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Thursday, February 26, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 12.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
The Daily
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Costumed competitors canoe for fun at Isthmus Paddle & Portage 2013
View photos of the costumes
It is a goofy excuse to don crazy costumes and imitate renowned duos.
Credit:Teddy Nykiel

Smurfs, Winnie the Pooh and Tigger too could be seen paddling on Madison's lakes and running across downtown with canoes over their heads on Saturday during the 34th annual Isthmus Paddle & Portage canoe race.

The feat is no easy task: participants have to paddle through courses in Lake Mendota and Lake Monona, and between each, haul their vessels across the isthmus. But, Paddle and Portage is about more than athletics: It is a goofy excuse to don crazy costumes and imitate renowned duos.

More than 400 boats were entered in this year's race, which included a costume contest during a brats-and-beer after party at Olin Park.

Chris Thompson and Chris Iglar have participated in Paddle & Portage for nine years and say they always dress up for it. They wore banana suits this year, but in previous year's they've been Playboy bunnies, Thing 1 and Thing 2 of Dr. Seuss fame, and black and white swans.

"We go in costumes every year, because it's really more about style than performance,” Iglar said before the race.

Also spotted among crowds of paddlers were Rocky and Bullwinkle, a father-daughter team as skimpily-dressed French maids, and a pair of Braveheart warriors in matted wigs and woad blue face paint. Chris Hovel and Brendan Pittman, seniors at UW-Madison this fall, dressed as a banana and hotdog, respectively.

Brothers Geoffery and Charles Thurow, both in their thirties, wore Navy uniforms for the race, but they weren't in costume. Charles spent four years in the Navy and Geoffery is currently serving active duty in Bangor, Washington.

To match their outfits, the Thurows decorated their canoe to look like a World War II-era PT boat. "That's why we have the shark's mouth in front, PT 73 in the back, the flag and then we had to have the guns," Geoffery said.

Despite many of the silly antics, Paddle & Portage is also a time for elite paddlers to show their stuff. The fastest overall team -- Bruce Petit and Jim Delehanty from Ojibwa, Wisconsin -- finished the race in just over 42 minutes.

With such a range of experience among the paddlers, a rescue boat from the UW Lifesaving station was on hand to assist tipped canoes during the event. It righted 12 paddlers, putting serious contenders back in the race and others back to having a good time.

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