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texas water safari 2015A by Russell-Wilde
PHOTO by RUSSELL WILDE. © 2015, FROM ABOVE TX

ESSAY by BRAD ROLLINS  |  PHOTOS by RUSSELL WILDE

When viewed from above, the colorful flotilla of canoes and kayaks resembles a synchronized spectacle gliding across Spring Lake — like something staged for a travel brochure or maybe an ambitious music video.There is no choreography involved in the Texas Water Safari except for the liquid athleticism with which the better crews move as a single body — boat included — mile after mile down the river. Nor is anything about the safari staged; no scene set in nature ever can be.

For 52 years, competitors have endured the elements — and the limits of their own endurance — in the nonstop sprint down the San Marcos and Guadalupe rivers to Seadrift on San Antonio Bay.

Of the 78 enthusiastic teams that began the trek at noon Saturday, six had dropped out before the sun rose on Sunday. The first of these made it as far as Staples, less than 17

miles from the starting line; four others dropped out at Luling, less than 40 miles into the 265-mile race.

Having made it even that far, these probably are not soft people. But they are not as hard as the Texas Water Safari, at least not this time out.

“The TWS bills itself as ‘the world’s toughest canoe race,’ a claim that seems to go unchallenged, and nearly 40 percent of entrants drop out. There are longer races out there, but none with quite the same hazards—heat, rapids, grueling portages, dangerous wildlife—or potential trauma: twisted joints, broken bones, rashes, fevers, vomiting, snakebites, gear malfunction, and, of course, obliteration of one’s will,” Matt Bondurant wrote in Texas Monthly after completing the race last year as half of a two-man crew.

In 2012, the race claimed its first fatality, a 30-year-old Dripping Springs man respected by other competitors as a potential winner.

He died downriver of Gonzales after his blood salt levels plummeted to lethal levels, a condition called hyponatremia.

In the sleepless crucible of sweltering heat and ceaseless paddle strokes, more than a few competitors over the years have surely thought the safari would kill them, too.

These bird’s-eye views of the 2015 safari’s first leg on July 11 were captured by Wimberley area resident Russell Wilde, a professional journalist whose hobbies include drone photography. His portfolios at From Above TX and on a companion Facebook page tend to feature everyday people and places observed from a loftier perspective. He’s photographed Rattler Stadium, Kyle’s landmark water tower, the Old Hays County Courthouse, to name a few.

His images of the Texas Water Safari are striking for their tranquil and orderly depictions of an event fueled by blood, sweat and tears.

 

texas water safari 2015B by Russell Wilde
PHOTO by RUSSELL WILDE. © 2015, FROM ABOVE TX

texas water safari 2015D by Russell Wilde
PHOTO by RUSSELL WILDE. © 2015, FROM ABOVE TX

texas water safari 2015C by Russell Wilde
PHOTO by RUSSELL WILDE. © 2015, FROM ABOVE TX

The San Marcos Mercury’s BEHOLD blog showcases the work of Texas artists and photographers. For information, send us a note.

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    2 thoughts on “Behold: These aerial photos make the Texas Water Safari
    look like a tranquil river outing. It is not.

    1. All these years doing or officiating the Safari, I’ve never seen more awesome pics!! They’re beautiful!!! Can prints be ordered?? I haven’t yet been to your website.

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