Canoe races honoring?Shine off to strong start under new leadership

Nearly three years after his death, the legacy of Pat Shine continues to inspire the community he grew up in.

On Saturday, the third annual Pat Shine Memorial Canoe and Kayak Race was held on the Allegheny River, featuring a ten-mile course beginning at the Big Bend access area by the Kinzua spillway and ending at Betts Park.

The event is the culmination of years of planning and hard work from everyone involved, and the hope is that it will continue to grow in the coming years.

The Allegheny River Competitive Paddlers, a club that features people from Irvine, Brookville, Ridgway, Bradford, and several other surrounding communities, began brainstorming the idea of a local canoe and kayak race in October of 2010. The emphasis would be on recreational paddling, while allowing people to gain experience in the event that they wanted to begin racing competitively.

“We wanted it to happen for two reasons,” said Paul Gruber, one of the founding members of the group. “The first was to get local paddlers interested in canoe and kayak racing because of frequent USCA (United States Canoe Association) National events being hosted (in Warren County). The second was to help fill the void in the years when Nationals were not in town.”

The Warren County Chamber of Business and Industry (WCCBI) was successful in holding the USCA Nationals every other year from 2003 through 2009, but, Gruber added, “the USCA was getting sour on returning to the same venue over and over. In fact, many members voted against coming back to Warren.”

The event did return to Warren in 2012, although it was the lowest attended Nationals event ever. While locals were more than welcome to participate in Nationals events, chances are that most didn’t have the years of professional race training and experience, as well as the expensive equipment, necessary to compete at the elite level.

“We held a meeting with (WCCBI President and CEO) Jim Decker and John Papalia of WCCBI’s Council on Tourism and things began to get underway for the first race in 2011,” said Gruber.

It was around that time, Gruber said, that “Todd Betts suggested to me the idea of holding our race in honor of Pat Shine,” a longtime member of the Glade Township Volunteer Fire Department who had grown up in Youngsville and spent most of his life in Warren. “We all agreed, because Pat had been in charge of Glade’s Swift Water Rescue team, and he had also been an instructor trainer for the PFBC (Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission). Pat and his Glade crew were always at the refinery’s Flame Rapids event during previous years to help those who overturned there.”

The WCCBI-COT ran the event in 2011 and 2012, but decided to opt out this year, thrusting the Memorial Race into a sticky situation.

It didn’t take long before the Warren County YMCA and Executive Director Thad Turner came to the rescue – taking over and keeping the race alive for another year.

“Turner stepped up and in a sense rescued the Pat Shine Memorial Race for 2013,” Gruber affirmed.

To Turner, who is also busy preparing for the Kinzua County Tango taking place next month, it wasn’t a very difficult decision to make.

“(The YMCA) decided to keep it going because we had so much respect for Pat,” Turner said. “A lot of people are safety-minded, but their idea was just not doing (a certain activity). Pat was the opposite. He’d say, ‘Let’s do it, but find a safe way to do it.’ He always wanted to do it the right way. That was one of the great things about him.”

The event has meant so much to so many people in the community that cared deeply about Shine.

“It’s quite an honor to have it named after him,” said Shine’s longtime companion Laurie Crossley. “It helps his memory live on. Water was pretty much Pat’s passion.”

While Saturday’s event featured around 50 racers, the vast majority were from other areas. Both Crossley and Turner stated that while it’s nice to have competition, they’d like to have more local people participate in the future.

No matter who participates, “it’s important to keep his memory alive,” said Turner.

It’s alive and well.