We’re excited for the return of the La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge, one of the best-known and longest canoe races in Central America, and we’re proud to be sponsoring the ‘Fast Forward’ canoe racing team that joined this year’s race.
The annual race founded in 1998 aims to bring awareness to the environment, history, and culture of Belize and its natural resources. Teams can use this occasion to bring attention to various causes, such as conservation for waterways in Belize. Also, the race’s observation sights include the Guanacaste National Park, where attendees can support conservation efforts with the Belize Audubon Society by visiting this protected area.
“We are completely captivated by the history, heritage, and grandeur of this race and everything it stands for. We appreciate the culture it represents and the environmental causes it brings awareness to,” said Axiory Managing Director, Julia Oliva about the event. “Upon its return following COVID lockdowns, we wanted to take this opportunity to sponsor a local team and support their journey and efforts in this year’s race, and Fast Forward was the perfect pick; a hard-working family team that’s been dedicated to the race for a long time, paddling their way through this amazing tradition every year.”
The Fast Forward team proudly sported the Axiory brand colors and logo and raced from the 4th to the 7th of March, paddling approximately 175 miles (231 km) on the Macal and Belize River. They were joined by more than 90 teams from Belize, the U.S.A, Japan, Canada, the U.K., and many other countries.
“I wanna say thanks to the sponsors and Axiory, without them this is not possible,” said Simon August, of Fast Forward, who’s participating in the race for the sixth time. “... and the family motivated us, they were screaming, they’re shouting along the riverside, keeps us pushing, we don’t want to disappoint them either ”
It’s ‘more than just a race’; it is a tradition for Belize for the last 25 years - taking a hiatus in 2021 due to COVID - that brings friends, families, and people from all levels of racing experience together to race for four days while being cheered on by onlookers at every stage.
“La Ruta Maya for me personally it gives me an adrenaline rush. I had other plans and as soon as my little cousin texted and said La Ruta Maya is on what are we going to do? I dropped all other plans and said it’s all in, here we go” said Karen Jones, who was there to support team Fast Forward.
Today the La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge is a major public and tourist attraction that ends on an important local public holiday, Baron Bliss Day, on March 9th. Beyond the race, onlookers can enjoy the beautiful Macal River banks, along with food, live entertainment, games, and prizes while watching the action-filled race.
Called “The Maya Route” in Spanish, the route followed during the race, from San Ignacio to Belize City is where the country’s first colonial settlements started, and it’s the ancient trading route the Mayas and later on, the Baymens used to transport goods for trade in the past. The race is seen as an ode to the history of the river, the country, and the perseverance of the human spirit. Along the way, paddlers and support crews camp at each finishing point to honor traditions.
The 2022 winning team is PACT (Protected Areas Conservation Trust), which won all four stages, Banana Bank, Double Head Cabbage, Burrel Boom, and Belize City. But we’re incredibly proud of our team, which challenged rapids and winds in a physically and mentally gruesome race to stand for a great cause.
“We had experience in La Ruta Maya before so that pushes us through and we’re kind of familiar with the river already and that helps us through the way. Sometimes I wanted to jump out to be honest but they encouraged me and we encouraged each other, thank god for that” said August.
“This year was one of the toughest years because we all gained some weight, we didn’t get much training, it was tough but we pulled through” Steven Castillo from Fast Forward joked. “I’m very very proud of my teammates, we pulled through, some days we fight and we laughed and we did a lot of things on the river that we can’t tell you guys.”
When asked if he would be joining the race again next year, he immediately replied “definitely, definitely. It's good for the family, it’s good for the fans, and it’s always a good race”.