If I was going to come out to Grand Cayman to observe my first stand up paddleboard race, this was a heck of a one to start with.
The course for the North Sound Challenge was approximately 8.25 miles and went from Rum Point on the far north end of the island of Grand Cayman and the paddlers trekked a mostly downwind course to end up at the centrally located Camana Bay.
I did not envy the workload of those paddleboarders that arduous morning. They got a sense for the rough ride ahead as they rode in a boat from Camana Bay to Rum Point and took the swells head on, thinking about what it would be like to take them downwind on a board.
The wind was coming in at about 21 knots and I could clearly see some waves rolling in the distance.
The course took the 18 participating paddlers two miles over to the popular snorkeling and diving location called the Sand Bar and then the contestants took a turn marked by red Rum Run buoys to head straight down the channel and end on the calm waters at Camana Bay.
The only rules? Wear your read contestant jersey and if you fall off your board, you have five strokes to get back on your feet so as not to gain an advantage by being in the water.
I got to Rum Point a half hour or so before the contestants arrived via boat. The paddlers then began unloading their boards that had travelled on the Cayman Stand Up Paddle truck which arrived with all the race necessities. I observed the paddlers as they stretched and chatted and put their boards in the water, anticipating an interesting paddle ahead.
Supporters had come out to cheer on their friends and family who were participating. Some were there at Rum Point to see their racers begin but even more were at Camana Bay to cheer and welcome back the tired paddlers.
That drive was interesting, by the way. Driving on Grand Cayman means going through traffic circles and through winding roads and hoping you’re heading in the right direction. It was a miracle I made it to Rum Point on time to see them off.
But I made it there and back to see some of the contestants paddle into the crescent at Camana Bay and hear them talk about how brutal the ride was in the process. Unfortunately, the drive took me long enough that I missed the winning paddler, Chuck Glynn, storm the beach with a blazing time of 1:13:43, fifteen full minutes ahead of the second place rider, Noa Hopper.
The first woman racer, Jane Magis, made it to shore after battling the wind and waves for 1:48:32.
I’m impressed with anyone who made it through that course during less than ideal conditions.
Race winner Chuck Glynn, whom race organizer Neil Martin referred to as “a machine” took home several prizes including a trophy consisting of four liters of locally made Cayman rum.
That would be one of the more interesting trophies to try to get home.
My favorite part of the whole race was watching the paddlers come into Camana Bay. Seeing that sense of relief on an athlete's face is always compelling to me, not to mention watching the excitement and pride of the spectators who were made up mostly of friends and family members. There's nothing like a great hug from someone familiar after accomplishing something difficult.
Even though the race is in its infancy, it had a good turnout and garnered more than a dozen sponsors including Laird Stand Up and Sun Bum.
Not to mention, this blogger who flew out to watch.
Here is a full list of winners from the Rum Run website, should you be interested. I hope this event continues for years to come! I wouldn't mind making the trip out to watch it again.