Texas Water Safari Canoe race: Belize win's the race at the Texas Water safari
The Texas Water Safari is a boat race down waterways from San Marcos, Texas, to Seadrift, Texas. The total distance traveled is 262 miles. Racers must take all equipment needed with them, receiving only medical supplies, water and ice along the way. The primary requirement is a boat powered only by human muscle. The event was first held in 1963, and is run annually. The race begins on the second Saturday of June of each year, barring bad weather.
In 1962 Frank Brown and Bill "Big Willie" George navigated from San Marcos to Corpus Christi without a motor. In 1963 they created the Texas Water Safari which would become an annual race.
The course includes natural rivers like the San Marcos, with rapids and dams. Most boats destroyed on the course are lost in the upper river. The San Marcos River converges with the Guadalupe River and becomes wider and slower. The main dangers in the middle river are sweepers, downed trees, logjams and dams. Near the end of the course there are lakes and swamps, and it ends with a crossing of the San Antonio Bay. Other challenges on include alligator gar, alligators, sharks, water moccasin, fire ants, and mosquitos.
There are 12 checkpoints including the finish line. Their locations are published and they are staffed with officials. Each checkpoint has a cutoff time the racers must meet or be disqualified. The final cutoff time at the finish is 100 hours. The team captain of each team must be present at the checkpoint to sign off the team's time as the team leaves. Checkpoints:
- Staples Dam
- Luling 90
- Zedler Mill-Luling Dam
- Palmetto State Park
- Gonzales 183
- Cuero 766 (Cheapside)
- Cuero 236
- Victoria City Park
- Invista (formerly Dupont)
- Salt Water Barrier
For the Mynars, the Texas Water Safari is not only a race but also a family tradition.
Kyle Mynar, 31, of Martindale, and Hener Cruz, of Belize, were third in the race Sunday when they stopped at the Victoria checkpoint in Riverside Park about 2:10 p.m. Mynar's parents, Renee Mynar, 57, and Joe Mynar, 69, are the team's captains.
Kyle's father raced for 23 years, and his son joined him for the first time when he was 12 years old.
"It was pretty special; lots of fun," Joe said. "He got really involved in canoe racing after that."
Seeing his son race in the Texas Water Safari for the first time several years ago is his favorite memory.
Joe trained Kyle for about three months before his first race. Now his son trains all year long by running and paddling. He spends about 15 hours weekly training.
Joe has also raced with his two other sons, Brian Mynar, 49, and Logan Mynar, 26. He first raced with Brian when he was 15 and Logan when he was 11.
The father stopped racing in the Safari in 2004, and became a team captain. He's won 10 Texas Water Safaris. His son raced for the 11th time this year and has won six Safaris.
Racing the Texas Water Safari is no easy task.
"It's both mental and physical," the team captain said. "Mental discipline; it takes a lot of discipline and toughness."
While racing, boaters will have highs and lows, he added. Sometimes racers will have adrenaline highs and feel unlimited, but later on, they have a low they have to push through.
The hardest part of the race is the next 40 miles after the Victoria checkpoint until Invista, Joe said.
"The river repeats itself; it's just one bend after another. There's not much current," he said. "It's the heat of the day, and the time of the race. Everyone has been out there more than a day. It's too far away to even start thinking about the finish line."
As a team captain, Joe supports his son in every way possible during the race. He follows him along the river and waits at each checkpoint.
"You see the effort they're putting out, and you want to do everything you can to support that effort," he said. "Be there emotionally."
As Kyle and his teammate approached the Victoria boat ramp, team captains and other family members cheered them on. They quickly handed the teammates water and food and encouraged them as they paddled away.
"My dad is helping pretty good," Kyle said as he stopped at the Victoria checkpoint. "I wouldn't be this far without him."
From their last checkpoint in Nursery to the Victoria one, they gained nine minutes on the team in front of them.
Cruz was the only racer from Belize and came to the U.S. for the first time to race. Kyle said the two work well together.
Rhonda Crichton, of Belize, followed Cruz through the race for a TV show called "Morning Matters" because he is the only Belizean competing. Cruz has paddled for about 10 years, and has won La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge six times.
"We thought we'd come out here and highlight him and introduce Belize to a lot more people in the world through him," Crichton said.
Race official Santiago Marroquin said the race is a mental game, and it's a physical race, but the real challenge is mentally handing it.
Joe Mynar is proud of his son.
"I'm glad he's involved in something like this. The adventure of doing something like this does not happen much anymore," he said.