Nancy Kalafus Award

Awarded to the winner of the Women’s C-1 Juvenile 500m

Nancy Kalafus paddled with the Yonkers Canoe Club in Yonkers, New York. Nancy tried to paddle canoes and was repeatedly told “No”. Persistence is her middle name but the odds were stacked against her in the late 1960’s.

In her own words:

1968: I was 16 at the National Championships at Lake Sebago, NY, and 8 of us from the Yonkers Canoe Club (4 guys & 4 girls) are winning the total team points for the National Championship Yonkers Trophy by only a couple of points over the Washington Canoe Club (WCC). The National Championship will be won by the team that wins the war canoe race. We wanted to race co-ed, but, the officials would not let us. So, the WCC won the Yonkers Trophy. Why wouldn’t they let the girls race with the boys?

1969: At the Atlantic Division Regatta at Lake Sebago, I was the fleet captain of our club and entered myself in the C-2 & C-4 with the men in our club. I used my first initial and full last name. Of course they all knew who I was and that I did not have a brother. I insisted that I be able to paddle in the canoe races and they said “No, you are a girl.” I asked repeatedly to be shown in the rule book where it states that girls could not race in canoes. Of course no one had a rule book. Finally, they said that if I dared to step in a C boat for a race that my canoe club would forfeit all of our races. Since this was the qualifier for Nationals, I backed down.

2010: As a teenager I never understood why they wouldn’t let me race in a C boat. At Yonkers all of the girls paddled both kayaks & C boats so it was completely natural to me. It is so gratifying to see all of the women racing in the high kneel boats now. I am so proud all of the women around the world for continually challenging our right to race! To think that over 40 years has passed and the world still does not allow women to race canoes in the Olympics is a travesty. Thank you to all of the trailblazers out there doing what you love!

– Nancy Kalafus

Nancy’s Highlights

  • Team USA – Kayak, 1968 and 1969 North American Championships
  • Alternate (K-4) for the 1970 World Championships


2021Audrey Harper
2020Not Awarded – Covid-19 Pandemic
2019Zoe Hein
2018Nevin Harrison
2017Nevin Harrison
2016Andreea Ghizila
2015Azusa Murphy (First awarded)