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About USACK Trials
What are USA Canoe and Kayak (USACK) Marathon National Championship? 
The Marathon National Championship doubles as the annual Marathon Team Trials, the assessment race that determines who will make the U.S. National Team, and who among them qualifies to represent the USA in the ICF (International Canoe Federation) World Championships. The top two in each category (Juniors, Under-23, Seniors), qualify for Worlds if they also beat the mandatory minimum time standard. The next tier of finishers in each class (who beat the time standard) will also be named to the national team, and are eligible to represent the USA at ICF Marathon World Cup events. They also are the alternates for the ICF Marathon World Championship.

What is USACK? www.usack.org 
USA Canoe & Kayak a member of the USA Olympic Committee, and is the governing body for the Olympic sports of Flatwater Sprint and Whitewater Slalom, as well as for World Championship disciplines of Flatwater Marathon and Wildwater. USACK is a member of the International Canoe Federation (ICF).

​What is the International Canoe Federation? www.canoeicf.com
The ICF is an international non-profit organization for multidiscipline canoe & kayak activity, particularly Flatwater Sprint, Flatwater Marathon, Whitewater Slalom, Wildwater, Freestyle, etc. 

When and Where is the 2017 USACK Marathon National Championship Trials?
Sugar Land, Texas is the host for this year’s national assessment race. The venue will be Brooks Lake, located behind the Lake Pointe shopping complex at the intersection of Highway 59 & Highway 6. 

The dates are April 29, 2017 for the K1 & C1 (solo) races, and April 30, 2017 for the K2 & C2 (doubles) races.   Start time TBD

What are the minimum time Standards?
Please see the 2017 Selection Criteria.

What designates an ICF Racing Kayak / Canoe?  
Racing kayaks & canoes are scaled from 10 to 1, with lower numbers representing a corresponding decrease in stability. A standard sea kayak would rate as a 10. An Olympic flatwater sprint kayak would rate as a 1. Between these extremes are a wide range of developmental boats that are mastered incrementally before progressing to the Level 1 boats used for Olympic Sprint or World Championship Marathon. 

An ICF K1 must be 17.2 feet long (5-meters). There is no width restriction, meaning the hull can be as narrow as the athlete can balance. As a practical matter, level 1 ICF K1’s are approximately 12-inches wide at the widest point on the waterline. They are constructed of carbon fiber and/or Kevlar. For ICF Marathon, K1’s are restricted to a minimum of 18 pounds (compared to 26 pounds for Sprint). 

For ICF flatwater kayaks, the athletes use carbon fiber doubled bladed paddles from a seated position. 

For ICF flatwater canoes, the athletes use carbon fiber single blade paddles from a kneeling position. 

When and Where is the ICF Marathon World Championship for 2015?
​Gyor, Hungary will host the Marathon Worlds in September.

How are the Classifications Divided?
  • Juniors = ages 15-17
  • U-23 = ages 18-22
  • Seniors = ages 23-35. Note that older athletes are allowed to compete in this class, and often do.  
  • Masters = ages 35+

Distance per Class for the 2015 Marathon Trials / Championship?
  • Seniors kayak men – 8 laps, 7 portages (24 km / 14-miles) 
  • Seniors kayak women – 7 laps, 6 portages (21 km / 13-miles)
  • Seniors canoe men – 7 laps, 6 portages (21 km / 13-miles) 
  • Under 23 men Kayak – 7 laps, 6 portages (21 km / 13-miles) 
  • Under 23 women kayak – 6 laps, 5 portages (18 km / 11.2-miles) 
  • U-23 canoe men – 6-laps, 5 portages (18 km / 11.2-miles)
  • Masters kayak men – 6-laps, 5 portages (18 km / 11.2-miles)
  • Master kayak women - 5 laps, 4 portages (15 km / 9.3 miles)
  • Juniors men kayak – 6 laps, 5 portages (18 km / 11.2-miles) 
  • Juniors kayak women – 5 laps, 4 portages (15 km / 9.3-miles) 
  • Juniors canoe men – 5 laps, 4 portage (15 km / 9.3-miles) 
  • Masters Women – 5 laps, 4 portages (15 km / 9.3-miles) 

​Are Canoe & Kayak equally represented at the Marathon National Championships?
In the USA, the majority of participants will be racing in kayaks.  

What is "Wash-Riding"?
Wash-riding is to canoe/kayak racing as “drafting” is to bicycle racing. While the concept is analogous, the execution is different. The lead kayak/canoe creates displacement waves that move forward and sideways away from the boat. To ride this wave requires much practice. Since the wave is diagonal, it draws the wash-rider into the boat he/she is drafting. The wash-riding paddler also has to take care not to plant his/her blade into the vortex created by the exiting paddle blade of the paddler being drafted. Did we mention that these boats are tippy? 

Visualize fighter jets in echelon formation. Watching a pack of Olympic-spec K1’s or C1’s looks identical to this, with the kayaks on each side of the lead kayak riding its wake. With four boats in a pack, the boat in the rear position, directly behind the lead boat, is riding the double wave created by the boats on the wings of the leader – this formation is called a “diamond.” Studies have shown that drafting on the wings can reduce heart rate by 5% and oxygen consumption by 12%. Drafting in the rear of the diamond saves even more energy, though it requires even more skill to hold that position. 

For spectators, watch the dynamics within the packs. Are they working cooperatively together to distance themselves from the field and/or to beat the time standard before settling matters between themselves? Or are one or more paddlers tying to shake another paddler because an offending wash-rider is not taking a turn at the front (called “sandbagging”), or perhaps because the lead paddler fears going head to head in a final sprint with the offending wash-rider. In canoe/kayak racing, four is company, five is a crowd – if there are five or more boats in a pack, watch for aggressive tactics to burn each other off the wash.  

Why does the start of the Kayak/Canoe Marathon resemble an Olympic Sprint?
The start of an ICF kayak/canoe marathon is nearly as fast as one would see in an Olympic sprint event. This tremendous energy expenditure is necessary because the lead boats churn up the water behind them. Thus, the fastest starters get calm water in front of them (assuming good weather), while those left behind are forced to paddle through the churned up water deposited by the leaders. Imagine the front runners in a running marathon on a smooth tartan track, while those behind them have to run on broken asphalt.  

Why does the depth matter?
Shallow water is kryptonite to heavy paddlers. As a general rule, the depth of the water must equal at least half the length of the boat to eliminate the effects of bottom drag (affectionately called “suck water” by Texas paddlers), which slows the racing craft and requires more energy to paddle through. Since Brooks Lake is 10-feet deep, and the ICF K1’s are 17-feet long, bottom drag will not be an issue for this course, except for a shallower section near the back buoy turn at Oyster Creek.  

What effect does wind have on the race?
Headwinds are kryptonite to lighter weight paddlers because wind striking the boat & paddler will slow the glide between paddles strokes. The direction of the wind relative to the paddlers will change several times on each lap due the horseshoe shape of the course.  

Describe the Portage?
The portage is a 150-meter run with the canoe / kayak that must be executed on each lap of the race. In most marathon races, the portage is situated near the end of the lap. Due to the layout of Brooks Lake, the portage is situated much earlier in the lap – barely 900-meters from the start. The first lap in particular will be exceptionally difficult for the athletes, as they will not have recovered from the lung-busting sprint at the start. As well, it offers a different tactical element, in that the strong runners have a chance to catch the sprinters over the first 1000-meters of the race.  

Support crews are allowed at the portage to hand drink bags to the racers as they run by. This is the only place on the course where such assistance is permitted.  

Meter for meter, more time is gained or lost at the portage than anywhere else on the course. To approach the portage at full sprint, then maintain the coordination to stand in a tippy racing canoe/kayak before dismounting, then sprint 150-meters carrying the boat without damaging the fragile under-stern rudder, then maintain the body control to remount the boat without capsizing it, requires world-class lungs, body control and coordination. The audience can easily distinguish who trains for this discipline and who does not. The tactics at the portage is a major reason why spectators tend to congregate at this location on the course.  

Frequently Asked Questions