The third annual Orange Bowl Paddle Championship race was held Sunday, Jan. 13 in Miami, Fla. 230 Racers competed in Elite, Recreational and Sprint courses that started and finished inside the Bayside Marketplace boat harbor. $15,000 in prize money was awarded in the Elite and Sprint races, and the Recreational race winner received a board donated by H2O Generation. California’s Danny Ching and Candice Appleby were victorious, with big wins in the Elite races once again.
The event, organized by Jimmy Lewis distributor Ken Russell in cooperation with the Orange Bowl Committee, drew many competitors from as far away as Northern Ireland, Italy and Japan. Jimmy gained a firsthand view as he raced in the Recreational category for his 2nd year, finishing third overall in the 14’ category, plus first in his age group.
The seven-mile Elite course crossed open water on Biscayne Bay and completed a loop in the Miami River before returning to the marina. Recreational Course paddlers covered three miles of open water and a loop around Brickell Key, and Sprint racers ran four-person heats in the marina basin.
Danny Ching, 29, of Redondo Beach, Calif., defended his title, winning first place overall for the third time, and finishing 12 minutes ahead of second place overall finisher, 38-year-old Ryan Helm. The third place men’s overall went to Brannon Rose.
Candice Appleby of San Clemente, Calif. took first place in the Elite women’s 12’6” and overall, with Kristina Zur taking second and Bailey Rosen in third.
The most significant course feature was the weather. Solid 15-plus knot winds from the southeast, formed whitecaps on Biscayne Bay that reflected off sea walled shorelines, creating waves that changed direction with each paddle stroke. Every competitor felt the effects.
“Last year was harder because of Jamie, but this one had the hardest conditions,” said Ching, referencing his victory over Jamie Mitchell in 2012.
Sixteen-year-old Bailey Rosen commended the fact that every competitor finished the race: “Anyone who finished this race did excellent. There were so many variables. It was a real test to be able to stay on your board.”
Kristina Zur “swam a lot” during the race, and even Candice Appleby admitted that she had stepped into the bay more than once during the competition.
“Those were challenging conditions,” Appleby said. “There was no faking it today. The river section was good for a while, but just when you thought it was going to get better, with the wind behind your back, the course direction would change. It was pretty challenging the whole time.”
Maryanne Boyer, 40, who finished in first place in the women’s 40-49 Elite age group, said it was “a tough one-sider,” as racers had to continually paddle on their left or right sides to compensate for beam winds with “lots of waves bouncing back off the walls” in the river.
“People who did well are good ocean paddlers, who could have done it anywhere,” said Mark Athanacio, second place finisher in the men’s 40-49 12’6” Elite category.
Racers included many first-timers along with the veterans. “To be able to race against the true champions is an honor,” said Joseph Morel of Jupiter, Fla., who raced in the highly competitive 19-39 12’6” Elite race and Sprints.
Competitors also included a handful of youngsters. 11-year-old Tanner Chechak, from Destin Fla., took second place in the Recreational Race under18 age group. His brother, Trapper Chechak, 17, made it to the final heat of the men’s Sprint races, took 4th in 14 foot overall and 1st place in his 14’ age group.
Heather Baus competed on the only tandem board in the Elite race, with her 10-year-old daughter, Savannah. The conditions were “Brutal!” Savannah said, while Heather commented that the choppy surface made it difficult to balance two bodies on the board.
All proceeds from the event benefit the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Miami and over the past two years the Orange Bowl Paddle Championships raised more than $50,000. This year Jimmy Lewis donated a 14′ Sabre board for auction on eBay to benefit the charity. Big Brother Lincoln Vidal went paddling with his “Little” Chris, as did over 50 other Big/Little pairs. “It was great,” Chris concluded after paddling alone for his first time. —Tom Fucigna Jr.