Second Annual Event
I went to the first BeachNBoard fest in 2013. I was behind the lens for it and I thought it was pretty awesome to watch. There were lots of spectators interested in what was going on and the only thing I could see lacking was a mic/ announcer letting the crowd know what was going on. The “real” surfing competition had a mic/announcer for all their events but the SUP Surf only got it for the finals. For the second annual event they took OUT the SUP surfing event. Not well attended last year? SUP doesn’t draw attention? I don’t know. Rumor has it that O’neill (one of the main sponsors) didn’t want to upset their customers since they are a surf brand. I don’t know if that’s true or not, I mean they sponsor SUP racers and even flew one out from the west coast. I do know that not having the SUP surf at the event meant not seeing most of the faces I saw last year, in their place I saw new faces that came out for a seven mile Ocean Race. I think that having both SUP surf and SUP racing would have meant a significant increase in their SUP participation and spectator attendance.
From behind the lens…
I asked who was doing the announcing of the event and learned that there were no announcers. There was hope that the announcers from the surf event would allow SUP to use their mic but there was no mic. Bummer. All these people on the beach—spectators watching the Kiteboarding, SUP, and Volleyball behind SUP –and ONLY SURF gets a mic! The sport that is 100 times easier to learn than surfing and is the fastest growing watersport in the world doesn’t get a mic!
The racers’ meeting was pretty standard. PFD’s were not required, but were recommended as were leashes. The distress signal is to wave your paddle in the air there will be 2 jetskis out there with you. When your finish leave your boards and run up with the paddle. Someone asked if there would be board caddies at the beach for their boards. There were some confused looks and I said yes we’ll have them by the time you’re back. I don’t know why I said that other than that I have spent thousands of dollars on my boards and wouldn’t want it being damaged coming in because there was no one to grab I so guess I just I figured that it shouldn’t be too hard to rally a few of the spectators/ family/ friends of the competitors to help out with this.
I would have pictures of all this but I forgot to take the lens cap off!
They lined up, and it took a minute or two to get the attention of the jet ski’s out in in the water and they were off. Most getting out thru the small waves pretty quickly but there were a few that had to get back on their board. As most rounded the buoy and headed south there were 2 competitors that were noticeably struggling to stay on their boards. One of them would get up fall back in paddle fall off repeat I think it counted 5 times. Good for them for going for it; I would have given up at that point.
Will you be my driver?
Moments later I saw a rescue 4 wheeler which looked like it like it was about to start following the racers. I ran over and asked if I could come along for the ride to take pics. The driver said sure but there was an incident I was out. No problem, at least I would be able to get some pics of the event since they would be paddling 3.5 miles away and back leaving the SUP spectators to watch the other events on the beach. I think it would have been a lot more exciting for everyone on the beach if it was done BOP style but then that might have appeared like sup surfing so probably a better idea to get them to paddle far away from the event!
Off I go with my driver, Dustin. Dustin is a firefighter for Cocoa Beach. They were contracted by the event to be support. He is working with Scotty on the jetski to ensure all the racers’ safety. Off we go, stopping every few feet to check in with his partner. It’s sunny out but there is a breeze and I wished I hadn’t left my jacket on the beach. As we drive a long I ask him questions about the jetskis. There are two but he is only in communication with one–the other is part of the event. The firefighters are first response for the beaches when the lifeguards aren’t on duty. They handle situations that lifeguards can’t–going out in rougher conditions and then when it is too much for them the coastguard takes over. Cocoa Beach has a lot of seniors and it’s tourist town. Spring break has started so that always brings in some “fun” calls. He worked the night before they had a late call- someone who had been drinking.
Rolling down the beach…
The racers are getting more spread out and the event jet ski is going back and fourth from the lead towards the back where the firefighter jet ski is. We continue along and I tell him I raced yesterday and wanted to race today but given the windy conditions I’m quite happy to be with the camera. I point out people as we go. Rob Rojas, he’s in the lead he’s in from California I heard he gets up at 430am and paddles every day before work. I think that’s Brad next ; I just met him and Rob yesterday, I think he’s from Florida; Dan Gavere, he’s from Oregon but he lives here in winter, we’re snowbirds, he’s my boyfriend. He raced yesterday too and won he’s kinda of crazy like that going back to back and actually so is the guy over there that’s Conner, he’s 18, yesterday was his first race ever, He came down from Jacksonville! That’s Mark, he’s from South Florida I think he used to be a lifeguard he’s really fast so is his girlfriend Jen, she didn’t race yesterday but if she would have she’d beat me she’s fast. That’s Bailey she’s 18, fastest female racer in the state she’s super sweet from the other coast of Florida. That’s Austin, he’s pretty local, almost 18 to I think, he and Dan battled it out about a month ago at another race, he’s fast.
Scotty radios to Dustin to go ahead. The two people at the back have now gotten even further behind and he needs to stay by them. I ask Dustin at what point they are going to pull them and was a little shocked to find out they had not been given any direction. Really? I tell him at this rate I would be surprised if they finish before awards. I tell him that The Carolina Cup pulls people off course. I think it’s the best event on the East Coast they have other shorter races too on the intercostal side, such a fun event. We’re passing coconuts ( a “famous” tourist attraction beach bar-restaurant)? I ask as we drive by “I thought it was the turn around?” “No,” Dustin tells me. “See the steeple up ahead? It’s about there” as we continue on.
I see a paddle wave thru the air. “Dustin STOP! Something’s wrong.” That’s the distress signal. That’s what they tell us to do if we’re in trouble wave your paddle in the air, it’s kind of the international distress signal of waving both arms but with the paddle.
