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2009 Missouri River 340 Race in Outrigger Canoe with GPS Track

Submitted by on September 18, 2009 – 11:25 pm 3 Comments
It was my 4th Missouri River 340 Race. I always paddled that race solo:
…… 2006 – 78:32 in Spencer X-treme canoe
…… 2007 – 68:00 in WSBS Thunderbolt-X kayak
…… 2008 – 62:17 in Sea Wind canoe (self supported)

This year I decided to paddle Surfrigger, my outrigger canoe. Connie drove with me to Missouri and provided land support.

Surfrigger (24’x13.5″, ~28lb) built by John Diller from Savage River Works arrived to Fort Collins in the very end of January 2003. This solo outrigger canoe designed by Kris Kjeldsen, a New Zealand designer and has won many races in that area and in the west coast, also suitable for fast cruising and expedition races: A very light and stiff carbon/kevlar lay-up, rudder, the small volume cockpit with sprayskirt. Two small hatches allow me to do some light overnight paddling. I am paddling her on local waters in Colorado. I also paddled her during WaterTribe Everglades Challenge 2003 in Florida. Surfrigger is an interesting platform for photography and videomaking providing very different shooting angles.

A front deck of my Surfrigger with a deck bag and Garmin Etrex Vista GPS mounted with the sticky pod

Start. 9:30. The start was delayed by thunderstorm with heavy showers. I launched Surfrigger at a tip of Kaw Point. The boat ramp looked pretty crowded. I had about one hour to warm up and shoot some pictures before the start.

There was plenty of room on the Kaw River for all boats, but it got pretty crowded after the start when entering the Missouri. I had some problems with my Surfrigger to not get reduced to a monohull.

A. 16:13-16:19 Lexington checkpoint. Non stop paddling. I only approached a shore at Fort Osage without stopping to get an icebag from Connie .

B. 19:37-19:47. Waverly checkpoint. It was not easy to deal with Surfrigger at busy boat ramps.

C. 00:19-01:13. Miami checkpoint. I didn’t find Connie at the boat ramp. After a few minutes of waiting I carried the boat to the top of the ramp and started calling and searching. Finally, I found Connie sleeping in a tent. I wouldn’t recognize a tent without our “team captain” chair in front of it. Two hot dogs later I was back on the river.

D. 07:16-09:36. Glasgow checkpoint. Beautiful full moon night. I had to wait for Connie at the checkpoint. I tried to take a nap under big trees, but it didn’t really work.

E. 14:24-15:51. Franklin Island below Boonville. Our traditional meeting place in addition to official checkpoints. Finally, I was ready for short nap. It is a good river access spot, but there is no restrooms there.

F. 20:09-20:23. Coopers Landing checkpoint. Just a quick stop to resupply. Pad thai in a box to go. Typically, I wasted much more racing time by staying at Coppers. A few miles later I had a short maintainance stop to prepare for a night paddling.

G. 0:06-4:01. Noren. Another full moon paddling. I slept about 3 hours in a tent setup by Connie.

H. 11:26-11:36. Hermann. It was a nice morning on the river, but the Missouri was really slow below Jeff City (Osage River) in comparison to the previous year.

I. 14:53-15:36. Dandee. I was getting really sleepy in the afternoon. When I saw a sandy spot on the shore I decided to stop. When landed I recognized my familiar beach at the 76.5 mile where I spend a half hour shooting pictures during the first MR340. The place looked much better with some trash cans. I took 30 minute nap and started to enjoy paddling again.

J. 18:33-18:41. Klondike. The last checkpoint. That checkpoint was at Washington in 2007 and at Weldon Spring in 2008. The checkpoint shouldn’t be confused with the Weldon Spring campground which is a little bit upstream from the boat ramp (showers and kitchen!).

I was hoping to finish the race during daylight, but I had another few hours of full moon night paddling when approaching St Charles.

Finish. 22:41. St Charles. 61:11 hours (50:13 of active paddling time). 12th of 94 registered, 90 starters, 64 finishers in the men’s solo class. Race results.


My race speed as recorded by GPS (black line) and smoothed by running average (red line)

Some observations:

  • 2009 MR340 offered the best ever full moon night paddling. The weather was generally good, except, the big thunderstorm at the start. The river was pretty high at Kansas City, but significantly lower and slower below Jeff City in comparison to 2008 conditions.

  • I had my fastest time this year: 1 hour faster than in the previous year with a faster river. However, I didn’t accomplish my goal which was to finish below 60 hours.

  • Surfrigger worked pretty well for the race. It is wide and a long boat (24′) with an under stern rudder. As expected I had some challenges to land on narrow and overcrowded boat ramps, especially, during the first day, but it wasn’t too bad. This boat doesn’t turn easily. I had to put some extra efforts to approach landing spots with big eddies behind wing dikes (e.g., Franklin Island or Coopers landing).

