Santa Margarita Lake, California – near San Luis Obispo


April 14, 2018


Choose between two races:

  • 3-5 partner sprint  – teams of 2 
  • Half-day (6-hour) – teams of 1-4, need to be able to read a map

What’s this all about? “Trekking over the river bed, climbing over boulders, and being treated view to the awesome view at the top!”

Eventbrite - 2018 Checkpoint Challenge

Grab your partners and head out to collect checkpoints on a kayaking, mountain biking, and trekking challenge, condensing a month’s worth of adventure into a short expedition through California’s beautiful backcountry. See some beautiful country and make lifetime memories!

“Teamwork was very important: when we worked as a team, we could achieve so much more than we could alone.”

Checkpoint ChallengeThe Checkpoint Challenge partner race


  • 8-10 miles of mountain biking (60% single track, not technical, but if you’re used to sticking to fire roads, this will be challenging)
  • 4 miles of technical trail running/scrambling/swimming (minimal swimming skills needed – if you can handle a pool, you’ll handle this)
  • 2-3 miles of kayaking
  • This is a great way to get introduced to traditional adventure racing! You’ll experience the partner aspect while enjoying minimally marked courses that require you to follow your map.

Doing the half day?

Double the trek and kayak distances, add orienteering and epic ropes! You will be on less marked course and need to  rely on a map and compass to complete the course.

kp_cpc14 (104 of 492)Registration includes:

  • Race entry
  • Kayak (for sprint distance only – 6-hour racers need to provide their own.)
    • NEW! Half day race? You can rent kayaks for delivery at 6 am race day here:
      Book online now!
  • Continuous, waterproof topographical course map
  • Race bib and timing
  • Pre-Race Clinic
  • Epic memories
  • Finisher prize
  • Event T

Waves will be determined one week prior to the event depending on final numbers in each category. A maximum of 40 teams per wave in order to keep the adventure high and the crowds low. Lunch will be available for an additional fee on site.

Checkpoint ChallengeExperience Needed

The Checkpoint Challenge is designed to challenge the elite athlete but remain achievable for the novice off the couch participant. As with most things, the more prepared you are the better your experience will be. Before starting any training program consult a medical professional about potential risks involved.

We recommend biking, running and kayaking as ways to prepare for this race.

You do not need a support team for this race – it is designed to be self-supporting. Details will be sent out in our pre-race email sent a week before the event.

“So proud that our team worked so well together. I was worried my partner and I would argue, but I reminded him that when we race, NOTHING gets in the way of the finish line!”


We understand you’re putting your life in our hands for the time you’re on the course and we want you to know what’s on deck should you need it:

  • We work with the local Search and Rescue team to provide EMTs and rescue equipment on course throughout the whole event.
  • We also have arrangements with CalStar, an air ambulance, and H70, the local CHP rescue helicopter for ALS and hard to reach locations.
  • On the water we have a patrol boat for kayak and boat safety.

The worst injury we have had in our 9 years was heat stroke and we had an IV in him in 10 minutes en route to the local ER in 20 minutes.

All of our transition areas and course marshals have VHF radios that use a repeater so we have communications throughout the entire course, as little to no cell phone reception is available in some of the areas we travel through.

Eventbrite - 2018 Checkpoint Challenge



Adventure Race: Family FriendlyAdventure racing is often thought of as an epic, brutal day of suffering, but it doesn’t have to be. This is most true for the rare, but beloved, Checkpoint Challenge.

AR has traditionally called this division a “sprint” but we felt the name was misleading. Therefore, we call it the Checkpoint Challenge because sprinting is entirely optional but the checkpoint gathering isn’t!

Partner Racers will experience 3-5 hours of kayaking, trekking (at this distance, many do run, but many do not) through fields, up rocks, and on trails, and mountain biking beginner trails (some fire road, but yes, some single track), along with some fun team challenges in pursuit of filling their passcodes with the right punches.

