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Kayaking for a Cause Down the Llano! Paddles for Chemo Sabe
Wednesday, April 13, 2011 • Posted April 13, 2011

Castell, Texas (pop. 23) is the home of the Great Castell Kayak Race. The race is held each year on the first Saturday in June. This year’s race is scheduled for June 4th from about 8:30 am until later afternoon. The official start time is 9:00 am; however, racers should be on the water ready to go at least a half hour early. Racers can pre-register online or check in on race day beginning at 6:30 am. The big news is the new web-site:!In 2010 over 200 kayakers entered the race and Jerialice Arsenault, director and founder of the race, expects even more participants this year. The race is a fund raiser benefitting the Chemo Sabe foundation which is a 501c-3 organization serving as a support group for individuals undergoing chemotherapy treatment for cancer. It’s a “survivor” type kayak race on the beautiful Llano River covering a 12 mile stretch from the Highway 87 Bridge to Castell. The Llano flows through a remote section of Central Texas ranchland over granite bedrock including clear pools and some swift running rapids. During normal flow, the rapids are fairly tame and racers may even have to drag their boats over some shallows. Some of the rapids may reach the Class I to Class II level whitewater just after a rain. During flash floods the river may be unsafe, but normally the water goes back down to a safe level fairly quickly. The race course will be clearly marked and safety patrols will be in place to ensure safe passage down the river. However, it’s important to always remember that kayaking is an outdoor sport involving strenuous activity and some risk of injury due to falls or exposure to the elements. This year’s race is being produced by the Expedition School of Austin, Texas. They are experts in medical water safety, outdoor and wilderness expeditions, and race organization. The race is for competitive as well as recreational paddlers and is broken down into categories accordingly. The competitive category normally has about 20 contestants in long, skinny racing kayaks and they are serious racers averaging over 5 mph. The recreational category includes the remainder of the contestants and speeds range anywhere from a steady paddle to a slow drift. Last year my youngest son and I steered a tandem kayak to a strong 182nd place finish. We could have finished higher had we not stopped to fish and swim. The GRAND PRIZE for first place this year is $250. (I may rethink my whole race strategy and not bring my fishing pole…) Other prizes are awarded in categories such as first kid, wackiest kayak, and best dressed. This is a family event however kids must be at least 9 years old to paddle the race. For non-paddlers and small children there is live music at RiverSounds Recording Resort and food vendors will be set up at the camp and at the launching point. A favorite family activity is playing in the water at the finish line watching all the kayakers come in.Arsenault emphasizes a strong focus on safety and all kayakers are required to have a Coast Guard approved life jacket, cell phone, at least 2 liters of water, and a distress whistle. Other helpful gear includes a tow rope and close toed river shoes or old sneakers for pulling your boat over shallow spots. An extra paddle, flashlight, sunscreen, river hat, and GPS unit are also beneficial to have. No motors are allowed in the race and kayaks work best over the rocky bottom, but other watercraft such as canoes are allowed as well. Hourly shuttle service will be provided to take paddlers back to the launch point for their vehicles.This year, as usual, the race entry fee will include free camping for one night per racer, a 2011 tee shirt, bandanna-map, drinks, snacks, and goodie bag. Part of the race goal is the Llano River clean-up, helped along by LCRA trash bags.On Friday night June 3rd, there will be a musical event at the RV Park at 37 Keller-Vellino Rd. with a Finish Line Festival at RiverSounds in Castell, June 4th under the big oak trees. The entertainment will be announced as details become known. Texas Songwriters in the Round is the featured Chemo Sabe musical partner as they distribute brochures and donate time to perform for persons in Chemotherapy or cancer centers across Texas.Registration information can be found online at or by calling 512-217-4596. The website lists the schedule, rules, safety equipment, and lodging information. Rental kayaks are also available via the website. Registration is $50.00 per person which includes personal insurance. Race day registration is available, but will include a $10 late charge. The Great Castell Kayak Race is a genuine “Texas Culture” event involving fun for all ages and benefitting a great cause. Come on out and enjoy the fun even if you’re not ready to be a competitive kayak racer yet. ger/apr 13 castell kayak race

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