South Dakota Kayak Challenge


Personal Safety

All racers must wear personal flotation devices/life jackets while on the water for the entire duration of the event. See our mandatory gear list below for more information on PFD requirements.

All racers will be issued a waterproof card with contact information for race organizers. Racers must contact organizers if they depart the event, stop racing for more than 30 minutes or if they face situations that may impact all racers safety. Racers should call 911 in the case of a life or death situation; call or text organizers in any other situation.

Safety is priority for us; we hope you will join us on this No. 1 mission for the SDKC.

Racing Classes

All competitors pick one of two classes for entry into the event. Adventure Class is for racers who are newcomers or who have completed less than five races of this sort. Competitive Class is for racers who have more experience. These guidelines are flexible; racers with experience who would prefer adventure may sign up in that class. Newcomers are encouraged to enter as adventure class, but may sign up as competitive if they desire. We encourage Adventure Class winners from past years to move up to Competitive.

Categories include men’s and women’s singles, men’s, women’s and mixed tandems, and open class solo and teams that have three or more paddlers in one boat (not relay).

Racing Craft Options

The South Dakota Kayak Challenge is open to any paddle-powered craft: kayaks, canoes, surf-skis, Stand-Up Paddleboards or other craft. We will open our race to "Hobie" style craft, but they will need prior approval from the race directors before registering. Pedaled craft will not directly “compete” with kayaks and canoes. If they come, they will make up their own separate class among racers.


Pre-registration is required. Deadline is May 11, 2019. You will not be able to register the week of the race.

Pre-registered racers are responsible to check-in on Friday, May 24, at the Capitol Replica in Riverside Park. Registration begins at 2 p.m. and takes just a few minutes. All racers will complete race waivers before being allowed to take part in the event. Volunteers will facilitate this for all racers as they arrive.

A “kayak corral” for storage of craft will be established adjacent to the Capitol. Racers who are taking the shuttle should stage their craft there, get registered, then drive to South Sioux City to be ready to take the bus back to Yankton Friday afternoon.

Email organizers for information on late registration. The key: signing the waiver. We can make arrangements for racers who will arrive later on Friday night, but would appreciate any and all heads-up so we can facilitate your registration. NO ONE races without a waiver.


All racers must stage between 5:35-6:45 a.m. on Saturday morning. The Competitive Class racers can take to the water and begin the race up river from the platform where the starting gun is fired. Competitive class racers who do not want to start on the water may begin on shore with the rest of the racing group.

All racers will receive a final inspection as they stage. We strongly encourage all racers to stage as early as possible Saturday morning. Once your boat and gear have been approved, you can drop them off and leave the staging area.

ALL racers begin at the sound of the starting gun at 7 a.m. SHARP on Saturday. Racers who do not get under way by 7:30 a.m. are disqualified.


The finish line will be marked clearly by a yellow and black checkered flag. Racers will cross an imaginary line on the river just up river from the South Sioux City public boat ramp. Volunteers will clearly mark the finish line on the river; there’s about 100 meters of water between the finish line and the exit point. See the updated course page for details on this aspect that will make the SDKC a better event this year.

All racers who finish receive hardware; top finishers in each class and category also will receive additional prizes or recognition.

Stoppage En Route

All racers must text or call SDKC staff any time they take a break that is planned to last for 30 minutes or longer so that we can alert safety boats on the route. Racers who take a break that ends up going longer than 30 minutes should text organizers to let them know boat number, approximate location and what your next steps will be.

Mandatory equipment

All racers must physically display these items at final check-in at staging Saturday morning:

  • U.S. Coast Guard-approved type I, II, III or V Personal Flotation Device (PFD)
  • Cellular telephone in a waterproof container
  • Copy of the waterproof safety card with organizers’ phone numbers (provided to you at check-in on Friday)
  • Lights for operation after dark (as per South Dakota/Nebraska law)

Recommended Equipment

  • Two-way communication device and/or GPS device
  • Two liters water per person
  • Whistle and mirror
  • Spare paddle
  • Extra clothing in a waterproof bag
  • Food, energy gels and other sustenance


Racers must reach each of the four checkpoints in a reasonable amount of time. Checkpoint one has a cutoff of 11:30 a.m. Any paddler who arrives after that time will not be allowed to proceed to checkpoint two. All racers must depart checkpoint two by 4:00 p.m. No cutoff times for Checkpoints 3 or 4.

Racers are required to check-in but not stop at each checkpoint. As they approach the checkpoint, checkpoint volunteers will call out for their boat number. Once the volunteer confirms the boat number and shouts it back to the racer, he/she/they may continue on the route.

It is the responsibility of the racer, not the volunteer, to ensure check-in. Failure to check in at any checkpoint will result in penalty or disqualification.

Racers are welcome to stop at any checkpoint. We will provide water and ice at each one, and support teams can meet their teams as well. Support teams cannot assist racers in entering or exiting a checkpoint, i.e., they cannot pull the boat ashore or push it back into the water.

Support Teams

Each participant is allowed unlimited race support at the checkpoints and other public-access sites on the river. Replacement paddlers or boats are forbidden. Racers may self-support using any checkpoint. On-water support is allowed, but only by paddled craft, i.e., you may have a support team in a kayak meet you on the water to give you food/water. All on-water support must avoid assisting the racer (towing, drafting) in moving down the course.

Age Restrictions

Children ages 16 and younger must paddle in tandem kayaks or in a team of two or more boats with a parent or legal guardian. Email organizers with questions on this topic.


You may only draft (follow closely) craft that are in your class. Example: Solo paddlers can only draft behind other solo craft; they cannot draft behind tandem or open class craft.

Did Not Finish (DNF)

Racers may choose to stop at any point on the river and exit the event, but they are required to contact race officials when this occurs. Racers should text or call Steven, Jarett or Cory if they are exiting. Paddlers who fail to notify race authorities after choosing to exit the race will be banned from future South Dakota Kayak Challenge events.


No record-setting finish is worth the loss of life. Race camaraderie is encouraged on this oft-challenging water. Race officials will weigh in on line-crossing rudeness between racers with penalties that may include disqualification. We encourage all racers to report situations that seem questionable. If you see someone in trouble – please let us know.

Leave No Trace

Racers who discard anything into the river or who fail to maintain gear accountability are subject to time penalty. Much of the course is a federally protected area. Please respect it.

The Creed of the Kayak Challenge

The organizers of the South Dakota Kayak Challenge, when faced with a unforeseen hazard or conflict, reserve permission to revise any of the information on this website, on publications or information offered to racers via the site, email or postal mail, or on the water.

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