The 41st annual Marsh Mash marathon canoe and kayak races took to the waters of the Holland Marsh canals on Saturday morning and once again paddlers from across the province came out for the 18-kilometre and 2- kilometre marathons, nine-kilometre recreational classes and a special four-kilometre family class, just for fun.
They were welcomed by Bradford West Gwillimbury Deputy Mayor James Leduc, Councillors Mark Contois, Ron Orr, and Gary Baynes and by Marsh Mash organizer, Iain Craig.
The first Marsh Mash was a complete circuit of the Holland Marsh back in 1979. It was a 27.5-kilometre route that required paddlers to “mash” their way through thick weeds.
After the inaugural year, the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority ran the Marsh Mash races, until funding cuts in the mid-1980s forced the agency to step away.
That’s when Craig stepped in as Marsh Mash organizer.
On Saturday, Craig provided details of the routes and this year’s water conditions to the 70 or so paddlers who came out for the annual event, including a number of ICF competitors.
The Marsh Mash is a World Team Qualifier, for Canadian junior kayakers hoping to compete in the World Marathon Canoe and Kayak Championships.
Craig warned of the “unstable” and wobbly dock. “Don’t think it will hold you!” he said, while also alerting the hardy paddlers to the chilly water temperatures.
“Good luck, stay in the boat, and put that PFD (Personal Flotation Device) on,” he said before the racing began.
There were flowers from Bajar Gardens in the Marsh, and a gift of onions or carrots for every paddler.
And after a hard morning of canoeing, kayaking and paddle-boarding, there were refreshments and prizes inside Westside Community Church, which once again provided the launch site for the Ontario Marathon Canoe and Kayak Racing Association (OMCKRA) sanctioned races.
The Marsh Mash hasn’t included a complete circuit of the Holland Marsh since the early 1990s when it became increasingly difficult to keep the course clear.
The Holland Marsh Drainage System Joint Municipal Services Board has now completed improvements to the canals and there are hopes that a future Marsh Mash could see the original course, around the Marsh, reinstated.
In memory of Scott Leonard Craig (1974-2016) and Peggy Craig (1942-2019).