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Dear Texas Water Safari Community,

We wrapped up another great race in June!  Out of 161 entries, 93 finished.  We successfully and safely managed a record 12 bay rescues and for the first time since 1987, we had a two-man team win the Texas Water Safari.  All in all, it was a great running of the 60th Texas Water Safari!

The Texas Water Safari (TWS), a nonprofit 501C3, is important to all of us and is overseen by only volunteers. To keep the TWS going strong for years to come the TWS board has approved a number of changes for 2024.  The TWS board’s goal is to keep the race strong financially and competitive for years to come. 

We know these 2024 changes will be difficult for some, but they reflect our changing world.  Our goal is to be transparent and explain why we are enacting some of these changes.  So, please read carefully through the rule changes and updates.

TWS Board

Jerry Cochran

Jay Daniel

Bob Spain

Allen Spelce



  • The Texas Water Safari seminar will be held February 10th, 2024 in downtown Martindale from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM.
  • The Texas River Marathon “Pre-lim” will be held at 9:00 AM on Saturday May 4, 2024 starting at River Haven RV Park and finishing at the Pumphouse restaurant in Victoria City Park.
  • The “Calhoun’s Gator Chase” will be held at 9:00 AM on Sunday, May 5.  This is a new race to be held the day after the pre-lim.  The start will be at the Swinging Bridge TWS Checkpoint and finish at Calhoun’s RV Park TWS Checkpoint. Total length is 21 miles.
  • The Texas Water Safari will be held June 8, 2024. First postponement date is June 22, second postponement date is July 13.  If the race cannot be held on the second postponement date the TWS will be canceled for 2024.
  • The Junior Texas Water Safari Canoe Race, a 16-mile canoe race, will be held September 21, 2024 at 9:00 AM in San Marcos City Park and finish at Staples Dam. The TWS will serve free hamburgers and hot dogs after the race.


A new cut off deadline has been added for the Texas River Marathon.  The cut off at Nursery is 1:00 PM (Saturday).  An additional cutoff deadline is 4:00 PM (Saturday) at Victoria City Park boat ramp.  The finish line cutoff is 5:00 PM (Saturday) at the Pumphouse Restaurant in Victoria City Park.  If you do not finish by 5:00 PM and are entered in Safari, you will lose your starting position in the TWS.  You can still race the TWS, but your starting position will be moved back to one of the last starting rows.


The Calhoun’s Gator Chase, a new canoe race to be held on May 5th, will give teams opportunities to see the jams and Safari racecourse. Entry fee is $40 per person. Race day registration ONLY. All entries will get an alligator tooth key chain.  We will also serve lunch for racers when they finish.  There will be no official awards ceremony. We understand teams need to get home so awards will be handed out when you finish.

Awards will be given out to 1st to 5th place in all classes.  All finishers will also receive a 5×7 wooden plaque with artwork of an alligator and the name of the race. The cutoff time to finish is 2:00 PM.

  1. Unlimited – Men and Mixed are in the same class– any design – 2 to 6 paddlers.
  2. Women’s Unlimited – any design – 2 to 6 paddlers.
  3. Solo Unlimited – man and woman are in the same class– any design.
  4. C2 Class – men, women and mixed are in the same class– all USCA specifications, TWS standard boats, aluminum, and recreation canoes – single blade paddles only.
  5. Recreation Class – men, women or mixed are in the same class- recreation or aluminum canoes that are no longer than 17 feet 4 – single blade paddles only- no carbon or Kevlar or racing design allowed.



The TWS board has changed 5 cutoff times for 5 checkpoints (Staples, Palmetto, Hochheim, Cuero 236, Calhoun’s RV Park). The changes are denoted below.

