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The Texas Water Safari

The Texas Water Safari is billed as the “World’s Toughest Boat Race.” It’s been held every year since 1963, beginning at the headwaters of the San Marcos River on the second Saturday in June, and winding up a hundred hours later in San Antonio Bay. That’s 260 miles. That’s also completely insane.

The boats have to be powered exclusively by human muscle, and participants must pack in everything they need. They can get water, ice and medical supplies along the way, but that’s it. This isn’t a lily-dipping paddle across a tranquil lake with a jug of iced tea between the seats. We’re talking rapids, portages, intense heat, alligators, sharks, water moccasins, fire ants, and endless swarms of mosquitos.

And when you finally cross the finish line, there are no prizes. What you get are bragging rights, and for most that’s better than gold.

It’s not that surprising, therefore, that we received a request from a 2012 Texas Water Safari participant to frame his “patch”. It’s a trophy, a symbol of achievement, and one in which he understandably takes great pride. But how do you honor a little round piece of cloth and really do it justice?

Richard wanted to take this one on because he was struck by the client’s passion and enthusiasm for the race. He wanted this Designer’s Choice project to reflect just how gruelling and challenging the Texas Water Safari can be.

After doing some research on the race, various canoe shapes, and Texas topography, Richard found an image of the perfect canoe to use as a model for his original artwork. He then set about pencil sketching both the boat and the path of the race onto a piece of matboard.

Watercolours were then brushed on and the path of the river inked in, along with some of the major check points of the race. In order to put the whole thing in perspective, Richard also added a map of Texas to show just how far the competitors had travelled. The map also provided a nice balance to the original patch, the two then separated by the visual of the Water Safari route.

The final touch was adding “260” to the canoe, representing the full length of the race.

A dark rustic frame and gold fillet were chosen to compliment the artwork, both from Larson Juhl. The rugged look couldn’t be more perfect for all that this piece represents.

The Texas Water Safari art work took about three hours to complete. It’s exactly the sort of thing we love to do with Designer’s Choice – taking something that means the world to a client, and handing it back to them in a form that shows we completely get it.

A patch is never just a little round piece of cloth if you had to paddle 260 miles and fight off alligators, snakes and fire ants, just to bring it home.

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