Sofia is a competitive slalom paddler from Tlapacoyan, Mexico. She has been competing at the international level for 10 years. Sofia also brought home 2x bronze medals in 2019 competing in the Pan American Games becoming the first slalom paddler to do so while representing Mexico. In 2020, Sofia also competed in the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Sofia continues to train and race competitively at the international level all over the world.
When people ask me about the Alseseca Race, my brain goes everywhere as I try to come up with an explanation that gets the closest to doing justice to what I feel about this event. Since I was a little girl, I would hear my mom, dad and their friends talk about their adventures on the roadside section of the Alseseca. They talked about the good lines and the carnage. It sounded wild and crazy.
In 2009, my parents, along with Tom McEwan, came up with the idea of doing a race on this section. During the first race, we had about 25 competitors, primarily from the US, Canada, and Mexico. This was the moment when I first thought to myself that I want to compete someday.
Finally, in 2013 I did my first Alseseca Race and I remember an unforgettable feeling that still gives me a rush. As someone that has dedicated the past six years of her life to racing, nothing comes close to the feeling of being home with my people and getting to race and share this event, to not only promote the sport, but also to preserve my river.
(Sofia ready to go fast.)
The Alseseca Race has improved in regards to both racer and spectator participation each year. It has turned into an event for the communities of Tlapacoyan and Atzalan. Through the years, we have had athletes from 23 countries including: Mexico, the United States, Canada, Spain, France, Germany, Austria, Russia, the UK, South Africa, Scotland, Ireland, Venezuela, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Costa Rica, Switzerland, Ukraine, New Zealand, Australia, Turkey, and the Czech Republic.
The Alseseca Race project is more than just a whitewater kayaking race. It aims to preserve the Alseseca River and other rivers in the area and aspires to educate the inhabitants and visitors of Tlapacoyan on the importance of being careful with the natural environment and preserving our water resources.
With the race, we hope to develop the sport of kayaking around Mexico and help Mexican athletes continue to improve their health and quality of life. We also want to continue to help both Tlapacoyan and Atzalan grow as tourist destinations as well as raise awareness of the implication of inefficient dams with the goal of stopping future developments.
We have had so many improvements throughout the years. The government has installed a water treatment plant. We have stopped several dam projects on the Alseseca and Jalacingo rivers. There has been a huge increase of kayakers in Mexico. We have had more Mexicans racing than foreigners over the past three years. The podiums have also been dominated by Mexicans. Aventurec, in collaboration with Calleva, is always looking for ways to improve the race as well as researching new ways to protect and preserve the river.
(Some river stewardship in action as event volunteers clean up along the river bank.)
The most recent event was held on January 14th of 2023. A sunny morning on the banks of the Alseseca River kicked off the 15th anniversary of the race. The event started with an indigenous ceremony where we ask the gods and mother earth for permission for safe passage on the river. Next, we had an athletes meeting and a presentation of the politicians and officials that have become part of the event. The secretary of tourism of Veracruz opened the event.
(Crossing the finish line.)
There are two different races. The long race is a 2.2 km race with several class IV drops and a class V waterfall called S-turn. S-turn is a unique rapid that drops about 15 ft into a very tight canyon forming an s-bend. The second race is the short race which finishes above the class V rapid. This race allows kayakers with less experience to participate in the event and set their sights in later years to progress to the long race.
(Sofia boofing over "Sticky Hole" rapid.)
After both races were done, we headed to the township of Atzalan where the awards ceremony took place. In the short race, Santiago Morfin, an 18-year-old from Merida, took first place. Logan Righter from Colorado took second place and local Javier Andrade took third place. Tatiana Cadavid was the only female in the short race with only one year of kayaking experience.
(The entrance move to S-Turn rapid.)
In the long race, local paddler Antonio Reinoso was crowned the champion with a time of 13:21. Former champion Isaac Martinez was in second place with a time of 13:33. Emmett DeMaynadier from Maine took third place with a time of 13:37.
(Emmett DeMaynadier lining up his approach.)
In the women’s category, I (Sofia) was able to come in first with a time of 13:46. Kendra Keiser from Idaho took second place with a time of 15:39. Maru Ayún from Mexico City took third place with a time of 21:31. Maru only started running S-turn rapid the week before the race!
After the awards, we all headed to Aventurec where the party began with a raffle for all the volunteers that make the magic happen. We celebrated with tacos and tequila. We danced all night!
Come join the movement and race the Alseseca on January 13th of 2024!
(Race winners of the 2023 Alseseca race.)