Armed with only a box cutter, a roll of duct tape, a ruler and a magic marker, participants in Saturday’s annual Santa Barbara Maritime Museum Kardboard Kayak Races were tasked with transforming two 8-foot-by-4-foot sheets of cardboard into seaworthy vessels.
The event, which was held at West Beach, involved 25 teams of four people constructing their own cardboard kayak and then racing them to a buoy about 30 to 40 feet out in the water and back.
Races were divided into three heats: two designated for “family fun” and the other called “paddling pros” for more experienced participants.
Teams were given an hour to construct their kayaks beforehand and prizes included cardboard medals and gift certificates for Condor Express cruises and the Maritime Museum, 113 Harbor Way.
Museum volunteer Fahim Farag said the competition usually results in a range of different boat designs.
“We get anything and everything,” Farag said. “You’ll see the catamaran design, you’ll see just a box, and you’ll see the traditional canoe design.”
Blake Monson, who has participated in the event for five years, and won first or second every time, earned another first-place title when his team, “The Corrugators,” won the paddling pros division in a kayak helmed by Sophia Thompson. Stephen Nichols, who engineered the The Corrugators’ winning design, said the key to the kayak’s success was its simple, narrow build.
“We’ve done this a couple of times before and we figured out that the best way to win a race with a boat that sinks in five minutes is to make one that goes there and back in one or two,” Nichols said.
While many boats capsized immediately upon the race’s start, a number stayed afloat throughout the whole course. Maritime Museum executive director Greg Gorga said buoyancy should definitely be the most important concern when constructing the kayak and that the duct tape is actually the most important tool the teams were given.
“Tape everything,” he advised. “Ideally I think the flatter bottoms do a little bit better, but you can’t make them too wide. Having a lightweight paddler also definitely helps.”
While practicality was the main objective in building the boat, some contestants also took stylishness into consideration, according to Westmont College student Jordan Bleeker.
“Basically, we want something that works, but is also fashionable and stylish,” he said.
Bleeker said he got involved because of his interest in water sports.
“We have a longstanding history in water sports competitions so we are hoping to gain another title,” Bleeker said of his team. “We like competition and the Santa Barbara beach is beautiful, so we thought ‘why not?’”