Columbia canoeing enthusiast hopes race draws more to sport

Friday, March 29, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT
Charlie Lockwood works on a homemade wooden paddle in his home workshop in 2011.

COLUMBIA — Canoeing and kayaking are growing sports in mid-Missouri, and Charlie Lockwood hopes that his annual Perche Creek GutBuster race will help its growth.

A New Jersey native, Lockwood, 66, has always embraced physical challenges. He swam competitively for Monmouth College (now Monmouth University) in West Long Branch, N.J., and even spent time in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Fifth Annual Perche Creek GutBuster

WHEN: 11 a.m. Saturday
WHERE: Providence fishing access
HOW MUCH: $20 per paddler

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For the first 30 years of his life, he had experienced a lot of things. Sitting in a canoe wasn’t one of them.

That changed in 1977 when Lockwood got into canoeing on whim. While living in New York, he heard about a big race that was taking place on the Susquehanna River. Professional canoeists from the Midwest, New England, and Canada were coming into town to take part in the General Clinton Canoe Regatta, and Lockwood thought that it would be fun to get in on the action.

Always up for a challenge, he contacted a high school friend and suggested that they participate. The two borrowed a canoe and paddles, and headed towards the 70-mile race.

“We just went to see if we could earn the patch and the chicken barbeque,” Lockwood said.

The finish line proved elusive. The two failed to complete the race. Lockwood, who had entered the race with bravado, left humbled. He had a new respect for the sport and the failure motivated him. The two reached the finish line in the same race the following year, and again for a third year.

Canoeing quickly became a passion of Lockwood’s as he went on to compete in countess races in New England, Pennsylvania, and New York.

Moving from the northeast where canoeing was an integral part of the culture to Columbia in 1991, he was struck by the sport’s lack of notoriety in this part of the country. There were a couple of long-distance races held every year, but Lockwood thought there weren’t enough options in the racing circuit to attract potential participants.

Since he wasn’t satisfied with the available options, he decided he to create his own race. In 2009, he began the Perche Creek GutBuster, a 10.3-mile course from the Providence fishing access on Perche Creek north to the McBaine Bridge and back.

“I just made the name (for the race) up on the fly,” Lockwood said. “Because it’s the first race after all of the holidays, nobody’s really in shape, and it’s a sprint so everyone has to go pretty hard.”

The first race had six participants, but word quickly spread about the GutBuster throughout the years among those in the canoeing, kayaking, and surf skiing communities. Last year’s race had 81 participants, including three-time Olympian sprint canoeist Mike Herbert who set a new course record of one hour and 18 minutes.

This year, U.S. Olympic canoe and kayak coach Shaun Caven will be giving a free seminar on paddling techniques after the race. Caven will also bring several members of the U.S. national canoeing and kayaking  team who are currently training in Oklahoma City, Okla., for the 2016 Olympics and 2014 World Championships including 14-time national kayaking champion Maggie Hogan.

Lockwood expects increased attendance, though recent drought conditions might force him to revise the course.

“Because of the drought we’ve had, this is the lowest the Perche Creek has been in probably 20 years, “Lockwood said. “So unless we get a little bit more rain, we may be doing a loop course.”

Lockwood says that instead of heading north along the creek, the course will stay close to the fishing access and mouth of the Missouri River where water levels are higher. He says this is better for spectators who will now be able to see more of the race.

While the race has the same start time for all participants, there are 11 classes distinguished by age and boat type. Participants can choose to race in single- or multiple-person canoes and kayaks, or as stand-up paddlers that use surfboards and seven-foot paddles.

The Fifth Annual Perche Creek GutBuster will begin at 11 a.m. on Saturday at the Providence fishing access in Columbia. Participants can register on race day with a fee of $20 per paddler. 

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