Lagoon Reef Eco-Challenge Kayak Race a Raging Success

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 15, No. 17            April 28, 2005

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The first annual Ambergris Caye Lagoon-Reef Eco Challenge took place this past weekend in San Pedro. This two-day kayak race took all participants around the island through channels flanked by thick mangrove and other flora, as well as on open sea, for a total of 42 miles. The race was a huge part of the Reef Week festivities, and met with a lot of support from the community, especially for the station prizes. 18 teams battled it out on the lagoon, including two co-ed teams, and one female team.

   Saturday April 23, 2005, the first day, was the longest route for the racers. This included paddling through the western side of the island. The pressure was on for some because there was a twelve o’clock point that had to be crossed at Rio de Santa Cruz, or risk disqualification. According to some of the participants, includingsome of the Sun staffers, there was a lot of “pressure, because there was no way [they] were going to be towed back.” Thankfully, everyone made the mark by ten-thirty, after a grueling four-and-a-half hours of kayaking.  Of course, this first station was passed by the Ramon’s Sponges, and they pocketed $250.00 courtesy of the Reef Radio.

   Only three teams managed to make the entire route to Tranquility Bay, the campsite.  These teams remained the top “dawgs” in the entire competition, and included both Ramon’s teams: the Ramon’s Sponges and Ramon’s Sharks, plus the Caye Caulker co-ed team, the Megalops Atlanticus.  By the time these three teams arrived at Tranquility Bay Resort in the Basil Jones area, it was the Sponges in first place, winning a cool $1000.00 from Tranquility Bay, Megalops in second with $200.00 cash and a $100 bar tab from Riverside Sportsbar & Grill, and the Sharks in third with $100.00 cash and a $70.00 tab from Cholos.

   While these hard paddlers made it to the campsite, the remaining 15 teams were being towed up to Laguna de Canteña, where they had to somehow carry their kayaks across some seriously muddy flats, until the very helpful Jem, Brady, Alejandro and Tammy could help transport the kayaks down to Robles Point, where the teams got back in and continued paddling to camp. Kudos to the only female team, the Sun Goddesses, Kainie and Maria, who did not give up, and showed incredible strength the entire time out on sea.  Their perseverance was rewarded with $200.00 cash from Salamander Resort and a 1-night stay at Sunbreeze Hotel.

      Camp itself was a welcome respite from the sea, with some delicious fogon food specially prepared by Ms. Shelly Huber. Some teams went back for seconds (including both the SP Sun teams).  The general camaraderie around camp kept everyone’s spirits up.  The grandfather and grandson team, the Too Jays, were especially enthusiastic and supportive. Their great attitude throughout the race won them the best sportsmanship award, and as if to prove a point, they showed that age was no limit when it came to kayaking too.  Congratulations to Jody Leslie (youngest at 14) and Mr. John Bremekamp (oldest in age, but still young at heart). 

   After a remarkably refreshing rest, the second day of the race arrived with some nice clouds and some scattered drizzles. Revived by coffee, delicious eggs, tortillas and fruit, the teams were raring to go a full half-hour before the allotted time. The last 13 miles of the race might have sounded like nothing compared to the previous day’s mile log, but once out on the water; the wear and tear came on full blast. Once again, the top three teams from the day before were in top form, and ahead of the race. For two teams however, the last leg of the race proved too much. These four guys eventually pulled out, leaving 16 teams to continue without them.

   Huge thanks go out to the amazingly supportive community and sponsors. Thanks to them, everyone was a winner at the end of the race. Even the Sun Worshippers, after four-and-a-half hours of kayaking, received a prize just for finishing the race.  On behalf of the Worshippers, Andrew and Mary, a big thank you to Sun Diver Beach Resort, who made coming in last a lot less painful! 

   For those ahead of the game, thanks to top sponsors like Tranquility Bay Resort and the Town Council, the prizes were pretty sweet too.  From the exhausted but happy team at the San Pedro Sun, a big congratulations to everyone who participated and we’ll see you at the next race!
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