Half day racers will experience 6+ hours of the same, but with challenges coming to you in the form of rope skills and navigation.

So how fit should you be and how do you get fit to begin with?

First, the skills you need to acquire:


  • Kayaking – if you have never kayaked before, it’s a good idea to rent a tandem kayak with your partner and give it a try before the race; there is absolutely technique involved, but don’t feel like you need to be a champion here – at this level, kayaking is often everyone’s weakness, especially with the provided sit-on top boats.  And, luckily, there’s a great video on  YouTube showing you excellent technique if you’re interested.
  • Mountain biking – this is a must-learn. If you’re comfortable tooling around town or on a road bike for distance, you have that main components down. We do NOT suggest you attempt this race on anything other than a proper mountain bike (fat, knobby tires). Some people go into the race with very low mountain bike skills and complete the course, but you’ll really want to give some single track riding a try, and there are some decent hills on course – you can of course get off and walk up and down them, but it’s nicer if you can enjoy the trails – we put you on fun ones!
  • checkpoint challenge: trail hikingTrekking – you’ll cover quite a bit on foot during the race, and this includes off-trail ascents, a little scrambling, and trails. Get some good hikes in and make sure you challenge yourself. A little skill in climbing up boulders is beneficial, as well, but not necessary.
  • Orienteering skills – the sprint race is designed as an entry into multi-sport adventure racing; the partner course will be marked and no orienteering is required(this is NOT true for the half-day).  Just pay attention to course markings and have a general ability to read maps and you should be fine – we haven’t lost anyone yet in almost a decade of sprint adventure races! Doing the half day? Just follow a team that know what they are doing. Navigation shouldn’t be too challenging, but you can get lost if you don’t practice map and compass skills prior.
  • Special skills – Partner race?  these are accessible to everyone. Don’t stress this in the least- it’s just a puzzle that’s fun to solve with your partner! Half day? We have professionals checking your gear on rope segments, but you should come with a basic understanding of how to use it. If it’s your first time on what we’re throwing at you, relax. We’re professionals.

Now to the question of how fit you should be?

  • At a minimum, you should comfortably be able to paddle a mile – some upper body strength is required. If you aren’t able to kayak, any reasonably fit person who fits the rest of our fitness gauges will probably have little to no issue on the kayaks.
  • Biking – be comfortable biking fast for 15 miles on flat terrain at the very least. This is not flat, but you will not need to be fast. You will need to be comfortable.
  • Trekking – get some good five mile hikes in, with an elevation of at least 1000 feet per hike, this can be rolling. It won’t hurt to do a little bouldering outdoors or at your local gym, but not necessary.

If you’ve never put all these disciplines together, that’s okay – on race day, you’ll pull out all the stops. That’s why the range is two to four hours: fit individuals with experience will finish in two, while the slowest individuals will finish in four. How much work you put in prior to race day determines your finish time – but it won’t determine your ability to come out and really have a grand morning adventure with us!


The following gear is the minimum gear required for safe travel during the race. Teams are free to bring any additional items they feel necessary provided they are not on the list of prohibited equipment.

Please keep in mind that there are no aid stations. All food and water must be carried by participants. It’s possible to stage food, water and gear in the transition areas.

Team Gear – to be shared during the race (or mandatory for solo racers)

  • Pen or pencil
  • Map (provided by race)
  • Passport (provided by race)
  • Compass (6 hour only)

Individual Equipment (to be carried at all times during the race)

  • Race Bib (provided by race)
  • Water

Mountain Bike (per person, to be carried during all mountain bike sections)

  • Approved Mountain bike* – we do not rent bikes. You should have experience with real mountain biking, not just dirt roads, if you want a good experience.
    • Foothill Cyclery is a local outfit that would be thrilled to rent you a bike, or
    • Check out to rent a rig if you do have experience.
  • Snell or ANSI approved bike helmet
  • Spare tube, patch kit
  • Bike pump/CO2 (1 per team)
  • Tire irons  (1 per team)
  • Bike multi-tool (1 per team)

*Bikes may be inspected at registration to ensure they are in good repair and recently tuned with reasonably new brake pads. All bikes must be approved by a race official to be used during the race. Cyclocross, road or tandem bikes will not be allowed.

