the 64-km historic Voyageur route, from North Bay to Mattawa Island on July 29.

Naismith, 43, said he has done the route as a leisurely four-day canoe trip and it was wonderful but this time he will do it in one day and by himself.

Mattawa River Canoe Race is Ontario’s longest-running canoe race. It started in Ville-Marie, Que. in the 1960s as a two-day race to North Bay but the North Bay-Mattawa Conservation Authority took over 41 years ago and reoriented the route.

Naismith said he was really intrigued by the history of the route and what it would be like to race.

But before the Mattawa River Canoe Race, Naismith is competing in the Muskoka River X race on May 27. The 40-km route begins in Huntsville, upstream, along the Muskoka River into Lake Vernon and then up the Big East River to Arrowhead Provincial Park. And then, paddlers have to return along the same route.

He said he is amongst a small group that enter in the C1 recreational class, meaning he canoes solo. Naismith has many canoes but in these races he will paddle a 16-foot Sawyer Algonquin made in the mid-1980s. It is a two-seater canoe that he has altered for solo paddling.

Big East River X Marathon event may not be the longest event however it still is demanding and challenging. This 40km course follows flat-water rivers of the upper Muskoka River and Big East River with open water paddling on Lake Vernon.

When asked why Naismith decided to start racing, he said, “Why not?”

He learned to canoe as a child, with his family, and has been paddling ever since, in lakes and rivers. “Anywhere there is water,” he says. He said he used to paddle to get to the best fishing spots but now he just paddles for the sake of paddling.

At one point, he was given a marathon racing canoe. He said that’s probably what got him thinking seriously about it.

Naismith has two sponsors for his races, his employer Rock Solid Supply in Barrie and Tundra Group in Clearview Township, which offers international risk management, security, safety and training services.

Naismith has also signed up for a Canada 150 event at Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park, called 150 for 150, when 150 canoes will be on the lake.

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