By Johna Till Johnson
Every now and then something comes along that’s just a sheer delight from start to finish.
Yesterday, it was this video of the 2013 City of Water Day’s First Annual Cardboard Kayak Race. It features practically all of my favorite things: kayaking, engineering, competition (the thrill of victory and the cold splash of defeat), creativity, ingenuity, and whimsy. All on a beautiful summer’s day in New York!
The event was hosted by the Metropolitan Water Alliance, a not-for-profit that, in its own words, “works to transform the New York and New Jersey Harbor and Waterways to make them cleaner and more accessible, a vibrant place to play, learn and work with great parks, great jobs and great transportation for all.”
The Cardboard Kayak Race is exactly what it sounds like: Teams of competitors are each given identical materials from which they construct, and then race, cardboard kayaks. Starting materials include:
- 10 5×5 squares of cardboard
- 10 rolls of packing tape
- 3 rolls of gaffer tape, and
- a box knife
The video is long (though well worth watching—it will leave you laughing with joy!). But if you’re pressed for time, here are some highlights:
- The first 12 minutes feature various shots of boat construction
- At 12:00, judging commences. You’ll meet the teams, which include the Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse, the NYC Watertrail Village Community Boathouse, the High School of Math, Science, and Engineering Alumni, El Centro (from Staten Island), the North Brooklyn Boathouse, the Stevens Institute of Technology, the Stuyvesant High School Village Community Boathouse, and the US Coast Guard Marine Inspectors.
- There’s a great comment at 17:30 where the judge asks the Coast Guard team, “Which do you think is the front part of the boat?”, then adds, “I don’t want to confuse you with technical questions!”
- The race begins at 18:18
- There’s a nail-biter of a finish at 19:15
- Disastrous and heartbreaking collision at 19:50
- Dramatic capsize at 20:46
It’s all wonderful fun, and well worth the watch!