Rochester Open Water Challenge (Lake Ontario, USA)

Monday, 03 March 2008 01:50 | Written by  Ken Altfather
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Rochester Open Water Challenge

You've heard the term "a drinking team with a racing problem".  On some days that pretty much sums us up. 

Our team often trains out of Dan Murn's house on the Erie Canal and afterwards, there is usually something to eat and way too much beer.  It was during one such training session (read drinking affair) that someone stood up and said, "We oughta hold a race on Lake Ontario".  A couple of guys piped up with support for the idea and requests for another beer and then one bloke jumped up and said "I'll put up $1000 in prize money".  They tell me I was the one who said that. 

Unlike most ideas hatched in such state of affairs, this one still seemed like a good idea the morning after.  And why not?   Lake Ontario is the smallest of the Great Lakes, but it's still a big body of water and it can offer a variety of conditions.  It's capable of being flatter than a platter or rougher than a maelstrom and anything in between.  It just depends on the wind.  With the prevailing southwesterlies, our paddling venue is in the lee of land and the waves will be modest 1 footers.  Westerlies and easterlies will bring nice waves (a bit choppy) running parallel to shore.  Only the winds out of NW, N and NE cause our area of the lake to really kick up.  And, thanks to the zebra mussels, it's got crystal clear waters that warm nicely by late June.  Yet, as far as I know, there isn't a single kayak race on the entire lake - that is until now! 

Rochester New York, our home, is an old city with a proud history.  Amongst its assets, which include great museums and a neat zoo, is a magnificent lake front park in a neighborhood called Charlotte.  (If you stop and ask directions to Charlotte, you'll get pointed toward North Carolina.  The locals here pronounce it Char - LOT.  Nearby, we have Chili, pronounced CHY- lie.  Go figure).   Anyway, the park, called Ontario Beach Park and pronounced just as it reads, dates from the 1800's and is in the grand style of parks of that era with a large sandy beach, ornate pavilions, an operating carousel, manicured lawns plus all the modern conveniences of restrooms, showers, playground, life guarded swimming, etc.  Add to that a bunch of volunteers, lots of prizes, a catered lunch and a few kegs of beer (whoops that popped up again) and you have a great place for a family outing and .....a kayak race! 

So, with sponsorship from such great companies as Epic Kayaks, Kayak Pro and Swift Canoe and Kayak, and the help of Monroe County Sports Commission, BayCreek Paddling Center, my company, will host this race on June 28, 2008.  It will feature a 10 mile main event along with a 3 mile novice race.  Because we don't know what kind of conditions we'll have, we were tempted to call it the "Rochester Crapshoot", until settling for a more dignified moniker - "ROCHESTER OPEN WATER CHALLENGE".  However, if things are too rough on race day, we fortunately have a readymade alternative course on the adjacent Genesee River.  We invite all you kayakers, surfskiers, and OC paddlers to come to our fine city and join us in our inaugural challenge.  Details of the race can be found at

Paddling in Rochester
Flat conditions at Rochester!

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