September 15, 2016 – a day that will go down in infamy. On the sleepy banks of Lake Marion, South Carolina an invasion took place. It was a perfectly executed battle plan. Randy “The Godfather” Taylor was in the lead. He arrived acting like the perfect family man showing up w/ Liz and the kids in tow. Big smiles and handshakes all around and he was in, just like Odysseus’ wooden horse at Troy.
Once the gates were opened, the Dirtbags showed up. Will Schaet, Nate Humberston, Ivo and Villy Pavlov. They came from Jacksonville Beach, just 4 hours down the coast. No, they did not come from the smooth, white sandy beaches you see in the interstate tourist brochures. These watermen come from the deep, dark pools that feed man’s fears, filling their heads with images of great whites and krakens smashing and devouring ordinary surf ski paddlers.
No hotel or condo will do for these Dirtbags. They put it in park right in the condo lot and set up home! Will Schaet threw out relics from every endurance sport - road bike, Nike trainers, swim goggles, 12 pack of NA empties - to make room for his sleeping pad and beach towel cum blanket in the back of his Highlander; Nate wrapped his 6' tall, 7' wide frame into the back of the Korean matchbox; and Ivo and Villy stretched a bug screen across the back of a Chevy S-10 left over from the '60s. Utilizing his specialized 7" crescent wrench, Ivo made sure the screen stayed aloft giving them the "Room w/o a roof and a million star" view. While all the other North Shore Cup paddlers slept, the Dirtbag North Florida Watermen dreamt of world domination.
On the day of the attack, the North Florida Watermen rushed in surprise reinforcements. Flavio Costa, the Portuguese Shark, and Tetuira Putoa, the Tahitian Hulk, launched their attack on I-95. Arising early on Saturday, they sped up the interstate and arrived ready to lay waste to all challengers.
On a bluff overlooking a serene lakeside milieu, the forces gathered. It was truly a world war with challengers from every corner of the globe and multiple planets in the solar system. Lee “The Legend” McGregor from Durban, SA; Mike Canfield from Jupiter, Theo Burn of Chattanooga; Cliff Roach and Jessy Lishchuk of Philadelphia, Lyndsey O’Shea from Atlanta and OKC, Ariel from OKC, Reid from Rockledge, Bruce from Miami Beach, Sara from Blacksburg, Charles from Maryville, Mike from Jupiter, from MS; Jan from New York and Naples along with many, many others! Some were friends, some were family, but all were competitors seeking the Cup.
At 11 AM, the battle was engaged. It was a fight of epic proportion (actually the proportions were driven by Think and Nelo as Elite Ocean Sports demonstrated their complete line of surf ski watercraft). 49 competitors in all lined up for the 6- and 12-mile events. Starting in a sheltered cove, the field strained for the starter’s gun. Once the shot was fired, the scene became chaotic. Flashing blades spun like windmills. The lake was churned to frothing tempest. Hearts raced and eardrums pounded with the effort. The initial sprint and chase to the first buoy took its toll on the champions. After a blistering run to the Hot Spot buoy, the field rounded the second buoy, only to have their spirits and cadence lifted as the downwind runners kicked in and kicked them up. At this point the battle broke into individual struggles fought hand to hand, bow to bow, stroke for stroke all the way to the finish.
Exhausted, the paddlers slowly dragged themselves from Lake Marion’s grasp and gathered in little knots on the bank. When the tally was finally taken, the awards dispersed and the victors toasted, one fact was clear: the Dirtbag North Florida Watermen had conquered the field. Nate Humberston came in third overall, bested only by The Legend and Reid Hyle! Together the North Florida Watermen took 1 of the top 3 finishes, 4 of the top 7, 5 of the top 11 and 6 of the top 15 spots. In the 6-mile event, Villy Pavlova was bested only by Lyndsey O’Shea!
Clearly, the paddlers from North Florida have shown their passion for paddling. Grown from a rag tag group of sometime paddlers, they now regularly own the podium and the competition. For those looking to align themselves with the victors, we can be found in those deep, dark pools at Jax Beach, or by contacting the Godfather.