Curley Memorial sets the stage for the AuSable River Canoe Marathon | Sports

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OSCODA – While area canoe racing fans will have to wait until July 30 for the AuSable River Canoe Marathon, there will be plenty of action on the water in the meantime. The paddlers will compete at the Curley Memorial in Oscoda this weekend and compete in the Spike’s Challenge at Grayling on Saturday July 23 and Sunday July 24.

“We had an event in the AuSable at Grayling (Sunday), the Paddle Hard River Rampage,” said Ryan Matthews, one of the many canoe racing volunteers in the area. “Next weekend (July 16 and 17) it’s the Curley Memorial, then there’s Spike’s, Dash for Cash, Marathon time trials and finally the big show. We have 99 teams signed up (for the marathon) and we have the most Michigan paddlers we’ve signed in about 10 years, so we could see quite a few teams for the Curley race.

Saturday’s C2 race will start at 9 a.m. at the Cooke Dam wall. The teams go up the river and around a buoy, then go back and carry the Cooke Dam. From there they head to the Foote Dam where they again portage and paddle to Finish Line Park, near the AuSable Inn in downtown Oscoda.

The winning time is estimated at around 2.5 hours.

Sunday’s C1 race begins at 10 a.m. and takes place at AuSable Children’s Park on the corner of Harbor St. and O’Toole St. In this race, paddlers paddle two laps around a buoy with a winning time of approximately one o’clock.

“In my experience, the Curley is one of the best, if not the best, premiere races,” Matthews said. “There are two weeks until the marathon, so the teams are always ready to paddle hard enough and the race is in deep water, so everyone can show their speed. The C1 race is quite exciting to watch, it’s a big open section of the river for everyone to paddle. There aren’t a lot of technical corners, so it showcases everyone’s speed.


Rob Gronkowski:

Grayling’s Wes Dean and Traverse City’s Weston Willoughby won last year’s C2 Curley race with a time of 2:26:27 while Homer’s Danny Medina won the C1 race with a time of 1:05:51 .

“I’m excited for the Curley, it’s such a great preview event for the main show,” Matthews said. “I believe there are six defending champions in the Marathon and they’re all with fast partners, so it’s a pretty big opening for first place.”

While the Curley gives paddlers a first glimpse of the river from Cooke Dam to the finish line, the Spike’s does the same for the early stages of the race.

“Spike’s is a great event, everyone at Grayling is doing a great job putting this race on,” said Matthews. “We have a lot of marathon teams coming in early just to run the Spike’s, just to run that upper part of the river in broad daylight. Some teams are going strong, others are not doing everything to save themselves for the Marathon. Both races last about two and a half hours, so it’s a sprint.

It’s an exciting time for paddlers, enthusiasts and anyone involved in canoe racing.

“I’m very excited for the Marathon,” said Matthews. “There’s a record number of teams, a lot of paddlers going for personal bests, a record number of masters teams, a deep women’s field, a deep mixed division field. There are going to be a lot of good races.

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