Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | June 11, 2011

The Texas Water Safari

The Texas Water Safari is billed as the world’s toughest canoe race. Contestants must navigate their vessels 260 miles down Texas rivers in 100 hours. This tough, nonstop race starts at San Marcos and ends in the Gulf of Mexico at the little town of Seadrift, Texas. To make the course even more challenging, contestants must reach certain points along the race route at certain times lest they be disqualified. This year, my son Jonathan will be among the 100+ contestants. And, I must say that I am really excited for and proud of Jonathan. He knows that the finish line is a little more than an estimated quarter-million paddle strokes from the starting line but is determined to get there one stroke at a time.

Jonathan and I have enjoyed some fun father-son kayaking adventures over the past few years. About a year ago he told me that he wanted to compete in the Texas Water Safari. I thought it was a great idea. Thus began the adventure of preparing for the race. A few months ago, Jonathan purchased and refurbished a used Alumnacraft canoe. He researched and interviewed others who had competed in the water safari to learn how to make his canoe race-ready. He also purchased a set of pricey canoe paddles that weigh only 10 or 12 ounces. But, when you have to paddle a quarter-million strokes, every ounce counts. Over the past months, Jonathan and his race partner, Steve Jones, have done several grueling training runs down various segments of the race route. They have a pretty good idea of what they are in for between the start of the race today and the end of the race on Wednesday.

Steve and Jonathan | 1984 is Jonathan's birth year.

It’s been a lot of fun watching Jonathan get ready for the race. I have watched him refurbish and outfit his canoe, listened to reports after his training runs, looked at his detailed maps, and reviewed the estimated times between check points. He did a great job of budgeting his funds and shopping around for the best deals on the gear he needed. A few days ago I purchased a Spot Tracker GPS device for him that will allow us to track his progress in real time on Google maps. For the next few days I will follow his progress with great interest. I know that the route is as challenging as it is long and that when I go to bed at night he and Steve will still be paddling their way to the finish line. My daughter Niki will meet Jonathan and Steve at designated points along the way to provide fresh water and the nutritional drinks that will be their only meals along the way.

More than once over the past few months I have thought about Paul’s words to the church at Corinth (1 Cor. 9:24-27) — “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” Reflecting on Paul’s words has reminded me that just as I am intensely interested in Jonathan’s progress in the Texas Water Safari, my Heavenly Father is even more interested in my progress on life’s course. And just as I will follow my son’s progress on Google maps, God follows my progress with great interest and concern. I am proud of Jonathan for everything he has done to compete in the Texas Water Safari. And, I am thankful that this experience has also motivated me to be more intentional about how I live my life, knowing that my Heavenly Father is watching my progress.

I love you Jonathan and Niki. Be safe along the way. And thank you Steve, for sharing this adventure with Jonathan. Godspeed.


  1. I am praying for Jonathan and Steve today. God, watch over them. He watches over all of us all the time. ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’ Phlippians 4:13 Marilyn Meeks

    • Thanks for the prayers, Marilyn. So far they are doing well. Had a setback with broken paddle but they did repairs with what they had and kept going. According to Spot Tracker they appear to be making good time and hopefully will make next checkpoint in spite of broken paddle. This just adds a dynamic new element to the adventure.

  2. I have paddles (3) I don’t know their spec weights but would consider it a privilege to drive them to where they might have access when refueling! Just call and i am on my way!!! Go Jonathon and Steve. YOU CAN DO ALL THINGS!

    • Hey Dacques. Thanks for the kind offer. Race rules prohibit the racers from receiving any outside help other than water and food from their team captain and are not allowed to replace anything that breaks. They made their last checkpoint a few minutes ago in spite of the broken paddle. Here is a link to the SPOT Tracker. This link will be good only for the duration of the race but will allow you to follow Jonathan’s progress.

  3. Dear Pastor Omar,

    This is extreme and cool. I am thinking that Cuero 236 would be a great place to “HEAR ENCOURAGEMENT”. It is too late for me to figure out exactly when would be appropriate to leave and arrive and return etc… But, I am game. It it fits in your schedule, call me. I like this a lot. My new friend is going to go to service with me Sunday morning with his brother. Cool too!

    • Dacques … We are headed out to one of the checkpoints after church. The checkpoints are the best places to see the racers. I will call you.

  4. Sweet. So many have been the voice of encouragement to me. I know what it feels like to receive…and it feels great to give. Got any bull~horns? Love to take a ride with you today, we will have to look at time line. Holly and I have plans for dinner. Hello to your lovely bride. Will be with the builder 10:30~12:30ish.

  5. Omar, this is so cool! I can’t believe these guys basically get no sleep for 100 hours. I have done a marathon, a 100 mile bike race, the MS 150 and a few mini-triathlons but THIS takes the cake. JONATHAN (and Steve), YOU ARE THE MAN!! I checked out the GPS link and if I am reading things correctly, it looks good so far. Its not the destination but the journey….(however, in this case, I really wonder if it IS the destination.)
    Good luck and God speed. Jeff Work

    • Amen, Jeff. The journey is indeed amazing. Regardless of what happens, this will be a memorable experience for all of us.

  6. Father, with humble boldness we come before your throne of grace and mercy. LORD we pray in the name above all names, JESUS CHRIST, for Steve and Jonathan and Niki for NIKE. Strength, Courage, and Endurance. Father we thank you for the hedge of protection around this group as they travel these last lengths of this race. We thank you for your Holy Spirit as they are guided, comforted, and counseled during these last stages. Thank you Father that your wisdom is with them liberally; that your knowledge and understanding is going before them with blessing and favor. Please give them discernment and a hedge of protection as they traverse these last lengths to your glory. Lord, we all thank you for the lineage of a dad and son and on whom have served you with their whole hearts along with mother and sister. Lord, YOU are the author and finisher! Thank you as you finish with them, for them, and in them. In Jesus name, Amen!

    • Hi, My son and his best friend went down the TX Water Safari course in July 2004. When they finished, they told us all about it and we taped that. Now, I’m typing up that tape recording into a book. Is your photo of the little plaque at the beginning of the race in San Marcos available for public use? Thanks, Monty

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