On Sunday, Nov. 6, dozens of colorful standup paddle boards lined the Maho Beach, ready for action. Standing in their brightly colored jerseys adorned with the logos of more than a dozen sponsoring local businesses’ logos, 43 competitors lined up, knee-deep in the water, one leg on their board. By 9:30 a.m., the Friends of the Park annual “Paddle the Park” race was underway. Although a relatively new sport, standup paddle boarding has become popular around the world as a great way to exercise and enjoy life from the vantage of the sea. From Hawaii to Kuwait, people participate in events like the Friends’ Paddle the Park.
The race consists of three courses: a 1-mile Short Course from Maho Beach to the floating NPS pay station and back; the 3-mile Open Course from Maho Beach to Whistling Cay and back; and the challenging 5.5-mile Elite Course, which takes the most adventurous paddlers from Maho Beach around Whistling and Cinnamon cays and back.
“Paddle the Park was created for individuals and their families to come out and enjoy the park,” said Friends staffer Tonia Lovejoy. “The different courses allow for anyone to participate, whether they are out to win or just have fun.”
The sea was calm, and winds were light, which enabled several new course records to be set this year. In the Men’s Elite division, Bill Kraft took first place with a new record time of 1:00:52. John (Nat) Ford of St. John took second, and third place went to Brian Duff of Tortola.
Isabelle Picard of St. Croix continued her domination of the Women’s Elite race, coming in with a new record time of 1:08:41. Saskie Lang of Tortola came in second; Gabrielle Nelson of St. John took third.
In the Men’s Open race, the British Virgin Islands had a clean sweep, with Paul D’Alosio taking first place with a time of 00:39:22. Second place went to Ewout Franse (Tortola); Murray Laing (Tortola) nabbed third.
The Women’s Open race was won by Heather Guntherberg of Virginia, who finished in 00:44:55. Rebecca Reinbold of St. John finished second; Christine Joseph of Tortola finished third.
For the Men’s Short race, Andy Rutnik of St. John took first place with a time of 00:17:16. For the Women’s Short race, Patricia Osborne of New Jersey paddled her way to first place with a time of 00:18:57.
Kids (12 and under) gave a great performance, with Lincoln Sinclaire of St. John paddling to a victorious first place finish with a time of 00:17:05, followed by Ben Thill of St. John. For the girls, Isabell Thill finished first with a time of 00:21:35. (Visit Friendsvinp.org to see full results)
The race was followed by a buffet lunch provided by North Shore Deli along with plenty of cold beer and soft drinks courtesy of St. John Brewers. All competitors received participation medals and goody bags. Winners in each race were presented with beautiful glass and mahogany trophies, ribbons, and special winner gift bags. The Paddle the Park event is one of two sporting events hosted by the Friends in Virgin Islands National Park (Beach to Beach Power Swim is held in May). Proceeds from the event go directly towards funding education, research, preservation and cultural programs held in Virgin Islands National Park.
Friends would like to thank this year’s volunteer crew of Brion Fitzgerald, Jayne Schaeffer, Shane McKinely, Rachel McKinely, Asya Simons, Kate Farrington, Joel Walton, Stephen Faunce, Jennifer Duarte, Genia Kobryn, Vince Alterio Jada Jarvis and Grace Patrie.
As well, the Friends extends great appreciation to the event’s sponsors: Buzz Radio, St. John Brewers, Northshore Deli, VI Ortho, USVI Tourism, Arawak, DeSigns, Holiday Homes, Cruz Bay Watersports, St. John Physical Therapy, Cruz Bay Landing, Beach Bum, Jolly Dog, 340 Real Estate and VI Ecotours.