PUBLISHED: 4:35 PM on Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Kayakers compete in ocean race
SITKA -- Sitka residents Lon Garrison and Tim Fulton were the first racers to cross the finish line in Saturday's second annual Sitka Sound Ocean Adventure Race, claiming the top time in the 13.5-mile short-course race in their double kayak.

Garrison and Fulton covered the course around Middle Island in 2 hours, 29 minutes, 18 seconds. Rich Forst was the second person to cross the finish line in his single kayak, posting a time of 2:36:53 to edge out Bill Winslow in a single kayak in 2:38:30. The mixed double kayak of Kelly Gebler and Todd Gebler finished fourth in the short-course race in 2:49:45, followed by the mixed double kayak of Mary Mackey and Bryant Mackey in 2:53:21. The only all-female double kayak of Litia Garrison and Nancy Knapp finished in 3:16:43 to take ninth overall in the short-course race.

Mark Gorman, the only non-kayaker in this year's field, rowed a single scull as he won the 22.2-mile long-course race, posting a time of 3:49:48. The long course went to a marker near Beehive Island and back to the start-finish line at the University of Alaska Southeast-Sitka Campus boat ramp on Sitka's Japonski Island. Gorman was nearly 20 minutes ahead of single kayaker Steve Reifenstuhl in 4:09:29, while Paul Gloe finished in 4:33:56 for third place overall in the long-course race and Matthew Turner finished in 4:52:52 for fourth overall.

The Sitka Sound Ocean Adventure Race is open to kayaks, canoes, rowing shells, paddle boats, Tling?t warrior canoes and other human-powered watercraft. It is a benefit fundraiser for the Sitka Maritime Heritage Society, which is in the process of renovating the historic Japonski Island Boathouse so it can be a meritime heritage center for Southeast Alaska.

Fulton and Garrison had different partners when they competed in last year's inaugural race, and Saturday was their first time paddling together this year.

"We felt good. We had a nice kayak and we were a good team," Fulton said.

"I hadn't even paddled since the race last year," Garrison said. "But we matched up pretty good. It was fun. We didn't take things too seriously, and it was fun to compete."

Forst was one of the few competitors who wasn't able to compete last year, and he was happy to hold off Winslow to be the top single kayaker in the short-course race.

"I wasn't going to let anyone beat me," Forst said, adding that he kayaks a little bit for fun but his focus is on biking and running.

Bill Foster was the oldest competitor at 69 years old, and his kayak featured an Alaska flag on the bow, a U.S. flag on the bow, and stickers from his "sponsors" -- AARP, Centrum, Metamucil and Depends. He admitted taking Centrum and Metamucil before the race, but he wouldn't say if he was wearing Depends.

"The AARP sticker kept me going," Foster said. "Hopefully I'll be able to do this again next year when I'm 70. That will be a good celebration."

The weather was overcast and on the cold side, in the high 40s, and it started to rain midway through the race. But most of the competitors said the toughest part of the course was the area known as Crow Pass, a channel between Crow Island and Middle Island where they had to fight a strong headwind.

Knapp and Litia Garrison said the weather wasn't the best, but they'd seen worse in some of their training paddles.

"We had a few 5:30 a.m. training days where the weather was more challenging," Garrison said. "But we felt pretty good and we didn't really take any risks."

"It was a little knarly in Crow Pass, but we had a really stable boat, the OTan Tornado,'" Knapp said. "It's really heavy, and the hardest part of our training is carrying it down to the water at low tide."

One competitor had a close call. Charles Horan was paddling near the Chaichei Islands when he got caught sideways in the middle of some big rollers and the waves turned his kayak over. Horan said he was able to right his kayak and was starting to swim for his paddle when he was plucked out of the water by members of the Sitka Search and Rescue Team, who had been right behind him in a powerboat.

"They were right there, and they got me into dry clothes right away and then onto a bigger boat where I could warm up," Horan said. "It was fun. I think I'll be back next year, but I'll be better prepared."

Gorman, who founded the race with Reifenstuhl, said he was pleased with how the race went, even though there were fewer competitors this year. He thought the spring's colder weather made it harder for people to train, which is why numbers were down this year.

"It was very well organized and I'm sorry we didn't have more people this year," Gorman said. "Don Kluting and the Sitka Search and Rescue Team were right on top of things."

Gorman said he matched his best time from last year over the course, so he was happy with his race. Reifenstuhl said his time also was within 30 seconds of his usual time on the course. Both racers agree the difference in the long-course race is due to Gorman's equipment advantage with his rowing scull.

"The weather was kind of dicy, and there were a couple of spots where the seas were kind of confusing, you had the swell, the rebound and the wind so the water was moving in three different directions," Reifenstuhl said. "His (Gorman's) boat is much better in the headwind."

For more information about the Sitka Sound Ocean Adventure Race, go to For information about the Sitka Maritime Heritage Society, go to

SITKA SOUND OCEAN ADVENTURE RACE FINAL RESULTS (all competitors from Sitka unless noted)

LONG COURSE (22.2 miles)

Single rowing scull, men --E1. Mark Gorman, 3 hours, 49 minutes, 48 seconds.

Single kayak, men -- 1. Steve Reifenstuhl, 4:09:29; 2. Paul Gloe, 4:33:56; 3. Matthew Turner, 4:52:52.

SHORT COURSE (13.5 miles)

Double kayak, men --E1. Lon Garrison and Tim Fulton, 2:29:18; 2. Matt Hunter and Ben Clark, 3:03:51.

Double kayak, mixed -- 1. Kelly Gebler and Todd Gebler, 2:49:45; 2. Mary Mackey and Bryant Mackey, 2:53:21.

Double kayak, women -- 1. Litia Garrison and Nancy Knapp, 3:16:43.

Single kayak, men -- 1. Rich Forst, 2:36:53; 2. Bill Winslow, 2:38:30; 3. Bob Cita, Juneau, 2:55:26; 4. Paul Norwood, 2:57:40; 5. Rob Allen, 3:20:00; 6. Bill Foster, 3:23:59; 7. Justin Albee, 3:48:41; DNF: Charles Horan (rolled kayak).