The Santa Cruz Harbor Gets Wacky with Cardboard Kayak Races (and You’re Invited!)

Cardboard Kayak Race

There’s something romantic, even epic, about the idea of building your own boat.

It’s one of those bucket list items that only the most hard core DIYers will ever achieve.

On the other hand, there’s something utterly absurd, and equally awesome, about building a boat made of cardboard and duct tape to race through the Santa Cruz Harbor.

Lucky for those of us in Santa Cruz we get the opportunity to do just that on September 14th.

The inaugural Cardboard Kayak Race is shaping up to be a whimsical event ripe with competitive shenanigans, the likes of which seem perfectly suited for Santa Cruz.

So, if you’re thinking, “OMG, I HAVE TO DO THIS!” then read on. And if you aren’t, then, well…why not?

How It Works

In a nutshell, you build a boat out of cardboard and duct tape. You then race your corrugated contraption through the Santa Cruz harbor. There are two races, one for each of the two race classes offered.

Class I is the Build and Race variety. Entrants in this race will build their boat at the race site the morning of the race, using only materials provided (cardboard, duct tape, and magic markers).

Class II is the Build at Home Class in which, you guessed it; entrants can build their boat at home and then bring it to the race on the big day.  The biggest benefit for the Build at Home option, besides added time, is that you aren’t limited to just cardboard and duct tape.  A full list of permitted materials can be found here.

The first boat to the finish line wins. In the event that no boat makes it to the finish line (these things are essentially built out of thick paper after all), then the boat that makes it the furthest wins.

The course will be designated by orange buoys near the southern launch ramp in the harbor.

Prizes are awarded for the following in each class:

  • First In Class: Fastest time around the course
  • Best In Show: Combination of factors including construction, decoration, and design
  • Ugliest Boat Award: Need we say more?
  • Titanic Award: The most spectacular sinking
  • Team Spirit Award: Who is the best-dressed, rowdiest, and most fun?

Santa Cruz Cardboard Kayak Race 2014

Why Cardboard Kayak Races?

In the words of the Santa Cruz Yacht Club Corinthians, “Why not?”

Technically the event is one of many happening this year to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor.  However, Yacht Club member and volunteer Liz Kroft sums it up this way, “We wanted to create an event that was accessible to the Santa Cruz Community and welcome people into the harbor family.  Those who are not avid boaters (kayakers, sailors, fishermen, etc.) probably are not aware of all that we have to offer and how warm and welcoming all of us in the harbor are to those who are interested in learning and getting out on the water.”

“At the end of the day though, the race is just another excuse to act like the big kids we all are and get out and splash around in the beautiful September weather.”

What You Need to Know

Since this is the first ever Cardboard Kayak Race in Santa Cruz it might be a good idea to go over a few of the particulars about this event:

  • This event is all about having fun. Costumes are highly encouraged.
  • Boats are to accommodate 1-4 people, though you’re free to bring as large of a cheerleading squad as you like.
  • While it’s named the Cardboard Kayak Race your boat doesn’t have to resemble a kayak. It can be a raft, canoe, dinosaur, transformer…you get the idea.
  • The event is hosted by the Santa Cruz Port District and the Santa Cruz Yacht Club Corinthians, but you don’t have to be a member of the club to participate. Anyone can join for the entry fee of $40 for Class I (Build and Race), or $25 for Class II (Build at Home).
  • The Yacht Club’s motto for the race is, “Celebrate the sinking!” so don’t feel bad if your boat doesn’t make it to the finish line.
  • The official site for the Cardboard Kayak Races has all the info you need, but the following two PDF’s (found on the event site) give the best rundown of the info you need to get your head wrapped around this wacky event:

How to Sign Up

Choose a captain and decide on a name for your boat, then head over to the 2014 Cardboard Kayak Regatta website and click on the “Registration & Info” tab to get started.  Once on the registration page you enter your desired class (Build & Race or Build at Home), fill out some basic info and you’re off to the races!

Photo Credit: Bruce McAdam

About Ethan Oates

Ethan Oates fell in love with Santa Cruz while visiting as a child. He has lived in Santa Cruz since the mid '90's, and is happiest when spending time with his family.

  • Chris Miller says:

    Thanks for writing a detailed article on the race, there wasn’t a good overview of the event elsewhere. Launch Brigade is looking forward to competing in the Build at Home Class with our cardboard boat dubbed “Too big to fail”. Several of our colleagues from NextSpace will attend. It should be a great time!

    Chris Miller
    President – Rocket Scientist
    Launch Brigade
    (831) 480-7190

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