He stops and we watch the event jetski is headed his way fast, he see’s him….he speeds right past him?!?!?
Immediately Dustin is on the radio, “Scotty get up here there is paddler in need of help. The other jet ski just blew right by him. He’s standing waving his paddle. I’m parked about a 1/4 mile past coconuts on the beach he’s in sight.”
The paddler sits down and continues waving as two other paddlers continue on past him. I snap some pictures to try and get a closer view. It’s an orange board. Orange, that’s Riviera I only know of two rivi’s on the course, that’s Austin. “That’s the kid I told you about.” Scotty pulls up and grabs him and he and his board are on the way into shore. Dustin makes another radio call he’s got back up on the road coming down to meet us on the beach.
Dustin heads into the water to meet Austin and I run to out into the ocean to grab his board. I bring it into the beach and find two random people sitting on the beach to leave it with. I figured if they were taking him somewhere it was the best to leave it with someone. I couldn’t have found a better couple. We will just walk up to Epicboard sports if no one comes to get it when we leave in an hour, the owners are our family. “What?” “Me too!” I say “Well, they’re my SUP family.”
“Jennifer and Jonathon?” She asks. “Yes! They are awesome, that would be awesome.” I should call him. I would want to know if this was my kid, I thank them again and go back to where the four wheeler is.
The other firemen have arrived. Austin was describing that he heard a few pops, he’s had some shoulder issue before, he doesn’t think it’s dislocated. I ask if he wants me to call his mom? He doesn’t want to worry his family and fair enough. He’s almost an adult so I that’s fine. You could tell he was bummed, maybe in shock, I don’t know. He mentions something about Puerto Rico. I ask Dustin where they would be taking him. Dustin says “CCMH, a hospital.” They ask Austin how old he is. “I’m fifteen,” he replies. “WHAT? You’re 15? I thought you were like 17 almost 18. We have to call your parents.” They need to know. I ask him for a number and his Dad answers. If you don’t know Dave, he could look a bit intimidating. He’s ex military, a marine I think, he’s tough looking but as nice as a teddy bear . I tell him that Austin had been brought in and was going to be taking him to the hospital, something was wrong with his arm, I don’t think he heard half of what I said, he was already on his way to his truck, “I’m on my way where do I meet you?” I pass the phone to Dustin to get more information.
Lifeguards the last to know
A lifeguard four wheeler showed up to see what was going on. Some of the racers had rounded the buoy and were heading back I was hoping to see them com in so I asked lifeguard if I could get a ride back with him to Shepard’s park. After some discussion as to how I’d gotten this far from there. I told him I’d ask the firemen for a ride but knew that I would need to get out of there was an incident. The firemen told him it was actually good I was there because they didn’t know that the paddle in the air was a distress signal for us no one had told them. The lifeguards work sections of the beach and although my destination was out of his, but he said he would take me back.
I left Austin and the fire team and started the drive back with Tony. Dave came running from a beach access and we stopped to let him know that it was a few more down and we continued on our way. As we approached the next lifeguard tower where they were doing recruiting/new hire training he told me that one of the lifeguards would take me back to shepherds from there. When we stopped he and some of the other lifeguards exchanged words. Obviously driving a girl with a camera around is not their job and they had a few comments about that and what firemen were dealing with. I hopped into the other 4 wheeler with the lifeguard bringing me back and quickly learned that some of the attitude I was hearing came from them not knowing what was going on. Nobody had told them that there was an SUP race going on! It might be helpful information for the lifeguards to know even if they are coming on after it starts. “Something along the lines of a SUP race started at 930 there are X number of racers out there.” I thanked her for the ride and hoped out when I saw Dan.
So much for pictures
Clearly I missed the first guys come in. I asked Dan how he did ( he was 5th).
I stood beside Jenn who was taking pictures as the finishers came in. Danny handed me some of the medals and asked if I could pass them out when the racers came in. This was followed by the O’neill rep who had been handing them out passing me his box of them. I passed them out but really was more interested in everything else going on.
Surfers on one side, kiteboards on the other neither those on the water or on the beach walking back and fourth across the finish line seemed to know that there was a SUP race on. As the 3rd girl came running in the time keepers asked for her number. She said she didn’t know and there was nothing attached to her as the time keepers all looked confused she said she had registered online. “Ok what’s your name?” “Victoria,” she said. She hadn’t checked in, just registered online- they didn’t even know she had been out there!
Danny and he asked me if the firemen I was riding with had a radio for the skis I told him he did for the only one ski. Danny wanted to the 2 paddlers at the back to be brought in as they hadn’t even rounded the buoy at this point. Dustin was back by this point so I let him know and he radioed ahead to his partner to get them to come in. The O’neill rep was standing there when I said to some people standing around that it sucks if I was forced to come off a course 3.5 miles away I would want someone there to pick me up not just sending me into the beach to carry my board back. He agreed and was sending a fourwheeler down to get them.
The awards started shortly after that on the beach. Men’s and women’s top 3 finishers were acknowledged despite the fact that the race was awarding prize money to the top 5 finishers. After awards an announcement was made that the checks would be over at the registration tent in 10 minutes at 12pm. We packed up our stuff to head over and wait for over 30 minutes while the guy with the check book made his way over. Rob was rushing to catch a plane, and others wanted to go see the events going on, get food, or just leave. While it’s understandable that the man with the checks was busy with all the events going on you could tell it was a bit frustrating for those waiting.
Overall I think that those doing the race had a good time I hope next year some changes are made and we see more of the SUP community taking part.
HUGE thank you to Dustin, Cocoa Beach Fire, for allowing me to ride along.