The sixth Ambergris Caye Lagoon-Reef Eco Challenge took place over the weekend of the 24th and 25th, and this year 35 teams of paddlers aimed to make it to the finish line. The two-day kayak race took the 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. At around noon on Sunday, Central Park was coming alive as the Reef Radio alerted eager listeners of the location of the kayakers close by. Soon, the park had spectators lining the beach, waiting on docks, on speed and sail boats hoping for a glimpse of the winners as they crossed the finish line.
35 teams braved high winds, choppy waters and blinding heat. With exhaustion visible on the faces of the kayakers, they managed to make their way through. First to cross a little after 12:30pm were last year’s winners, Ervin Cruz and Euelio Flores, The Ranza Boys team sponsored by The Reef Radio. Several minutes later, the second kayak (Team Tide) came through, piloted by Carlos Ramirez and Godfrey Alford. Rounding out the top three teams was Douglas Penland and Erik Lauper of team Belizean Shores.
The first 29 miles of the race on Saturday was the longest for the paddlers, as it included navigating through the western side of the island. There was a lot of pressure on the teams to keep up as they had to make it to the camp grounds or risk disqualification. Currents were fought and as each kayak made its way to camp, there was a sense of relief and camaraderie.
The Eco-challenge was the brain-child of Mr. Elito Arceo, and since 2005 has become an annual event that the entire community looks forward to. With an objective to promote awareness, protection and conservation of mangroves, lagoons, reefs and diverse species found within those natural habitats, the Eco-challenge organizers hope to educate those who are paddling, and those who witness the event.
The morning of the second day dawned hot and humid, and the remaining 13 miles seemed to stretch on longer than the first 29. So much so, a few paddlers dropped out. Some partners gave up and it was a scramble to form a new team in order to finish. In the end, 30 teams braced for the final leg of the race.
At the park, once all 30 kayaks had made it in, the final points were tallied, and at a brief ceremony, winners were announced. On top were The Ranza Boys who nabbed the $3,000 prize. In second place and winning $2,000 was Team Tide, and $1,000 went to team Belizean Shores for third place.
Kudos to all the teams who signed up and made it all the way to the finish line! According to Kirah Forman, one of the organizers, “There was a lot more local participation this year.” This is something that is encouraging, and organizers hope the same can be expected for next year. There were many in the Junior Category, and rounding out the top three were $1,000 winners Sergio Lopez (who succumbed to the heat and had to lie down in the last few moments of the race in exhaustion) and his partner Byron Cruz (who brought both the kayak and his partner in). They were sponsored by The Reef Radio and took home first place. Second place, and $500, was taken by Team Milo’s, with paddlers Victor Hernandez and Emmanuel Samos, while third was taken by the Hog Paddlers Irvin Chacon and Roy Bradley. They won $300.
To the supportive community and sponsors, a huge thank-you from organizers and spectators of the event. Thanks to them, everyone was a winner at the end of the race. Below find a list of the top paddlers:
1st Place - #35 Ranza Boys – Euelio Flores and Ervin Cruz - $3,000
2nd Place - #18 TIDE - Carlos Ramires and Godfrey Alford - $2,000
3rd Place - #9 Get out a di way – Douglas Penlad and Erik Lauper - $1,000
4th Place - #24 Serious Dilligaf – Martin John Leslie and Gilbert “Meggs” Spain
5th Place - #2 PepperOni’s Boys – Jimmy Polonio and Jose Salvador Villamil
1st Place - #30 Team Reef Radio – Sergio Lopez and Byron Cruz - $1,000
2nd Place - #5 Milo’s – Victor Hernandez and Emmanuel Samos - $500
3rd Place - #19 Hog Paddlers – Irvin Chacon and Roy Bradley - $300
4th Place - #22 The Guerrero’s – Jules Guerrero and Jesse Guerrero
5th Place - #7 Jet Paddlers – Daniel Cerigorio and Eveiane Marin
Dog Tired Award – Douglas Penland
Most Grumpy Award – Morocho
Most Creative – Team Gusano Rojo – Robert Lopez Jr. and Robert Sutherland
Most Enthusiastic – Morocho
Team that got lost – R&R – Ramses Ramires and Charles Richard
Team that got smoked – Do It Nice – Shadany Bradley and Guillermo Rivero
Oldest Participants – Douglas Penland and Jose “Salva” Villamil