Friends, New and Old.
Driving across the state. In the early morning hours. Boards on the roof. Stacked 3 high. In two piles.
My destination. Urban Kai in St. Petersburg, FL.
Paddlers from across the state are also on a similar journey. All to take part in the King and Queen of the Bay. A stand up paddleboard event helping to get people on the water. Raise awareness and money for a great cause.
Meeting these paddlers in the parking lot or walking around the site is always my favorite part of the day. Many have unique stories. Of how they have come to the water. And why. It always puts a smile on my face. Being able to hear these stories.
After swapping out a few stories. The time creeps closer to the start of the event. With the Tent set up and boards laid out. It is time to head out on the water to get a warm up in and paddle with my good friend and fellow NSP/Surftech Teammate Bill Kraft.
After our short paddle. The stars of the day head out on the water.
The Kids Race.
They line up. Like seasoned racers. Then with the sound of the horn. They take off on a course that brings right by the crowd gathered on the beach and water. Cheers from all around encourage them on. And with the look of determination. They handle each turn. And paddle stroke with skill. Crossing the finish line they are greeted with cheers and hugs. Kicking off the event with inspiration and smiles.
Moments later both the short and long course paddlers head out on the water. A unique course that brings us down through the protected mangroves. By the cheering crowd on the dock. And out towards Tampa Bay. It provided a bit of everything but also conditions that any level of paddler could enjoy.
As the race completed paddlers were once again greeted with excitement and cheers. And a sense of accomplishment.
Time with Friends.
As the fun on the water came to completion. Our lunches, brought to us in a soft Red Stripe cooler.
During this time it always allows us to catch up. Talk paddling. Life and get to know friends a bit more.
It is another favorite part to my day as the stress and anxiety from the race is disappeared. Now replaced by excitement and passion. The conversations vary from training routines. Nutrition. Equipment. And what event is next.
Before we know it the raffle and awards ceremony takes place. And our focus switches back to the team from Urban Kai.
Over the years I’ve been fortunate to attend all types of Stand Up Paddling events. Each one adds their own flare and unique twist on paddling. But there is one constant that accompanies them all.
Being able to walk up to a total stranger. Say hello. And tell them you are nervous. Then hear how great you’ll do and happy they are to see you. Solidifies why this sport is changing people.
This is why I love attending as many as I can. And hopefully you’ll join me at one soon.