Paddle used as lure to sign on dotted line for River Rat Race

  • Zaveral Racing Equipment is donating a $300 racing paddle to the Athol Lions Club to raffle off just before the River Rat Race this year. Contributed photo

  • After the finnish volunteers from Northfield Diveteam and firefighter help the canoers out of the river after the 2016 race. Photo by Mike Phillips

Staff Reporter
Monday, February 26, 2018

ATHOL — To add a new incentive, aside from lifelong bragging rights and the thrill of competing with hundreds of other paddlers, Athol Lions Club River Rat Race Director Dave Flint said Friday the club approved the purchase of a $300 Zaveral Racing Paddle to get participants to sign up early for the annual Athol to Orange race. Only the first 200 entries received will be entered in a random drawing, to be held at the post position drawing at the Athol Town Hall on Friday, Feb. 13.

Flint said River Rat Race legend Bob Zaveral, owner of Zaveral Racing Equipment (ZRE) in Mt. Upton, NY, generously donated a second paddle at no charge. “We’re real appreciative of that,’ he said. 

Zaveral has won 10 first place trophies over the history of the race, and to this day holds the fastest time. 

Since 1973, he has been producing high performance paddles and other products, such as cross-country ski poles.

Reached at his Uptown store, Zaveral said, “The paddles I’m sending out are not the lightest, but one of the best. The Power Surge medium light paddles were designed in 2001, and we haven’t been able to improve upon the design.”

The paddle was designed by Zaveral, fellow racer Serge Corbin a professional marathon canoe racer from Canada, and and Olympic Gold medalist Greg Barton.

“People say our paddle grabs more water,” said Zaveral, “Most of the people winning the Rat Race are using ZRE paddles.”

He said one of the reasons he is donating a paddle to the Lions Club is because of his long-time association with the race, “we’d like to help out the event and I’d like to see it get back up to over 400 canoes. We need to get the numbers up.” 

He said 90 percent of the people who enter the race do it for the fun of it. Ten percent are the racers. “The racers are getting older,” he said, “we need to target the other people and bring in younger people. Maybe one way is to offer more prizes.”

In any case, Zaveral is happy to do his part.

He plans to enter the race this year with Al Shaver, another familiar name in the River Rat Race Hall of Fame. His son Ryan Zaveral will be paddling with Adam Gelinas of Athol, and thinks they have a shot at the first place.

As for himself, “we could do pretty good,” he said, depending on their post position, the weather and the starting position of Ben Schlimmer and Trevor Lefever, who started turning heads and snapping up first place wins a few years ago.

Sounds like a challenge!

More information and an application to download can be obtained at www.riverratrace.com.

For more information on the racing paddles, visit www.zre.com.

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