Paddling is a sport that can be enjoyed by any age group.
Families with participants from the age of 10 to over 70 years old took part in the 34th Penn Cup paddling slalom at the Little Lehigh Creek in Allentown on Sept. 12. Hosted by the Lehigh Valley Kayak and Canoe Club, the event's 47 participants competed in 75 heats.
Races in single and tandem, canoes and kayaks, and open and closed variations over a course gave participants the chance to race in just about every paddling class.
Many tandems ran with a senior and junior team made up of a parent and child or even a grandparent and grandchild. Those families that travel across the state to participate in the five paddling competitions do so because it is a sport that the entire family can enjoy.
The paddling slalom took place on the Little Lehigh Creek over a course approximately 200 yards long. Gates, hung from wires, are suspended inches above the moving water. Each gate is numbered and colored either green to indicate that it must be passed through going downstream or red, indicating it must be passed through going upstream.
The objective is to complete the course as quickly as possible without touching or missing any of the gates. There is a 10-second penalty for touching a gate and a 50-second penalty for missing a gate.
The Little Lehigh Creek is spring fed and even during this summer's drought, there has been reliable water flow. With no supplemental flow, the water level was low, but the course was deep enough to get a paddle stroke in. Four years ago, the race was canceled due to flooding from Hurricane Ivan.
"Slalom courses run from 18 to 25 gates," explained course designer Gene Gallagher. "We have 20. The norm seems to be going toward shorter courses now, typically 18 – 21. Most people take 1.5 to 2 minutes."
"The course is fun," said event coordinator Sandy Powell. "It wasn't designed overly tight. I was able to open up and paddle hard and fast in the straight-aways. That's an advantage in an open boat."
"The Penn Cup is part of a series throughout the state of Pennsylvania," explained coordinator Jeff Wartluft. "It's designed to give people paddling skills that will help them when they run the river, and to have fun and a challenge."
After a rainy morning, the skies cleared and the race was a pleasure to watch. Most of the action took place when either boats had to cross the current to get to the next gate, or had to align their boat as they passed through a gate in a whitewater section.
The first place winners and their times were:
K-1 Men Plastic Dan Kirsch 227.35
K-1 Men Race David Kurtz 156.12
K-1 Men Plastic 40+ Mark Van Horn 180.92
K-1 Men Plastic 50+ Larry March 197.03
K-1 Men Cub Cadet Jacob Mermelstein -164.82
K-1 Men Plastic Cadet Zach Richard -209.97
K-1 Men Jr Ethan Van Horn-127
K-1 Men Cadet Tyler Uthus -140.66
K-1 Women Plastic Master Tina Ehrig 232.88
K-1 Women Plastic Master Joanne Novak -265.19
K-1 Women Plastic Jr Maddie Kaplan -218.66
K-1 Women Race Michelle Van Horn -190.47
K-1 Women Race Jr. Kaja Coraor -156.06
K-1 Women Cadet Adrianne Kehne -146.59
Closed Canoes single
C-1 Men Master John Coraor -181.03
C-1 Men Cadet Tyler Uthus -184.34
C-1 Men Jr Evan Uthus -166.06
C-1 Women Jr Kaja Coraor -175.66
C-1 Women Cadet Sarah Douglas -193.69
Closed Canoes tandem
C-2 Men Cadet A. Mermelstein/T Uthus -182.16
C-2 Mixed M. Todd and K. Todd -179.69
C-2 Mixed Jr Ethan/Evelyn Van Horn -166.07
C-2 Women Jr A. Kehne/L Durkee -189.53
C-2 Women Cadet E. Van Horn/S. Douglas -208.94
OC-1 Men Kevin Todd -177.88
OC-1 Women Sandy Powell-286
OC-Mixed M. Todd/K. Todd -230.47
Sit Upon Larry March -228.94