Paddlers applaud Cumberland River Challenge

The fourth annual Cumberland River Challenge brought paddlers from all across the region.

Twenty-three boats took to the water Saturday, Sept. 23 to brave the 15-mile stretch of the Cumberland River, beginning at Fourmile, Ky. in Bell County. Participants were separated into four categories: single person kayak, high performance kayak, canoe, and tandem kayak. Prizes were awarded for first through third place in each category.

Finishing in just two hours and 17 minutes, Jim Brunton of Knoxville Tenn. was the first to cross the finish line.

“This was a perfectly run race,” said Brunton. “There’s nothing they could have done to could make this race go any better. We drove in, the line went through quick for registering, we followed you up with our vehicle and everybody loaded in. There was no pressure to try to hustle to get your boat in the water. Once everybody’s boat was in, the race started five minutes later, perfect.”

This year, the Cumberland River Challenge joined the Kentucky Waterman Series. A project of the Explore Kentucky initiative, the Kentucky Waterman Series hopes to bridge the gap between paddling enthusiast and the general public while promoting adventure tourism.

The series takes place over several months and to qualify, racers must take part in at least four races with the same paddle craft. Points are awarded to racers based on their place at the finish line, for example, one point will be awarded for first place and two points will be given for second place. The racer with the lowest total score wins the series. Racers who attend more than four races have their highest scores thrown out at the end of the season and are only scored on their best races.

“I think the race went really well, it was a good turnout,” said Gerry James, Director of the Explore Kentucky Initiative.  “It was great to see more out-of-state paddlers come out because that’s good for the local community. We’re getting people from over ten states that are traveling to theses races, and we’re averaging anywhere from 50 to 100 people per event. People have rivals and people to train for, so they have something to motivate them.”

The top paddlers from Saturday were:

High performance Kayak

1 – Jim Brunton

2 – Mark Snider

3 – Gerry James

Single-person Kayak

1 – Randal Ray

2 – George Hall

3 – Joe Stibler


1 – Monty Martin and Michael Martin

2 – Mark Abner and Andrew Abner

3 – Corey Chesnut and Brian Abner

Tandem Kayak

1 – Dale Cleaveland and David Chavies.