  • Canoe racing paddles

  • I used a single blade paddle, light ZRE Power Surge, the same one I used in 2008 with Sea Wind. It is a fairy small paddle, 8″ wide. I was afraid to use my wide “outrigger” paddle (9.5″) due to uncertain condition of my elbow.

  • Could I use double blade paddle with Surfrigger? I believe that a rear ama in Surfrigger is placed much closer to a cockpit than in e.g., Huki outrigger canoes. It makes difficult to use a kayak paddle. Nevertheless, it is possible with a modified shorter stroke. A shorter paddle helps. My 212 cm Quickblade wing feels too long. I had some success with an adjustable wildwater Legend wing which I could make a few cm shorter – about 0.5 mph of gain in speed. However, it would require a lot of practice and a lighter paddle for a long race.

  • I added some extra padding to the Surfrigger original seat. I also tried the foam bumfortable seat which I am using in my Thunderbolt and Sisson kayaks. It didn’t work so well. I was afraid that the seat with high edges and back would make more difficult to remount the capsized canoe. The seat worked OK, but I ended up with some pain in my left hip/butt. Obviously, when tired, I started to put more weight on ama than usual and pressed my hip against cockpit coaming.

  • I didn’t use a spraydeck for my cockpit during the race. There was really no rough water. I didn’t have an opportunity to use my storm cag either. I used to have some water at the cockpit bottom from getting in. I neglected to dry it out and my feet in water shoes stayed wet all time. It didn’t bother me during the race, but caused some problem later – blisters from walking around St Charles.

  • It was not easy to open my venturi drain due to mud collected at the cockpit bottom. Additionally, to make this drain to work it is necessary to speed up well above 6 mph which I wasn’t very eager to do later in the race. I should just keep a sponge more handy.

  • I paddled all nights without using any lights except mandatory navigation lights and a tiny keychain LED light tied to a life jacket and used inside the boat. I also took a bike HID light, but I never turned it on. It was ready to use mounted on top of my deck bag. I also had a harness to use it as a head lamp.

  • Surfrigger as all outrigger canoes has a really narrow hull (15″). So, packing and resupplying may be somewhat tricky. I didn’t test the full equipped boat before the race and I had some little surprises which made my paddling, or at least resupplying, less efficient.

  • In last three races I used a hybrid life jacket, Kokatat SeaO2. It is light, quite comfortable and well ventilated. I was wearing it all time.

  • I had some injury problems during last two years: DeQuervain’s syndrome in my wrist in 2008 (ended up with surgery last winter) and some elbow problems this year. They both affected my training for MR340 races, but, after warming up, I didn’t experience any troubles during actual racing.

  • After four MR340 races in four different boats it is time to revise my old post
    How to Choose a Boat for an Ultra Marathon Race? The Case of Missouri River 340

I have got several questions about my Surfrigger experience in MR340 race. I tried to answer them above. Please let me know if you have more questions.

Could you share your experience with paddling an outrigger canoe in long distance races?

Big Muddy sunscreen – my race number on my outrigger canoe ama still well visible after removing the tape.


  • George True says:

    Marek: Thank-you for your latest report on the MR-340. My main question would be regarding the relative stability of the OC-1 outrigger when you are tired and/or in darkness. Did you ever feel that you had to weight the ama by leaning to the left in order to maintain stability when crossing eddy lines, paddling through big boils, etc? After paddling the MR340 now in the outrigger and also in the Spencer Extreme, which one would you prefer and why?

    Regarding the life jacket issue, I was not there, but looking closely at some of the pictures, you can detect some of the CO2 inflatable fanny pack PFD’s on some of the racers. (Also some racers wore vest-type CO2 inflatables.) Is it possible that some of the racers who appeared not to be wearing a PFD were actually wearing the fanny pack PFD’s? If you are sure that is not the case, then obviously that rule should be enforced for everybody.

  • Marek says:


    I paddled 4 MR340 races in 4 different boats (Spencer X-treme, Thunderbolt, Sea Wind and Surfrigger). I will try to summarize this experience in future posts, probably, in a format similar to my old post How to Choose a Boat for an Ultra Marathon Race? The Case of Missouri River 340.

    I didn’t have any really rough water during the race causing any problems for Surfrigger, just a couple of passing barges producing some waves. There was no need to weight the ama, but, obviously, I was doing it when tired or in darkness.

    Which boat? It depends on my race goal. If I want to cruise comfortably, shoot pictures and finish below 65 hours, Sea Wind would be the ideal choice. For a faster and less comfortable run – Surfrigger. If I like to significantly improve my time I would need to paddle with a wing paddle, so Thunderbolt or Spencer. I would probably lower my seat in Spencer to be more comfortable in rough water and try the bumfortable seat.

  • Maybe you should edit the page title fitness paddling » Blog Archive » My 2009 Missouri River Race as Recovered from a GPS Track to more generic for your blog post you create. I enjoyed the blog post still.

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