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A perfect day for paddling!

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Saturday’s warm sunshine proved to be a treat for kayakers and spectators alike as the 15th Annual Paddlemania and Blast to the Bridge Kayak Race took place. The event was hosted by Swiftwater Adventures, an organization focused on getting people outdoors to experience Minnesota’s beautiful outdoors.

Everyone was welcome to join in the fun with morning kayak and paddling lessons in the cool, root-beer-colored waters of the St. Louis River.

Later in the afternoon, expert kayakers took on Class 3 to Class 5 rapids in the Blast to the Bridge race. Racers started just below the Thomson Dam, rocketing through the beautiful scenery of Jay Cooke State Park and finishing at the Swinging Bridge in the heart of the park..

Onlookers piled onto the Swinging Bridge to watch as 13 kayaks rolled through waterfalls and cut across rapids in an epic dash to the finish.

Ryan Zimny from Thomson took first in the race, with a winning time of 13:09.

“It was a really fun race. The water was high, which makes it even better than normal for paddling, and it’s always fun to have a race where you can see how hard you can push it,” said Zimny. “Cliff Langley from Swiftwater Adventures did a great job organizing the event.”

Swiftwater Adventures’ founder and event organizer Cliff Langley also competed in the race.

“It was the perfect day for the race,” said Langley. “I love paddling because you get to experience the beautiful scenery and see a lot of amazing places that you can only find when you’re in the river.”

Especially this river — the St. Louis River is “home base” for many local kayakers, as it offers a variety of rapids that cater to beginner and expert paddlers alike.

The race and lessons are held every year, but you can contact Swiftwater Adventures anytime to start your kayak adventure.

“The organization is really about promoting paddling to the people in this area, and to expose them to the beautiful area that surrounds us. The great thing about kayaking is it’s a lifetime sport.” said Langley. “You could be 57 and still enjoy the workout.”

2014 Blast to the Bridge Results


1. Ryan Zimny13:09

2. Sam Nelson13:19

3. Caleb Hamp-Sill13:26

4. Joe Rand13:44

5. Joel Decker13:45

6. Tony Locken13:49

7. Cliff Langley13:55

8. Jared Munch13:56

9. Josh Illick15:39

10. Derek Grisbeck16:08

11. Kyle Behrends20:03


1. Rachel Hillerson15:37

2. Danielle Magnuson21:42