‘Outlaws’ host their own cardboard boat race in Riverhead


When Riverhead Town canceled this year’s cardboard boat race, a group of diehard participants took it upon themselves to host their own event dubbed as an “outlaw cardboard boat race.”

Two teams arrived at the Peconic Riverfront and raced each other Sunday morning, a date that had been considered as a possible makeup after the original date for late June was postponed. The Town Board ultimately canceled the event due to a lack of volunteers.

Mattituck resident Mark Sisson, who has participated in the race since its started in 2010, had his cardboard boat nearly completed when the race was canceled.

“It’s really too bad they canceled, but I understand why,” he said. “If the town doesn’t have a race, then we’ll do this again, but I hope the town and BID can work something out because it’s much more fun when there’s a lot more people.”

Over the years, Mr. Sisson and his team had created elaborate boats, including a DeLorean from “Back to the Future.” This time around, he decided to keep it plain without a theme.

From left: Mark Sisson, Chris McHugh, Nora Katlin, Katrina Lovett and Candyce Paparo. (Credit:  Victoria Pendzick)
From left: Mark Sisson, Chris McHugh, Nora Katlin, Katrina Lovett and Candyce Paparo. (Credit: Victoria Pendzick)

“Usually, we decide a theme in the winter and, originally, it was going to be ‘Greased Lightning” [from the musical ‘Grease’], he said. “But then, of course, the race was canceled.”

Shortly after participating in his first race six years ago, Mr. Sisson and his shipmates created a Facebook group called the League of Awesome Cardboard Boat Builders where many locals keep in touch about their own cardboard boat plans, as well as other artistic endeavors for the downtown area, including window decorations and street painting.

“We decided if anyone wants to race, great,” he said. “ If not, then we’ll still have a good time.”

Mr. Sisson’s friends — Gabby Comanda of Center Moriches and her boyfriend, Sam Notaro of Riverhead — had also built a boat prior to the event’s cancellation and decided to compete against Mr. Sisson’s team.

While they were ahead during the race after sneaking in a head start, their boat — “Hope it Floats” — sank just before reaching the finish line.

“Originally, our theme was going to be a Viking ship, but when we ran out of time we decided to just put duct tape on it and hope it floats,” Mr. Notaro said.

“It was a great time and hopefully we’ll get to experience an official race with more people next year,” added Ms. Comanda.

Following the race, Mr. Sisson said spectators asked to jump aboard and he gave about 15 people rides.

He also made an award topped with a roll of duct tape and presented it to Ms. Comanda and her team for their sportsmanship.

The group of friends then enjoyed a picnic.

“It’s a fun event, even if it can’t be official,” Mr. Sisson said. “It’s something we’d like to do and will probably do again if they keep canceling.”

[email protected]

Top photo: Gabby Comanda and Sam Notaro in their boat ‘Hope it Floats.’ (Credit: Victoria Pendzick)