It’s not just a race, it’s an adventure is the most appropriate way of describing the Muskoka River X events.
Entering its fourth year running, the Muskoka River X continues to attract high level teams of competitors to the area.
Race organizers Mike Varieur and Rob Horton are extremely excited about this year’s event.
Ninety teams featuring over 150 paddlers from across North America are set to take on the Muskoka River from Sept. 16 to 18. In 2013, only 42 teams were entered.
Sponsored by Algonquin Outfitters, the Muskoka River X is known as the longest single day expedition paddling race in the world.
The event has done much to boost exposure for Muskoka as a whole with world class athletes taking part in several categories including team and solo canoe, kayak or stand-up paddleboard (SUP).
“The River X is a great event,” says Varieur. “It has become one of the top ultra distance paddling events in Canada, and is recognized around the world. Since the MRX started in 2013, Muskoka has increasingly become recognized as a destination for paddle sport training and racing. It is now common to see people training on the course all year long. The MRX, to the best of our abilities, supports local businesses and brands such as our title sponsor Algonquin Outfitters, our head quarters at Hidden Valley Resort, and other local sponsors.”
With a nod to the past and the explorers of the 1800s, competing teams paddle fully-loaded with expedition gear, do not receive any assistance or support, and don’t stop until they reach the finish line. The expedition begins and ends in Huntsville while travelling through Baysville, Bracebridge and Port Sydney.
This route remains from the inaugural event with teams covering 130 km and 20 portages, all while attempting to finish in 24 hours or less.
Last year the 220 km Coureur des Bois course was added with paddlers travelling Algonquin Park from Whitney to Oxtongue Lake on day one before doing the take on the 130 km classic route on day two.
Bart de Zwart, one of the world’s top SUP racers, returns for the third time after posting victories in the 130 km and 220 km events.
Olympic Rowers Tim and Pat Turner are also back after winning the 220 km event last year and posting the fastest overall time while doing so.
This year, a shorter route has been added with an 80 km jaunt from Huntsville to Bracebridge available for those wanting to try an expedition paddle race with a less daunting distance.
Olympic triathlete Simon Whitfield will be competing in the 80 km sprint event in the SUP field.
Visit www.muskokariverx.com to find out more or to keep up to date with the interactive live-tracker map, which hones in on teams’ GPS devices to determine positions.
“I have spoken with Simon Whitfield and exchanged a number of emails,” says Horton. “He’s excited to be coming to Huntsville for the race. From our conversation with him, he mentioned that he was happy to be returning to Muskoka where he had participated in triathlons in the past . . . he has been practicing on the ocean in Victoria. He was coming to participate in the Niagara2Toronto SUP race last weekend, but that race was cancelled/modified due to adverse weather conditions. This would be his longest SUP race.”
What attracts such high level competitors is the professional organization of The Muskoka River X event.
Comments from last year’s competitors stated as such and the great expectations from those paddling the courses were met and even surpassed.
“There’s a major focus on safety and making sure everything runs smoothly for the participants,” says Varieur. “The participants enjoy the course and the overall challenge. It is not an easy event and this keeps people coming back year after year. We now host the only paddling event to be sanctioned within Algonquin Park, so that is unique.”
Photographs courtesy of Algonquin Outfitters Muskoka River X