Staples 2:00 PM    SATURDAY NEW
Luling Hwy 90     8:00 PM    SATURDAY SAME
Palmetto 6:00 AM    SUNDAY NEW
Gonzales Dam     2:00 PM    SUNDAY SAME
Hochheim 4:00 AM    MONDAY NEW
Cheapside (766)  11:00 AM  MONDAY SAME
Cuero 236 3:00 PM    MONDAY NEW
Victoria City Park 6:00 AM    TUESDAY SAME
Swinging Bridge 4:00 PM    TUESDAY SAME
Calhoun’s RV Park 3:00 AM    WEDNESDAY NEW
Swan Point – Bill Sanders Park 1:00 PM    WEDNESDAY SAME

All TWS sponsored races have cutoff times.  Racers who do not make a cutoff time in a TWS sponsored race are required to pull out at the cutoff checkpoint.  It’s the responsibility of the Team Captain to assist them from the river.  Teams are not allowed to continue if they do not make a cutoff.  If the team continues it will be banned from participating in future TWS sponsored races.



To facilitate better monitoring of racers, the TWS board is creating feeding/sleeping stations at the following checkpoints:  Luling Hwy 90, Cheapside (766), Cuero 236, Victoria City Park, and Swinging Bridge.  If a team decides to sleep or eat or rest for a period of time, we will have designated areas at those checkpoints.  If you still want to eat while getting water and cooling off at a checkpoint by your boat, that is legal, but you need to be within 20 feet of your boat.  If you are going to sleep, you need to be in the designated area. If you want to take on water and food and keep paddling that is still legal.  The feeding/sleeping areas will be clearly marked at the checkpoints.


The goal of the TWS board is to have both the TWS, Texas River Marathon and any other races operate without relying on any sponsors/donors who cannot always be counted upon to cover the additional costs of the race.  The last two years since Covid, inflation and supply chain issues have triggered a substantial increase in expenses.  The TWS also needs to budget in the price increases for unexpected expenses such as legal fees, trademark protection, insurance, website design, a new tracking system for racers, race postponements, etc.  The last time the Texas Water Safari had an entry fee increase was in 2018. The following information shows that the current entry fees do not cover the cost of the Texas River Marathon.


Year            Entry Fees           Cost to Operate Race           Gain/Loss

2018           $7,600                  $9,628                                      ($2,028) Loss

2019           $13,218               $15,544                                   ($2,326) Loss

2020           Canceled due to Covid                                        ($415) Loss

2021           $11,732               $10,786                                   $946 Gain

2022           $10,365               $12,753                                   ($2,388) Loss

2023           $11,025               $12,715                                   ($1,690) Loss

  • As the table above clearly shows, we need to increase our fees for the race to remain solvent. So, the Texas River Marathon (pre-lim), entry fee will have a price increase from $35 to $60 per person.  Currently the race would have lost money in 4 of the last 5 years if we relied solely on entry fees to cover the cost of the race.  Donors/Sponsors, like the City of Victoria Hotel Occupancy Tax Funds Grant, for which the TWS applied for and received funds the last two years, have kept the Texas River Marathon from operating in the red.



Expenses have risen over the last 6 years to operate the race. Some years we have had a onetime unexpected expense. For example, the Spot tracking system cost the TWS $1,968.44 in 2023. In 2022 the Spot tracking system increased to $4,759 when we upgraded the system and purchased additional Spots for the race. The Spot expense/cost returned in 2023 to its normal operation level.  The chart below highlights some of the expenses.

  Police Tents Port-O-Cans Meal Trophies   T-Shirts Trash Spots
2018 $1,340 $6,751 $2,673 $6,331 $5,006 $12,608 0 $690
2023 $5,650 $14,332 $4,501 $9,848 $7,413 $15,029 $1,817 $1,968
% Increase 321% 112% 68% 55% 48% 19%   185%




Like the Texas River Marathon, if it were not for sponsors and donors the Texas Water Safari would have lost money the last 6 years.  See the table below:


Year            Entry Fee             Cost to Operate Race           Gain/Loss

2018           $59,930               $75,203                                   ($15,273) Loss

2019           $69,611               $79,143                                   ($9,532) Loss

2020           Canceled due to Covid                                        ($6,101) Loss

2021           $60,048               $77,909                                   ($12,861) Loss

2022           $59,883               $98,046                                   ($38,163) Loss

2023           $68,847               $97,040                                   ($28,193) Loss


As the table above clearly shows, we need to increase our fees for the race to remain solvent. So, the Texas Water Safari will have an increase in the 2024 entry fees, as follows: Early entry of $175 is increasing to $250, 2nd deadline entry fee of $200 is increasing to $300, 3rd and final entry fee of $250 is increasing to $350. All junior paddlers (13-17 years) will pay ½ the going rate depending upon the date of entry.




