A marathon paddling race on the Tennessee River in Chattanooga, Tennessee featuring stand-up paddle board, kayak, surf-ski and canoe racers.
It's an unusual sporting event. Over the weekend, our neighbors to the south in Chattanooga hosted hundreds of people from across the country for "Chattajack 31". The city is taking advantage of the resource that flows through downtown.
Paddlers from as far away as Canada and California prepared before the sun came up on the Tennessee River. The race was open to stand-up paddlers, prone paddlers, kayaks, surf-skis and canoes.
Race organizer Ben Friberg greeted the 140 participants and invited them to enjoy the scenery of the Tennessee River Gorge downstream of the city. Friberg has made a name for himself in the sport of stand-up paddle boarding. In 2012, he set a world's record by paddling 238 miles in 24 hours down the Yukon River in Canada. This summer, he paddled from Cuba to Key West, Florida. He loves to push the limits in long distance events and is getting other paddlers hooked on the sport. He says stand-up is the fastest growing paddle sport in America. It's popular on the coasts and growing in inland areas.
The race started on the Chattanooga downtown riverfront in a thick blanket of fog and below freezing temperatures. The fog quickly lifted to reveal a beautiful fall day as the race wound it's way to Hale's Bar, 31 miles downstream on Nickajack Lake.
The first finisher was 64 year old Bill Aylor, paddling a kayak in the time of 4 hours and forty minutes. Surf-ski paddlers started later than the main group. The winner of that class was Eric Mims from South Carolina, finishing in 4 hours and 7 minutes. The winning stand-up paddler was Thomas Maximus from California, with a time of 4 hours 49 minutes.
Friberg is already planning the third annual Chattajack 31 for next year. He hopes to double the number of participants.