Tag Archives: Governors Island

Cardboard Kayak Race 2015: The Thrill of Victory… And the Delight of Defeat

By Johna Till Johnson
Photos by Vladimir Brezina

Cardboard Kayak Race 50

“We’re going to the cardboard kayak races this weekend, right?” Vlad said, looking at me expectantly. I glanced back dubiously.

We’d missed the 2013 race, the first year that the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance had organized the race as part of its City of Water Day, but we’d thoroughly enjoyed the video. Last year, I’d provided kayak safety support for the race, while Vlad took photos. And we wrote it up on Wind Against Current.

As much fun as the race had been, did we really need to experience it again?

Yes, we did! So last Saturday we headed out to Governors Island, on a sultry summer day that started out reasonably comfortable, but promised heat and stickiness by the afternoon.

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Cardboard Kayak Race, Redux

By Johna Till Johnson
Photos by Vladimir Brezina

Cardboard-kayak-race-100

Last year, I wrote about the first annual Cardboard Kayak Race, held on City of Water Day at Governors Island.  This year, I was in it!

No, it’s not what you’re thinking. We didn’t build a boat out of cardboard and then race it. But others did! And I was part of a fleet of “safety kayaks” whose job it was to rescue paddlers whose cardboard boats sank (and fish out the sodden detritus).

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The Cardboard Kayak Race

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!

Figment NYC 2011

By Vladimir Brezina and Johna Till Johnson

On Saturday 11 June, 2011, along with our friend Runar, we visited  Figment NYC 2011, a free-form art festival that takes place annually on Governors Island in New York City (and in several other US cities). The vibe is half Woodstock, half Burning Man, with a dash of Magic Kingdom.

According to its organizers:  “FIGMENT is an explosion of creative energy. It’s a free, annual celebration of participatory art and culture where everything is possible. For one weekend each summer, it transforms Governors Island into a large-scale collaborative artwork – and then it’s gone.”

“Participatory art—what’s that?”, you ask. Read on: It can be anything—but most of  all, it’s fun! That was our biggest takeaway from Figment… it was a hell of a lot of fun, despite the cool rainy weather.

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