Climbing (Half day only)


Kayak (all kayak gear provided for partner race)

  • Kayak (6-hour only, provided for partner race)
  • Coast Guard Approved PFD (6-hour only, provided for partner race)
  • Paddle (6-hour only, provided for partner race)

If you need to rent a kayak we have arraigned two options with Avila Beach Paddle Sports

  1. Delivered to the race venue (click here)
  2. Pick it up and drop it off in Avila Beach (click here)

Recommended Items

  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Hat
  • (Half day only) Wheels or other way to portage your kayak  (click here for suggested item) you will not be allowed to drag rental kayaks
  • Additional dry clothing
  • Warm clothing for after the race
  • Towel
  • Tecnu or other anti-poison oak product
  • Long pants or gaiters (highly recommended)

 Prohibited Gear

  • Motorized equipment
  • Two way radios
  • Controlled substances (prescribed medication is acceptable)


  • Race management reserves the right and authority to change the course, route and stages of the race at any time due to a real or perceived risk to participants safety or spirit of the race
  • Teams or individuals will receive map, passport and passport instructions race morning
  • Racers are required to provide their own hydration and nutritional supplies for exercises between 2 and 7 hours (depending on race length).
  • All race activities are to be completed by team members or registered solos only
  • No motorized equipment (motor on kayak or bike)
  • Team members must stay within 100 feet of each other
  • All teams/racers must finish the race with their passport
  • Racing bibs are to be worn, visibly, at all times during the race
  • Competitors are required to follow the course, route of travel and method of travel when stated
  • Please don’t liter or leave anything behind on the course. Leave No Trace!
  • An ANSI or Snell approved helmet is required for the mountain bike section.
  • You are required to wear a Coast Guard approved P.F.D. life jacket at all times when in kayak and otherwise instructed.
  • Santa Margarita Lake is a municipal water source. NO BODY contact is permitted with the lake. This is very important and not abiding by it jeopardizes the future of our event. Please DON’T TOUCH the water.


  • A time penalty may be imposed for a violation of any of the race rules. In the event that a team is assessed a time penalty, the time penalty shall be served by the team prior to crossing the finish line. Time penalties shall be cumulative and a team may be assessed more than one time penalty for violations of the same rule.
  • Teams missing a CP will have the opportunity to acquire the CP prior to finishing.
  • Penalty times range from 10 to 60 minutes.

Schedule – April 14, 2018 

*Schedule is Subject to Change*
Friday April, 13 Event
6:00pm-7:00pm Race strategy by Team Adventure Med Kits
6:00pm – 9:00 pm Kayak Staging for Half-Day
Saturday April, 14  Event 
6:00am to 7:30am Check in open – come at least an hour before your wave
5:00am to 6:30am Half Day Kayak Staging Open
5:00am to 7:30am Bike Staging Open
6:45am Race Briefing – Half day
7:00 am Race Start – Half day
7:00 am
7:45am Race Briefing – Partner challenge (15 minutes prior to each wave)
8:00am START Wave 1 – Partner challenge
9:30am START Wave 2 – Partner challenge
11:00am START Wave 3 – Partner challenge
1:00pm After Party & Awards – continues until event is complete



The White Oak Site at Santa Margarita Lake in San Luis Obispo, CA

View Larger Map

Camping is available at Santa Margarita Lake please click here or call 805 788-2397

There are no close hotels, though the KOA does have cabins that may be available.

Weather can be anything from cool, clear mornings to heavy fog and over 100 degrees. Watch the weather and prepare accordingly!