Dad follows sons into sport of boat racing

SARAH SMELTZ/THE EXPRESS From left are Elijah Campbell, David Campbell and Larry Roberts. Quin Campbell sits in his racing boat.

LOCK HAVEN — For David Campbell, it’s been a long road from Jersey Shore to the Lock Haven Jaycees Boat Regatta.

Campbell, who grew up in Jersey Shore and graduated from Jersey Shore High School and Lock Haven University is racing for the first time at the regatta this weekend, along with his two sons, Elijah, 15, and Quin, 11. David remembers well coming to Lock Haven as a teenager to watch the boat races, but never did he think he’d ever buy a boat and race it.

That all changed after he met his wife, Sarah, and they moved to New Hampshire where her family lived. Sarah’s father, Larry Roberts, was friends with a boat racer, Alex Poliakoff, and Larry’s hobby was rebuilding 1950s Mercury outboard engines. Larry also helped Alex with his boat.

All of a sudden, David realized there was more to boat racing than sitting on the grassy shore watching boats race up and down the river as he had done so many years ago.

Still, he wasn’t interested in the sport.

Elijah was just 3 when he started hanging out with Grandpa and got the boat racing bug, David said.

“Pap is a motivator so I thought it was good to step back and let the kids and Grandpa have this experience,” the proud father continued, his sons and father-in-law standing nearby as he spoke.

Both boys started racing when they were 9 years old… that’s the minimum age, David said.

“We traveled a lot to get the boys to the races. I guess I just got tired of watching the races and seeing them having all the fun. So, I decided to give it a try. This is my first year racing anywhere. I’ve done 10 races this year,” David said, smiling.

“And he’s done really good,” Larry said of his son-in-law’s rookie year.

“That’s 20 heats… in two of them he looked like he had been doing it for 50 years,” Larry said.

But David said his body didn’t feel like he’d been doing it for 50 years.

“I really didn’t know what it was all about. I remember giving the boys advice… telling them to turn harder and other stuff. I had no idea. It looked so easy. But it isn’t. My first time I got all beat up… my neck hurt… my body hurt. I apologized to the boys. It’s not so easy. It takes a lot of finesse,” David said.

This year, Dad and his two sons raced together. And they’re having a good time. They participated in about 16 to 18 races this summer. That’s eight or nine weekends.

And they’ve done well.

Eli came in among the top 10 in the nationals. He races both runabouts and hydros. Quin races a runabout and has had some success this year also. Dad races hydro 300 Super Stock.

David’s wife and their daughter, Rylan, 8, travel with the racers many weekends. This weekend, they stayed at home taking care of the family’s small farm, David said.

Just then, David’s parents, Duane and Sharon Campbell arrived at the boat launch area in Lockport looking for their son and grandsons. Formerly of Jersey Shore, they now live in Tioga County.

“I think it’s really neat,” Sharon said of her son getting into boat racing along with his sons.

Has Grandpa ever raced?

“No! I’ve never had the desire. It’s too expensive and too dangerous,” he said. He does, however, enjoy pleasure boating.

But he’s been to Lock Haven many times with his friend Alex and says “This is the best race in the country.”

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