The Mayor’s River Fest Paddle Race Series, hosted by Paddleboard New Smyrna Beach & Mayor Adam Barringer was created as part of a community wellness initiative focusing on fun & healthy living. The first “Friendly Flatwater Race” number 1 of 4 in the series, was held on Saturday, February 16th at 10 am and consisted of a 4 mile long course & a 2 mile short course with a total of 60 athletes.
The short course was held in a protected lagoon behind Paddleboard NSB’s storefront location. This course was designed for all levels, including first time stand up paddleboard racers. The participants in this course began just after the long course racers.
The long course began in the same lagoon, paddlers lining up in the chilly morning air with fair wind conditions, & my feet were happy to be kept warm in Hyperflex Wetsuit boots. The horn sounded & we were off to a strong start funneling underneath a bridge & then into a canal. This was the fastest leg of the race, & my Starboard BOP 12’6” x 26” (sold by Travel Country) was exceling in the downstream & downwind conditions. I looked for my class competition & found training mate Heather Kaarup just to my side. As we began a left turn out of the canal & into the Intracoastal Waterway, I proposed to Heather that we work together, drafting as a team, to conserve energy & time. Heather agreed & we began alternately pulling each other as we bordered the sand bar on the right side & rounded the turn around buoy. Our strategy was working great as we had a good lead on the rest of the competitors in our class, so we continued to draft as a team. The wind began to pick up, but we were fairly protected by the sandbar until we made a right turn back into the canal.
Here we met some strong 15mph or so headwind gusts which were challenging, so I changed to the “choke stroke” to get my body into a lower stance, out of the wind & able to really dig in with power with my Werner Grand Prix S1000 paddle (also sold by Travel Country). At about .5 mile left to go, Heather & I broke free from each other’s draft & battled it out to the finish line. We heard plenty of motivational cheering as we paddled neck & neck, and I ended up crossing the line with a time of 38:44 minutes, just 3 seconds in front of Heather, to win the Women’s 12’6” Race long course division.
The award ceremony was great, with top 3 winners in each class receiving medals & first place winners receiving carbon fiber paddles! Athletes from Orlando were greatly represented, a lot of them placing in the top 3, including Jason Meehan, a fellow Travel Country team rider, placing first in the Men’s 12’6” long course.
In all the race was very fun, well run & spirits were high with SUP camaraderie! A big “mahalo” to all my sponsors, TravelCountry, Werner Paddles, Starboard, Maui Jim, & Hinano Tahiti for their continued support & encouragement!