Texas Water Safari Statement on Salli O’Donnell

On June 8th through 12th the 61st Texas Water Safari was held with 159 boats competing and 109 finishing the race. On the fourth day of the race (Tuesday, June 11th) the Texas Water Safari banquet was held. A few minutes before the awards were to be presented, the Texas Water Safari Board received a formal protest regarding an infraction that occurred during the race.

The infraction involved boat number 5353 paddled by Salli O’Donnell. Ms. O’Donnell received a spare paddle from the bank and used it during the race. The infraction was readily admitted by her team at the time. This infraction is expressly prohibited by Texas Water Safari rules as only water, ice, food and medical supplies can be obtained from Team Captains during the race. Safari Board members that investigated the infraction during the race, proposed a one-hour penalty based upon the limited facts they had at that time.

“5d. All supplies, equipment, and items of repair must be in the possession of each team and listed on the check-in sheet at the beginning of the Safari. Nothing may be purchased by or delivered to an individual or team during the entire Safari except as stated under Section 4d.


      4d, iv 1. No paddles, lights, repair equipment, or any other supplies or Materials may be provided to the paddlers.”


Once the formal protest was filed at the Texas Water Safari Banquet, the Safari Board discussed all the information that had been provided and a revised penalty of 24 hours was assessed.

Due to the penalty, the sequence of awards that were laid out on the awards table had to be completely changed. During the awards ceremony the Board failed to mention the penalty and even announce that Ms. O’Donnell had completed the race. This was our mistake, it was not intentional and we apologize to Ms. O’Donnell.

Further, the failure to mention Ms. O’Donnell during the awards ceremony was not intended to discredit her or to embarrass her in any way. The Texas Water Safari awards banquet is a celebration of each paddler’s great achievements, and we apologize for not recognizing Ms. O’Donnell’s achievements. She is one of the finest paddlers in the sport and she is an inspiration to us all.



TWS Board: 

  1. Board Member – Jerry Cochran
  2. Board Member- Jay Daniel
  3. Board Member- Bob Spain
  4. President – Allen Spelce
  5. Board Member- vacant





Texas Water Safari

“They don’t call the Texas Water Safari The World’s Toughest Canoe Race’ for nothing. In addition to the length, the challenges include whitewater rapids, multiple portages, and the relentless, soul-sapping Texas heat. Competitors have four days and four hours to paddle from San Marcos, in the center of the state, to the shy little town of Seadrift on the Gulf Coast. There is no prize money for the winners; just Texas-size bragging rights for the finishers.”

Larry Rice, in July 2009 Canoe & Kayak Magazine

The Texas Water Safari is actually comprised of several events including an information seminar, two short races (one of which can be considered as a preliminary race) and of course, the Safari itself – the 260 mile race to Seadrift from the headwaters of the San Marcos River. The Safari itself, billed as the "World's Toughest Boat Race", is an annual race via the San Marcos and Guadalupe rivers, from Aquarena Springs in the college town of San Marcos, to the shrimping village of Seadrift on the Texas coastline, a total distance of 260 miles. The first official race was held in 1963, and is run annually on the second Saturday of June.

The primary requirement is a boat powered only by human muscle. Racers must take all equipment needed with them, receiving only water, ice and food along the way.


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