Every year prior to busy summer season, our Disney Sports “Shake & Bake” team would enter in the C. R. O. W. (Canoes Races of the World) held on the Tom Sawyer waterway in the Magic Kingdom. Expectations were always very high, as obviously sporty individuals peppered our highly competitive team.
And we only would get 2 practice run days prior to “game time”, which was at an eye popping 5am. Why? Because we had to park backstage, ride the bus to a hidden park entrance near the carousel then walk a quarter mile to the launch area just past the big ferry. AND we had to have all runs completed prior to the regular park daily opening. Regular guests had no idea all this activity had already taken place….. the magic of Disney!
A mix of 5 females and 5 males alternated spots in the massive outrigger canoes that weighed a ton (literally a concrete bar in the bottom for stability in transporting guests all day long). The key to a good run was unison and plunging paddles deep in the water for maximum pull.
I took the bow and was responsible for setting the pace over the hardest 5 minute and 18 second workout you could ever imagine. We would slide up to the start flags draped over the water and then punch a quick, shallow paddle to get us started and eventually gliding into a groove. A strict 10 paddle stroke preceded a ready, set, go… signifying a slick change in paddle side for all players. At our best, it was a beauty to behold and propelled us down the “U” shaped course in a flash. The rear steerer was critical in knowing how and when to cut the corners to shave off valuable seconds. I really don’t remember much else but head down, 100% effort and being hoarse from yelling!
We had numerous close calls literally missing the championship by hundreds of a second (which we still think is totally human error as in the old days staff volunteer timers used simple stopwatches). During my 8 years on the crew, we hoisted two paddle trophies and were treated to an amazing buffet breakfast in the magnificent Horseshoe Saloon.
These little, extra experiences made for such a memorable 15 years of service! #shakeandbake