On 13th August 1922, 7 brave crews set out from Sokolský island in České Budějovice at the joint of river Vltava and Malše on over 100 kg heavy boats. The Havliček brothers had in Županovice 4 hours lead so they slept in a raftsmen pub. At dawn, they set out again. In Prague, however, at the finish line (Czech Yacht Club shipyard) under Vyšehrad they were not welcomed as winners. Engstler and Richter on the white canoe “Lilly” were the first ones at the finish line. With their flashlight and eyes wide open, they paddled through the night with the tricky rapids and passes. They overtook the leading couple but were still convinced they were the second. They created a record of 27 hours and 12 minutes on the track without a stop, which should have never been overcome. Since the following year, the stage race have began and canoeing “Budějovice” has gradually become one of the biggest sport events in the Czechoslovakia.
The division of the stages gradually changed according to the water conditions. The fastest time 13:18:00 hrs in the race divided into four stages in two days was reached by the couple Černý-Oták. Back than there was completely free flowing river between Budějovice and Prague. In 1935 there was the first dam built on the Vltava river named Vrané. That was also the last year of the subsequent years when the race took place 13 times in a row. In the pre-war era, it was once more held in 1937 (the race did not take place in 1936 due to the preparations for the Olympic Games in Berlin), but there were only 7 boats at the start.
After the World War II, the race was restored in 1948. The category of heavy and light C2s and folding K2s were expanded by a faster Swedish kayak of both individuals and couples. The number of participants in the 1950s grew enormously, and the categories of juniors and veterans were also added. Further changes were done to the race concept, including the number of stages and stops (6 stages in 3 days), finish line placement (Rowing Island, Sparta Praha in Braník) and the number of portages. With the gradual filling of the Slapy and Orlík dams, the natural stretches of the river diminished and its character changed. The historic last 27th year of the race took place in 1959 with over 86 boats on the start line.
Budějovice-Praha race had its great hero, Prague carpenter Felix, the most humble and incredible paddler. The race gave him strength and endurance, taught him to overcome obstacles and not to get tired. He always looked forward to see Žďákov, where hot bathing water was always prepared in the old beer barrels in the local pub. Prior to the war (consecutively with Švejda, Rus and Karlik) and after the war (always with Kudrna) he won a total of six times in the C2 category. In 1955, together with Kudrna, they decided to race Budějovice-Praha for the last time. They have beaten the thirty-three-year-old record of Engstler and Richter in a non-stop ride in 20 hours and 10 minutes.
In 2010, more than 50 years after the end of the last legendary Budějovice-Praha race, the team of sprint paddlers from Zbraslav and Dukla Praha decided to continue with a long tradition and held the first renewed race. In addition to the dams existing since 1959, Hněvkovice and Kořensko dams also stood in the way. A three-stage model in three days was chosen. The start line was in Budějovice under the weir near Lanna’s shipyard (less than a kilometer below the historic start line at Sokolský island). Due to the accommodation at Štědronín, the first and the second day was longer and spanned also few kilometers on Otava river. A 3 km long section before the Slapy dam was not counted in the total time as the start of the day three was below the dam wall. The winner of the first renewed race on K1 was Radim Junek from KVS Praha, with the time of 13:09:40. C2 category was won by the couple Kuta-Březina in 13:47:30 and C2T by Procházka-Míka in 18:39:31.
In 2011, a “tour to Otava” was removed, the finish line was moved up to Hodkovičky in Prague to the tavern “U Sváry”. The race shortened by 6 km compared to the previous year was won on K1 by Petr Jambor from USK Praha in excellent time 12:18:11. Category C2T was won by the couple Odvárko-Vrdlovec in a good time 15:25:53. The race was also completed by four brave women on the K2s, the fastest couple was Srnáková-Jamrichová, who formed a women’s track record 15:53:27.
In 2012, the race was again held in three days, and the stops were in Podolsko and Stará Živohošť. The third day did not start under the Slapy dam, but in Živohošť, which allowed the fastest kayakers to use the portage over legendary hill Kolna. A sharp battle between the leading K1s Petr Mojžíšek and Tomáš Ježek took place there and later. The race was won by Mojžíšek a second in front of his USK partner Ježek in a time of 12:25:00. C2T category was won again by Odvárko-Vrdlovec in 16:01:39.
In 2013 the race took place twice. First, in June, the paddlers tried a nonstop version of the race. Petr Mojžíšek have won the K1 category again in a time of 13:27:58. Category C2T was taken by Herzan-Vlček in 17:37:20. You can find out more about this race in results. In August, a classical three-day race was held, with overnight stays in Podolsko and Častoboř. Tomáš Pavlík won on K1 in a time of 13:14:10 and category C2T was won by Venta-Hamák in 17:19:34.
In 2014, only one race was held in a non-stop version. The winner on K1 was Petr Mojžíšek a second ahead of Tomáš Pavlík reaching the time of 13:36:32. As a year before, the race was seasoned with the Zvírotice-Musík and Kolna portages. Category C2T was won by Venta-Hamák in 20:04:08.
In 2015 and 2016 only short races (from Slapy dam to Prague) were held. Due to the Hněvkovice weir modifications and also for organizational reasons, the long race was too complicated to organize.
In 2017, it was again possible to organize a three-day three-stage race with a start in České Vrbné, overnight stops at Husárna and Skalice and a finish line at USK Praha. The start of the third day was under the Slapy dam, so even the fastest racers could not use the shortcut over Kolna. Some, however, took advantage of the earlier experience and portaged Zvírotice-Musík. The first on the finish line was K4 Regulus Modřany Dufek, Zimčík, Škába, Diaz, who improved their performace and took advantage of their race experience and achieved the time 11:55:55. K1 category was won by Tomáš Pavlík in 12:38:46 and category C2T again by Venta-Hamák in 16:33:36.
In 2018 the race was won by the first time by a paddler from abroad. Matthias Schmidt from KG München won the race for the forst time under 12 hours on K1 achieving the time 11:56:30, four minutes ahead of Petr Mojžíšek from USK Praha. C2T category was won by a couple Herzan-Hamák in 16:36:03.
Nonstop race was held in 2019. The winner on K1 was Petr Synek in 16:22:08, twenty minutes ahead of Joachim Moritz. Category C2T was won by Herzan-Ouředník reaching the time 19:25:09.
The race is following the tradition and became a unique encounter for both professional and amateur athletes on speed kayaks and canoes as well as on recreational boats.