March 20, 2021, Fort Pierce, FL. – It’s been a long winter, longer yet that the current state of the world is still putting a damper on our collective paddling ambitions. But for many, the competitive drive burns in their guts like molten lava gurgling just below the surface. While there are no known volcanoes in Florida, the Treasure Coast Paddle Battle provided an outlet for a paddling eruption.
An inspiring 150 entrants made the start list, giving the event the feel of the major races of old, and confirming that paddle racing is alive and well. Strong pre-entries seem to indicate a pent-up demand that we can only hope translates into a breakout year as we return to racing for the 2021 season. Attendance was also likely enhanced with Paddle Monster Spring Training, and April Zilg’s Paddle Ninja holding training events simultaneously.
5k and 10k races were on tap for the day with the 10k race being a beach start in the open ocean, around a treacherous jetty, through the current-filled inlet, and across the intercoastal. The 5k race consisted of a triangular 3-lap course in the protected intercoastal waterway.
With any race, the biggest variable isn’t just who shows up to paddle, but also the conditions in which they find themselves. This is particularly true with a springtime race. Following a week of unseasonably warm temperatures, Race morning was very moderate and partly cloudy. Which would have been perfect racing weather if not for 15 gusting to who-knows-what wind out of the north. Conditions at the start of the 10k were intimidating, with a sizeable shore break and the promise of a significant upwind haul before turning into the protected inlet. Knowing one’s own limitations was the theme of the day with several entrants opting to sit out or switch to the 5k event.
The 10k Race
The 10k race was water-start for the seated craft, while the SUP crowd was treated a beach start that promised NASCAR-style action. As the horn blew, spectators bore witness to a start that will live in YouTube infamy. While several paddlers were able to time the shore break and escape cleanly, an equal number of participants found themselves swimming through the break or getting tumbled.
At the end of the race, 80 people had crossed the line. Flavio Costa set the pace on his surfski turning in a blistering 43-minute time, but he was chased closely by Mathew Lynskey just seconds behind. JP Atherholt rounded out the surfski podium. Judson Grey was the first OC1 across the line and was joined on the podium by Mark Athanacio and Paola Ameglio. The top female competitor on the day was April Zilg aboard her OC1, finishing ahead of many other OC’s and Surfskis. Kelly Truitt and Anita Allen joined April on the female OC1 podium. Emma Twombly won the women’s SurfSki division and was joined by Isabella Taylor for the medals.
In the stand-up divisions Eri Tenorio, Steve Miller, and Joey Huempner were the top 3 men all completing the course in under an hour. Kim Barnes and Stephanie Shideler had a close race while Adela Umannova finished out the women’s podium.
Wison Haynes, Diego Lopez, and Dana Bittenbender all completed the course prone. Cortland Reilly and Lex Raas took top honors in OC2. Makani Cocoa took top honors in OC6, followed by Ohana Cocoa, and Fishlips Cocoa.
The 5k Race
Those who chose the 5k distance to avoid the open-ocean conditions still had a significant battle on their hands with two, slightly side-wind legs and a long direct upwind slog for a total of three laps. Robert Michalec was first across the line in his OC1 and was joined on the podium by Stana Jergova and 10k OC1 winner Judson Grey in his second race of the day. Like Judson, several athletes opted to do both the 5 and 10k events but aboard different crafts. April Zilg and Mark Athanacio swapped their OC for paddleboards and won the women’s u45 and men’s 45+ respectively.
Casey Kiernan and Lindsay LeBlanc took 2nd and 3rd respectively in women’s u45. William Sillman and Frank Goldstein completed the Men’s 45+ Podium.
The fastest 5k SUP of the day belonged to Isaac Pardo who took top honors for the men’s u45 division. Les Thornbury and Alexander Wuensche joined Isaac on the box. Diamond Litty, Sybel Sierra, and Kami Rickert won top honors in the women’s 45+ class.
Worthy to note, the attrition rate was very high in the 5 k race with almost 40% of the 60 entries either electing to not start or not complete the race distance due to the challenging conditions.
Full race results can be found here.