Blazing Paddles is a standup paddleboard race on the Cuyahoga River, a historic body of water that's risen like a phoenix from its ecological low-point in 1969. You'll be racing on a curvy 5.7-mile urban course that flows past a unique mix of riverfront sites where iconic pyramids of sand and stone stand in contrast to newly created paved paths and green-spaces. The scenic course with sweeping views of downtown Cleveland will take you under 10 bridges spanning the river before you reach the race’s turnaround point - THE location of the 1952 Cuyahoga River fire, the infamous image that's used as a visual stand-in for the much smaller June 22, 1969 fire.

Yes, Blazing Paddles' turnaround point serves as a physical metaphor for the turnaround of the Cuyahoga River and the turnaround our nation's relationship with its national resources. The ’69 fire launched America’s environmental movement. When you compete in Blazing Paddles on Cleveland’s historic river, you'll be reminding the nation of the great things that happen when our natural resources are protected.

At one time in American history, hundreds of rivers were used as open conduits for the byproducts of industrial processes. Yet it is the Cuyahoga River that stands alone as the poster-child for the ravages of a bygone era. More rigorous environmental regulations and engaged citizen stewardship helped fuel the recovery of tributaries that now support not only a widening array of fish and wildlife species, but they also support a sustainable economic driver for their regions: tourism and recreation. Blazing Paddles is not just a stand-up paddleboard (SUP) race: it will serve as the mecca for the SUP community to make a national statement that healthy and vibrant rivers are an essential quality of life enhancer for America’s waterfront cities.

In addition to the 5.7-mile race, Blazing Paddles will offer a shorter 2-mile paddle for casual paddleboarders and kayakers. Our spectator village will host technique and safety clinics, and demos of paddle products while H2O stakeholders share info on their respective missions. And yes, there will be music. And beer.


Blazing Paddles is the aquatic partner to the 2nd Annual Share the River Ramble, a 2 1/2 & 5-mile connect-the-dots, run/walk of the Cuyahoga River riverfront along segments that have either been recently changed to a park/bike path or are being considered for such (i.e. Irishtown Bend). Rivers and trails are the arteries that connect people and communities to their natural resources.The Ramble physically connects people to the evolving transformation of Cleveland's riverfront that in some ways is unrecognizable from that June 22 day in 1969. 

 photo by lawson whitaker photgraphy

photo by lawson whitaker photgraphy

The burning river image from 1952, forever used to illustrate the much smaller 1969 fire, has been iconic shorthand for well-meaning folks to press a number of agendas forward on a number of fronts. And yeah, it's also been used in a not-so well meaning fashion (#CLEvsTBS anyone?). Our vision for Blazing Paddles is to provide a national stage for recreation to show the world that clean water and clean rivers matter and are worth preserving, protecting and investing in. And when amazing photographers like Lawson Whitaker (his photo to the right is of the epic Chattajack 31 in Chatanoooga, TN)  document 350 stand-up paddleboarders competing on the birthplace of the environmental movement, you'll be part of launching a new brand and a new narrative for the Cuyahoga River. Healthy rivers ARE economic drivers!

Blazing Paddles' lead-in event, the Share the River Ramble, was such a success in its inaugural year that we're adding a music and beerfest. Stay tuned for more details. Blazing Paddles and the Share the River Ramble's intent is to encourage the public to enjoy their natural resources, waterways, parks, and paths. But the two events are also intended to provide a focus on several themes central to Share the River's mission:

  • the importance and demonstrable positive impact of common sense environmental regulations
  • the value of public investments in clean water infrastructure (like NEORSD's Project Clean Lake).
  • the positive impact of engaged, long-term recreational use of our nations rivers and waterways
  • the benefit the above three have on waterfront cities' appeal 1) as a place where people want to work, live and play in and 2) as a tourism destination.

We're grateful to our supporting sponsors who have helped make Blazing Paddles and the expanded Ramble a possibility:

  • Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District: "‘Given our role in helping to improve the health of the Cuyahoga River, we’re excited to be part of this celebration. Plus, we’re happy to support an event that connects people to our water resources."
  • Fat Head's Brewery is our official brewery partner.
  • Canalway Partners: "We're pleased the Share the River Ramble is serving as one of the kick-off events for the inaugural Cleveland History Days, "10 Days and 20 Ways to Experience Cleveland’s History". More information is at
  • Ohio City Inc.: "Ohio City Incorporated is working with partners to tie together a growing network of trails and connecting people to the riverfront through Irishtown Bend, and we are thrilled to support the Share the River Ramble which celebrates one of our regions greatest assets, the Cuyahoga River."
  • Looking for lodging? Experience stunning historic architecture and newly renovated guestrooms at Hyatt Regency Cleveland at The Arcade. Located adjacent to the East Fourth Street Entertainment District, this iconic hotel in the heart of downtown Cleveland is the perfect starting point to experience the best the city has to offer. Click here for a link that will save you 20% on your stay during Cleveland History Days.

Save the date, register, and invite your friends! Click on the below link and register for Blazing Paddles now! 

Would you like to be part of the team that's making this year's Blazing Paddles and Share the River Ramble an event to remember? Register to be a volunteer or serve on one of our committees!

And if you are a business, organization, foundation or individual who sees the branding value of the Blazing Paddles and the Share the River Ramble, we are in the process of securing sponsors! We are a full-blown experiential marketing event with an engaged social media presence and following. Please e-mail us at

If you're on Facebook, click on this link to let your friends know you're going and then invite your friends to the June 22 & 23 Cuyahoga River Party!