Canoe races bring experienced and inexperienced together

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By Marty Finley




ELIZABETHTOWN – As the early morning sun poured out on the shore overlooking Freeman Lake, canoes and kayaks peppered the bank in preparation for one of Saturday morning’s kickoff events at the Heartland Festival.

Experienced and inexperienced alike grabbed a boat and oar as the canoe and kayak races’ longest event loomed: the one-mile race.

Some decided to paddle solo while others paired together as teams.

It even led to one trio representing the Radcliff Wal-Mart to band together in a larger canoe that organizer Larry Dattilo jokingly referred to as the “Titanic.” Dattilo later would claim victory in the couples race with his wife, Brenda, rowing with him.

Stella Godbey and her husband, Don, of Brandenburg, were at the event early with lifejackets secured. The couple has their share of experience as they have canoed all over Michigan and parts of Canada over the years.

“We don’t really race,” she said, “we just like the peace and quiet.”

Stella Godbey joked with Dattilo that he couldn’t find any competition anymore because he has beaten everyone he has competed against, but Dattilo countered that he can’t find a partner.

“Larry’s enthusiasm gets everyone involved,” Godbey said.

The Godbeys participated in the one-mile race against Kevin and Nick Durbin, a father-and-son duo from Indiana who torpedoed the competition.

Kevin said he had been canoeing since he was a kid and passed the hobby on to Nick.

“I started him early, still in diapers,” Kevin said.

However, he said they had only boated together a few times, usually opting to go solo.

But the win felt good, he said, and reinforced his abilities in the water.

“It felt like an old man can still get out there,” he said.

Mike Moser of Louisville was the first solo competitor to finish in the one-mile race, and later finished second in the couples race with his wife, Cathy.

Moser said he has been paddling for 10 years and has accumulated about 10 boats.

Most of the couple’s pursuits have been within the state, but the Mosers said they had just returned from Monterey Bay in California where they paddled alongside dolphins, sea lions and other various animals.

“That really blows you away,” he said.

Participants had a bevy of unorthodox races in which to compete, too, including a race that requires the person paddling to be blindfolded and directed by a partner, and one called the whistle race, which requires the team to switch places in the canoe during the race.

Brenda Dattilo said these races always leave room for error.

“Sometimes they (the boaters) just fall over into the lake and get wet,” she said.

Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762.