Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | May 31, 2012

Texas Water Safari Primer

Those of you who follow my blog know that I have been in training to compete in the Texas Water Safari with my son, Jonathan. The Texas Water Safari — billed as the world’s toughest canoe race — is held annually on the second Saturday of June. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the water safari. I was six-years old at the time of the first water safari. This tough, nonstop race starts at the college town of San Marcos and ends in the Gulf of Mexico at the shrimping village of Seadrift and must be completed in 100 hours or less. On the day before the race I will post a Spot Tracker web page so that you can follow our progress in near-real time. As the day of the race draws closer, Jonathan and I continue making final preparations. I thought I would post a brief primer on the race to give you an idea of what it takes to compete.

Our Boat | Jonathan and I will compete in a 17-foot Alumacraft canoe. Jonathan purchased this canoe this past year and had it safari-rigged for the race. Our safari-rigged canoe includes special slider seats to make it easier to distribute our weight and trim the boat, extra bracing, closed-cell foam flotation, mounts for our GPS and Spot Tracker, a full-spray skirt for crossing San Antonio Bay, and a sleep sling so that one of us can sleep while the other continues to paddle.

Our Paddles | Jonathan and I each have Zaveral 14-ounce carbon fiber bent shaft paddles plus a spare in case of emergency. When you take into account that we will paddle an estimated 250-thousand paddle strokes, every ounce counts. After using a heavier wooden bent-shaft paddle on my first three canoe races, I am very happy that Jonathan talked me in to purchasing a lighter carbon fiber paddle.

Our Food | Nutrition is vital for the safari. Because we want to minimize any time spent eating, we have a schedule for consuming Spiz (a high-calorie nutrition drink), gels and energy snacks, Cytomax Sports Performance Drink mixes to replace electrolytes, plus nuts and canned soups. The key is to replenish calories as quickly as possible and to keep moving down river. We must carry all of the nutrition that we will need with us on the boat.

Our Water | The only thing that our team captain is allowed to give us at the checkpoints is water and ice — and, we can only get these from our team captain and no one else. Jonathan and I each have water jugs that are held in place in closed-cell foam forms. These jugs are rigged with CamelBak tubes with bite nozzles so that we can stay hydrated while we paddle. The temperatures will be high in June, so drinking lots of water is absolutely vital.

Other Gear | The Texas Water Safari rules require us to have other gear with us at all times, including life-jackets for the bay crossing, emergency flares, first-aid kit, lights for night travel, etc. We are not allowed to have or to use cell-phones. We are allowed to use a GPS. This year’s rules require all paddlers to have a Spot Tracker, a device that sends our location to an online map and is equipped with an emergency call button.

Portages and Checkpoints | There are approximately nine portage points along the route where paddlers must navigate around obstacles by dragging or carrying their boats. We must also reach each checkpoint along the route at or before the specified time or we will be eliminated from the race. Our team captain, my daughter Niki, must check us in at each checkpoint.

I hope this gives you an idea about what it will take for us to compete in the Texas Water Safari. Our goal is to finish the race. That in itself is a great accomplishment. After all of our training runs on the San Marcos and Guadalupe Rivers, I know that this is going to be the toughest physical challenge I have ever faced. I am, nevertheless, excited (and a little anxious) about this new opportunity to Go Beyond!


  1. So excited for you both. Looking forward to tracking you and hearing all about it through your blog. What a wonderful opportunity to make a special life memory with your boy. It will be a precious experience that you will both treasure in your hearts the rest of your lives. We’ll be praying for your safety, your endurance, and your speed. (is anyone going to be videoing it?) May the joy of the Lord be your strength and your song throughout your adventure. Godspeed, Omar and Jonathan!

    • Thank you, Pam. Prayers definitely appreciated. My training runs with Jonathan have already been a great blessing. Looking forward to making lots of new memories together.

  2. Fascinating!! I can’t wait to follow you guys in this journey !

    • Thanks, Kim. The Spot Tracker page is really cool. The device updates our position every few minutes and pinpoints it on a map on our designated page. I will post the link next Thursday or Friday.

  3. Me and my cousin Casey are in the safari together this year. It’s our first time. We also got a alumacraft canoe. We’re the “Port Lavaca boys” See you next weekend, good luck.

    • Hey, Jake. Look forward to meeting you and Casey. Our canoe number is 1984. We are Team Go Beyond. Good luck to you, too.

  4. Omar: This will truly be an adventure. Wishing you and your son the best for a fast and mostly uneventful trip! Don’t forget bug spray and alligator repellant….

    • Thanks, Don. And thanks also for the reminder about the alligator repellant 😉 — truly necessary for surviving on some of our Texas rivers.

  5. Hi Omar, I stumbled upon your blog in my research as we are planning to do the river safari this June, also is a 17ft alumacraft. We like the setup of your canoe and we were wondering if you had this outfitted somewhere or did it yourself? Any info you can provide on this front would be very appreciated.

    Thanks, Jason

    • Hi Jason … Glad to hear you are doing the safari this year. Our boat was safari-rigged by the folks at TG Canoes and Kayaks in San Marcos. Tom Goynes, a highly respected veteran, made our spray skirt. I highly recommend you have your boat safari-rigged by these guys. They get pretty busy so start soon. Best of luck to you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: