– Kathryn Reed
Put down that lobster roll and listen up. OK, you can finish your lunch, but pay attention because we’ve got good news: You don’t have to be a master sailor or a whitewater devotee to enjoy Maine’s best water sports. While it can be daunting to try your hand at a new activity, there are plenty of races that welcome competitors of all levels. This summer, don’t skimp on your lake time or avoid the frigid Atlantic. Spend some time paddling, battling or gliding your way to glory at one of these watery events.
If your talents tend more toward the artistic than the athletic, this sand sculpting competition will be right up your alley. Head down to Revere for a weekend of stacking sand and soaking in the sun. Don’t expect any boring old bucket castles here – the Master Sand Sculptor Competition invites artists from around the country to create all kinds of wondrous things. If you’re not ready to try your hand at shaping sand without some guidance, they will be offering lessons throughout the competitive three-day festival. Learn more about the event at reverebeachpartnership.com.
Portlanders are chomping at the bit to sign up for the first ever Slide the City, a traveling outdoor event that brings a massive inflatable waterslide to Franklin Street for one day only. Participants can purchase tickets for one ride, three rides, or even VIP rides. This one isn’t a true race – meaning there aren’t any winners, but there aren’t any losers, either. Because who really loses out when you’re belly flopping your way down a major city artery in your summer skivvies? Prepare for gliding domination and purchase your tickets by visiting slidethecity.com.
If you’ve always wanted to try a Spartan Race or a Tough Mudder, here’s a good starter course to whet your appetite. The Wipe Out Run features inflatable obstacles that are easy to navigate and totally safe, but also goofy and fun, like the Tumble Tubes (basically a giant waterslide) and the Foam of Fury (again, a slippery, foam-coated inflatable slide). Swing your way across monkey bars and avoid wiping out on the puffy “big balls” section before collecting your team trophy at the finish line. Plan your course of attack and sign up for the race by visiting wipeoutrun.com/boston.
Perhaps one of the most famous events in the state, the Maine Lobster Festival celebrates all things crustacean, including the sea roach’s watery prison: the lobster crate. Unlike some of our other aquatic events, this is one that requires no gear, just a little balance. Contestants must make their way across a platform of crates without falling into the chilly waters of Rockland Harbor. Whether you decide to take it slow and steady or to sprint across the unsteady gangplank is entirely up to you, but get there early to register. Thousands attend the Lobster Festival every year and this event, dubbed the Great International Lobster Crate Race, tends to fill up fast. Hungry for some competition? Visit mainelobsterfestival.com for more information.
If you can swivel an oar or feather a paddle, you’re set to compete in the Nonantum Resort’s water race. The course for the third annual Paddle Battle is 1.7 miles long and takes racers on a scenic cruise under the Mathew Lanigan Bridge, around a barge (complete with a live band), and back to the resort. The inclusive race welcomes athletes in canoes and kayaks, on stand-up paddleboards, and on surfboards. Basically, if you can row it, you can race it. But leave your outboard motor at home, because while the battle welcomes paddlers of all ages and levels, it’s muscle-power only. To sign up, head to paddlebattlekport.com.
From beer gardens to bed races, the annual Skowhegan Riverfest is packed with fun, adventurous and just plain silly activities. Once you get finished rolling a mattress down Water Street, sign up for the Glow Stick River Run, which combines the aesthetics of a nightclub with the clean pleasure of an active pursuit. Paddlers will climb into their canoes or kayaks at Cleaver Boat Landing and head down the Kennebec River for a visually stunning evening of boating. The fee for this affordable event is $5, though paddlers do need to supply their own gear. And after spending your Friday night on the water, you can get your adrenaline pumping with a free whitewater rafting trip in the Kennebec River Gorge. Sponsored by Moxie Outdoor Adventures, the rafting trips start at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 8. Ready to get your glow on? Go to mainstreetskowhegan.org for details.
True beginners may want to skip this one, but recreational paddlers will love the low-key rivalry of this low-stakes competition. For the first time, the SUP CUP will not be offering any prizes, which means stand-up paddle- boarders are going for glory rather than cash. While dedicated athletes will flock to the long-distance races, newbies will enjoy the 3-mile-long recreational race (little ones can get in on the action with a free kid’s race, too). And if you need more incentive to sign up, the three-day staged race kicks off with a live bagpipe show, so there’s that. For more information, visit lobstersupcup.com.
Held in partnership with the 2015 Maritime Festival, Stand Up For The Lake is – as you may have guessed from the name – a stand-up paddleboard event on the Burlington waterfront. Rock out to live music while competing in a short 3-mile recreational race, or just spend some time paddling around the city shore, taking in the sights. Either way, you’ll benefit from the upper-body workout, and with all proceeds going to support the Community Sailing Center, your karma might get pretty jacked, too. Sign up at standupforthelake.com or get more details about the Maritime Festival at lcmfestival.com.
What makes a craft seaworthy? No, this isn’t a rhetorical question. It’s something you’ve got to figure out before entering the Cardboard Boat Challenge. Judging by last year’s offerings, wannabe winners will be facing some stiff competition – expect boats of all shapes and hues, from cute yellow duckies to Game of Thrones-inspired dragons. However, the pulpy ships must adhere to some pretty strict guidelines that dictate what type of glue you can use to construct your vessel and how much duct tape is reasonable for reinforcing the seams. Part of the Belfast Harbor Fest, this quirky race welcomes single boaters, teams and families. Sneak a peek at last year’s boats (and register for this year) at belfastharborfest.com.
Can you make like MacGyver and create a ship from just the materials at hand? Find out at the Camden Windjammer Festival. Sail your humble handmade boat alongside serious seamen who have traveled from far and wide to compete in Camden’s world-class, highly competitive races. This event spans two days and involves a bit of work. On Saturday, you’ll be given two sheets of plywood, some 2x4s, nails and glue. Participants will start construction at 9 a.m., but the true test of their skills comes Sunday, when the crafts they’ve created take to the water for a friendly race.
Find details at camdenwindjammerfestival.org.
Kathryn Reed is a writer, teacher, gardener and frequent music festival attendee. She lives in Portland.