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Monday, March 4, 2024
March 4, 2024

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Water relief: Camas Days bathtub races are back

Camas Days races return after two-year hiatus; perennial champions reclaim the crown

By , Columbian staff writer
10 Photos
This year's champion, Chuck's Towing -- Tanya Groth, Greg Irwin and their son, at center, Tristan Groth -- makes the turn to head back for the second leg of the race.
This year's champion, Chuck's Towing -- Tanya Groth, Greg Irwin and their son, at center, Tristan Groth -- makes the turn to head back for the second leg of the race. (James Rexroad for The Columbian) Photo Gallery

The iconic Camas Days bathtub races returned Saturday after a two-year hiatus, and Chuck’s Towing — formerly known as the Bathtub Bandits — swept the competition once again.

It was the seventh first-place win for the family behind the team, or maybe the eighth — with so many trophies, it’s hard for them to keep track.

“We’re kind of the champions,” bathtub driver Tanya Groth said as she collected the team’s trophy, still dripping and out of breath from the final race.

Their win comes as no surprise: The Washougal family’s bathtub racing experience is unparalleled.

The bathtub races were started by some Washougal friends in the 1970s, and Groth remembers watching them and learning from them when she was younger.

“They’d do the same thing that we do here on the main drag there, so it’s kind of been around my whole life,” she said.

It’s been around for her son’s whole life, too. Tristan Groth, 24, remembers watching his parents sweep the competition as a kid. All that exposure at a young age made him something of a prodigy, and when he joined the team at 18, the Bathtub Bandits became notorious for their back-to-back wins.

“I’ve been watching them do it since I was 10 or so,” he said. “It’s just always been the family thing.”

Tanya also attributes her bathtub driving skills to her years of horseback riding and pole-bending.

“There are some special techniques that we use,” she said.

One essential move is getting a big slosh of water out of the tub right at the get-go, according to team member, father and husband Greg Irwin.

“It’s a little hard, but if you give a good push right at the beginning, a lot will come out, and that makes some of those turns a little easier,” he said.

The team recently changed its name to support the family business, Chuck’s Towing, which provides towing services throughout Camas and Washougal.

Cannon Beach Escape Room took second place, and The Bubble Ducks took third. Other teams included the Downtown Camas Association, Helen Baller Elementary School and longtime competitor Camas Dairy Queen.

At times, it looked like The Bubble Ducks were on track for an upset victory, especially during the championship heat against Chuck’s Towing.

Clouds covered the sky during the first few races, but as the two teams prepared for their final showdown, the sun broke through the overcast, raising the temperature.

Fortunately, between heats, firefighters with the Camas-Washougal Fire Department gave eager kids the chance to cool off under a high arc of water sprayed above the street.

In the end, thanks to its agile maneuvers around the cones, Chuck’s Towing overcame The Bubble Ducks’ initial lead, bringing the team to victory.

Unlike in years past, no tubs crashed, tipped or ran into the audience this year.

After the races, the winners collected their golden trophies, and the audience spilled into Camas Days, where art, food and music filled the streets under the shadow of the paper mill.

“It’s a unique and exciting Camas tradition,” city of Camas spokesperson Bryan Rachal said, surveying the scene as firefighters rolled the red and orange cast-iron bathtubs into the distance.