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Posted on Jul 18, 2019

Soap Lake event pays tribute to town’s historic canoe race

For some it will be a blast from the past. For some, it will be simply a blast.
The Great Soap Lake Adventure Paddle not only will serve as another way the town will celebrate its 100th year, but also as a tribute to one of its most popular traditions of the 1980s and 1990s: the Great Soap Lake Canoe Race.
“It’s kind of an homage,” said Alex Kovach, one of the lead organizers of the event, to be held July 20 on Soap Lake. The last Great Soap Lake Canoe Race occurred in 2006.
“But there’s a lot of interest and people saying, ‘Oh, this would be great to have as a yearly thing,’ ” he added.
Furthermore, many people have said they would like to volunteer and ensure the Great Soap Lake Adventure Paddle – or, Great SLAP – sticks around for longer than just one year.
Kovach reins in his own optimism when talking about the race’s future, saying that a lot of decisions will hinge on how things turn out this year.
The canoe races of the past sent paddlers through five lakes and included portage, which is a portion of the race where the competitors have to haul their canoes over land using nothing but their own strength. The Great SLAP will also have a portage, albeit a shorter one through the town of Soap Lake, so as to not scare away newbies.
“We are sticking to it and keeping it this year,” Kovach said of the portage, adding that if the adventure paddle remains popular in a few years, “we might look into making it more accessible to people who just want to have fun and don’t want to grind too hard in a portage.” People might recruit friends to help out with the portage part, but that automatically drops them into the relay-teams category for the rest of the race.
Categories are split into age groups and themed accordingly with the celebration (ages 1-25, 26-50, 51-75 and 76-100), although Kovach said the event discourages minors from participating, for safety reasons, so the first group is actually 18-25.
The adventure paddle will have checkpoints along the way, where competitors may find water to drink as well as tokens with trivia questions about the history of the race’s predecessor. Correct answers will grant competitors time bonuses at the end of the race.
The online signups deadline was set for July 14, and the webpage for registering states that there will be “limited spots available for day-of registration.”
Kovach encouraged those who did not sign up to watch from the lake’s shores closest to the city. He also encouraged those who did and those who didn’t, to check out the town’s restaurants and bars post-race. Some establishments will feature videos from the early days of the canoe race in 1983.
Motorized boats and pedal-powered boats are not allowed. People will have to have a life jacket and a whistle, for safety. Service animals are welcome. Consumption of alcoholic beverages during and before the race is prohibited.
“There’s been a lot of interest from people who remember the great canoe race (at the beginning),” Kovach said. “That’s almost 40 years ago. Hopefully a lot of them are telling their kids, ‘Hey, we did this when we were your age.’ Looking forward to seeing how many participants sign up and take on the challenge.”
To learn more, visit the adventure paddle’s website,

By Sebastian Moraga, For the Post-Register