Chip Loring has spent a lot of time on the water.
When he was 5 years old, he received his introduction to paddling when his father, Gene Loring Sr., took him and his brothers Kirk and Bruce out onto Birch Stream in Old Town in their traditional cedar canoes.
“He’d take us out where it was not too deep, then he’d tip us over and teach us how to get back into the canoe and get the water out of it so you could paddle back to shore,” Loring said.
There were many valuable lessons learned from his father and people like Irving Ranco and Nick Sapiel, who instructed the boys on how to race and how to stand-up paddle on the gunnels.
“They taught us a lot,” said Chip Loring, who has spent a lifetime honing his skills and looking for opportunities to use them in races here in Maine and elsewhere.
Loring’s love for paddling has frequently led him to compete in the annual Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race. He’s not sure how many times he has done it, but he has showcased his experience while renewing many friendships made on the water over the years.
“It’s all about the paddlers,” Loring said. “I enjoy meeting new people and I enjoy helping the young people that are just starting. I tell them — this is what my dad told me — remember, stay out of the white stuff.”
Loring’s lifetime of paddling has paid dividends in the Kenduskeag race. Loring claimed the one-man canoe experienced title in 1972 and 1973 upon his return from a stint with the Army Rangers in Vietnam.
He didn’t paddle a lot for many years, but his enthusiasm for competitive sports was rekindled in 1990 when Loring finished the Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii.
In 1995, at 47, Loring grabbed another first-place trophy in the Kenduskeag Race in the one-man recreational canoe division. In all, he has won or shared at least 13 championships across five different race categories.
Brother Kirk Loring was the canoe champion in the inaugural Kenduskeag Stream race in 1967, then won the C1 Experienced division again in 1974.
“It’s nice to win, but it’s all about having fun,” Chip Loring said.
In 2018, he was selected as one of the Legends of Paddling for his dedication to the race and for his efforts promoting paddling and a sense of community and fellowship.
Perhaps most importantly, paddling a canoe is an activity the 75-year-old Loring has been able to enjoy his entire life.
“It’s one of the few sports you can do when you get older, too, without beating yourself up,” Loring said.
Loring enjoys negotiating the rapids and even admits to having dumped a few times during the Kenduskeag race. And despite having had a knee replacement last winter, Loring has pronounced himself fit enough to compete in Saturday’s 56th running of the race.
He’ll be joined by good friend Jamie Hannon of Wentworth, New Hampshire, who is a multiple-time Kenduskeag champion in the C1 Experienced class. The duo last paddled the race together in 2021, when they won the two-person canoe recreational division.
This time, they’ll be paddling in the Century class, in which the paddlers’ combined ages must be at least 100.
“I’m in the process of putting some splash rails on and some knee guards on the inside for my friend, so he can kind of snuggle right in there and there will be no free play on each side of his knees,” Loring said.
Loring has learned how to pace himself, at least a little bit, in recent years. But that didn’t stop him from paddling 100 miles on the Allagash two years ago — only six months after having reverse shoulder replacement surgery.
And canoeing isn’t his only competitive pursuit. He is a frequent visitor to the gym and the pool.
“I still run. I still bike. I still swim,” he said of his regimen, which he hopes will prepare him to compete in future triathlons.
“I want to go back over to Hawaii next June and do another Half Ironman again,” Loring said of the grueling competition, which includes 1.2 miles of swimming, 56 miles of cycling and 13.1 miles of running.
Next month, he’s headed to New York to compete in a 70-mile race that he’s paddled 12 or 13 times. Then, in September, he’ll take part in a 90-mile race in the Adirondacks.
Loring said that despite your age, it’s important to be looking ahead and working toward something.
“I’ve got plans. You’ve got to set goals for yourself,” he said.