HACKS Club Profile

"We Paddle For Pleasure!"


The Housatonic Area Canoe and Kayak Squad is a diverse group of boaters centered in the northwest corner of Connecticut. It was originally formed around 1978 as the H.P. meaning, Housatonic Paddlers or High Performance, depending on who you talk to . The group consisted of local boating personalities Nic Osborn, Chuck Lewis, Kevin McCracken and a few others, who spent most of their time on recreational paddling and mind expansion. i.e. Partying! The main objective of any boating mission was to have maximum amounts of fun.
It wasn't long before Dave Paton, Mark Clarke and a few others joined the H.P. and started going to races; Slalom, downriver, flatwater, even canoe poling, the HP was there to win, and if they couldn't win the race, they always won the party.
The HP gelled into a force to be reckoned with at any regional race and they soon began to get more serious, setting up a slalom training site on the Housatonic at Swift's Bridge rapid. The crew began taking road trips for river-running and races a ll around the eastern United States. Driving all night and paddling all day on rivers like the Chatooga, the Ocoee, the Gauley and the Upper Yough. They paddled hard and partied hard. After all, they did have a reputation to uphold.
On one particular trip to the Upper Yough, a few members of the HP were being shown the "hair" lines and "death slots" by some now famous Friendsville boaters. The Squirt was just evolving as a hot move when Mark Clarke and Dave Paton were taking a run down "The Upper" with Keith Backlund and Jeff Snyder. All were waiting at the bottom of National Falls for HP member Kevin McCracken who, was busy being trashed in a hole, upstream at Triple Drop. The stern on his boat was nearly ripped off and he wa s sinking fast as he washed over National Falls executing perfect, and unintentional, stern squirts. Kevin, in true form, smiled wide and made it look like he was in complete control.
"Damn, you yankees learn fast!" Snyder is said to have exclaimed as he set off for the next rapid.
In 1982 Jamie McEwan moved to northwest Connecticut and stumbled upon a few of the HP boys paddling gates at Swift's Bridge. McEwan had been retired from slalom racing for a few years, but was happy to find such an enthusiastic group of boaters rig ht in his own back yard. Unfortunately their enthusiasm did not make up for their lack of good slalom skills and proper technique. When McEwan was asked what he thought of the HP training he replied, "You guys are real hacks."
Hacks? Of course...The Housatonic Area Canoe and Kayak Squad. The name stuck and the HP have been HACKS ever since.
The club swelled in size and began to attract real racers after the first Rattlesnake Slalom was held on the Housatonic River in 1983. At the time, it was the scariest slalom race in the United States and won national fame for trashing the best boaters our nation could produce. A complete success!
Throughout the 1980's HACKS were competing on the national race circuit and could claim numerous members on the U.S. Whitewater Team. Each year several medals at the Open Boat Nationals would go to HACKS members and each year the HACKS fame grew! Northwest Connecticut was known as a quality training site and a hot-bed of enthusiastic boaters.
Over the last few years however, the club has returned to being oriented more towards recreation. They still pick-up a few medals at the Open Boat Nationals or at local races, but the edge has worn and the northwest corner cannot claim any members on the U.S. Team. There is still a great training site and the Rattlesnake Race will bite a few boaters again this spring, but now the club motto is more true than ever; We Paddle For Pleasure!

E. J. McCarthy


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Housatonic Area Canoe & Kayak Squad
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