Cardboard Boats launch for the race at the cardboard boat regatta April 22, 2023 at SIU Campus Lake in Carbondale, Ill. Ethan Grimm | @ethan_grimm
Cardboard Boats launch for the race at the cardboard boat regatta April 22, 2023 at SIU Campus Lake in Carbondale, Ill. Ethan Grimm | @ethan_grimm

Students had a great time at the 48th Annual Cardboard Boat Regatta

May 3, 2023

The SIU 48th annual cardboard boat regatta was held Saturday April 22. The SIU boat regatta was the first documented regatta created by Richard Archer for a final exam project in 1974.

The competition is open to everyone with the intention of helping create a fantastic bonding experience and getting everyone outside. It’s a competition where anyone can enter: students, clubs, companies, faculty and community members.

Christina Fisher, with Intertape polymer group said, “We want to get out in the community, be part of the Boys and Girls Club and show them team building, because that’s really what it’s about.”


Competitors can try to create anything imaginable with cardboard and tape. Some boats can take up to 6 months, such as the S.S. Saluki Crews Ship, or as little as 15 minutes if you are using the instant boat kit provided by the program.

After registering a spot, the first team building experience is designing the boat. Some teams come up with a theme, others go for structure and many others aim for speed. Then the real test comes: trying to get it around the 300-yard course.

There are several prizes available but only some actually require competitors to make it to the finish. One of the most popular awards is the titanic award given to the team with the best sink. Others include the fan favorite award and the fastest time awarded by class.

The classes are categorized as:

Class I – human powered boats that move via paddles or similar means.

Class II – mechanically propelled boats that use paddlewheels, propellers, or similar methods to transport riders across the water.

Class III – instant boats, built at the event using kits available that day on site. The kits include one large cardboard sheet, a box knife, a plastic sheet, a nail and a roll of duct tape.


Class IV – youth division, for children ages 13 and younger.

The winners of the best sportsmanship award were Izzy Burkheart and Lauren Nippa.

Burkheart said, “I think teamwork is pretty important even though our boat didn’t make it that far, we still tried. Plus building our boat with our friends is what made it fun and it wasn’t even the part we won our award for.”

Mary Kinsel, the director of the event, said her favorite memory from her times at the regatta was when her daughter Aubrey entered into the youth division race with a Loch Ness monster boat.

The annual cardboard boat regatta proves to be a perfect opportunity to get outside and make some memories, interact with the community and even win some prizes. The only thing that could really make this event better would be a scholar-ship.


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