When considering the price increase for the TWS, the board looked at other races held locally and around the U.S. to compare what they charged per person for an entry fee.  The TWS is a 5-day race, with one day for registration for a total of 6 days.  Some of the races below have paid staff, the TWS-sponsored races are run by volunteers.

Paddling Events    
Alabama  650 mile race Cost per participant $500
Chattajack  31 mile race Cost per participant $185
Ausable Marathon 120 miles Cost per participant $250,$350,$450
General Clinton  70 miles Cost per participant $125
Running Events    
Boston Marathon 26 miles Cost per participant $225
Austin Marathon 26 miles Cost per participant $159
Kerrville Half Marathon  13 miles Cost per participant $270
Ironman Chattanooga   Cost per participant $870
Hawaii Iron Man Championship   Cost per participant $1400 +fees
Multi Day Events    
Wilderness Transverse    Cost per participant $400
New Zealand (coast to coast)   Cost per participant $700



The Board is also planning a new program to help individuals that wish to enter the TWS but may need financial assistance. A few details are listed below:

  • The TWS scholarship entry fee program is open to any individual that needs financial assistance.  The identity of all applicants will be confidential.
  • The scholarship will cover or partially cover the entry fee for the Texas Water Safari.  The TWS scholarship can be awarded to one or more individuals depending on the amount of funds allocated.
  • Each perspective candidate will fill out an application and be reviewed by a committee made up of past TWS finishers, TWS officials or TWS team captains. A TWS board member will chair the scholarship committee.
  • More information on this program will be available in the coming months.



Where possible, the TWS board will endeavor to find sponsors to keep the TWS and its other sponsored races financially viable.  Please consider being a Texas Water Safari sponsor or Texas River Marathon sponsor. See below the new Safari sponsorship levels:

PLATINUM LEVEL (Unlimited Class):   $5,000 – One year ad on TWS t-shirt and website, banner at race, booth at check in and finish; TWS memorabilia.

GOLD LEVEL (Tandem Unlimited):       $1,300 – One year ad on TWS t-shirt and website, banner at race, booth at check in and special recognition at TWS race briefing.

SILVER LEVEL (Tandem C-2 Class):  $700 – One year ad on TWS t-shirt, TWS website and banner at race.

BRONZE LEVEL (C1 Class):  $500 – One year ad on TWS t-shirt and website.

TWS WEBSITE AD: $250 – One year ad on the TWS website.


All sponsors that supported the Safari in 2023 will be grandfathered in at the same 2023 sponsorship levels. The dollar amount will remain the same for all 2023 sponsors as long as they continue to sponsor the race annually. The grandfathered levels include: Platinum- $5,000; Gold – $1,000; Silver- $500; Bronze-$300 and Individual Donor- $25




  • A finishing time in the TWS will be recorded when a team or its remaining team members cross the finish with their boat.  All remaining team members must cross the finish line before a finish time is recorded.
  • The GBRA Saltwater Barrier Checkpoint has officially moved to Calhoun’s RV Park on river left below HWY 35 bridge. 
  • It’s legal to cross/portage over the man-made peninsula at the Seadrift Marina and boat launch.  Click here for map outlining the legal portage.  The legal route for carrying or dragging your canoe is outlined in yellow.

The TWS board appreciates the input and cooperation of all paddlers and volunteers.  You make the “World’s Toughest Canoe Race” the best it can be. 

Thank you.

TWS Board Members            

Jerry Cochran

Jay Daniel

Bob Spain

Allen Spelce


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.


Safari Sponsors