On April 1st, on the shores of Indian Rocks Beach, FL along the Gulf of Mexico, 7 paddlers in OC1s (2) and Surfskis (5) lined up for the first annual Tocobaga Draft. The Captain's meeting included a moment of silence for fallen surfskier David Bell along with a few words from the town's mayor, RB Johnson, and the National Anthem before the inaugural South Florida Surfcraft Challenge got underway.
At 8:48 am, the paddlers started from the beach and headed to the first yellow marker 1/4 mile from shore. From there, under the watchful eye of a US Coast Guard cutter, the racers rendezvoused with their power boats and made their way to the turn buoy just south of Clearwater Pass (5 miles one-way).
The first team, North Florida Watermen Flavio Costa and Nate Humbertson, joined at the last minute by JP Atherholt who found himself without his teammate, Jean Raas (who suffered travel issues) finished the 10 1/2 mile course with a lightning speed of 1:23:43 escorted by boat Captain Serbo Simeoni.
The second team and only mixed team, Lisa Malick and Michael Canfield, finished with a time of 1:48:58.
The 3rd team overall, Team CrossSUP Christian Cook and Ralf Steitz crossed the beach finish line in a time of 1:58:47.
The awards ceremony took place in Largo, FL at the local craft brewery Barley Mow where racers enjoyed a special Tocobaga Paddle Stout (Maven Chocolate Milk Stout with Coffee) as well as five varieties of ice cream donated by Sponsor Working Cow Ice Cream (a local St. Pete Ice Cream maker).
The awards included personalized medallions from Hertz Pottery, Custom Tiki Toss Paddle trophies and a White Elephant Award Box exchange. Additionally there were prizes from Sponsors including Wawa, Epic Kayaks, Vaikobi, Goodboy Kayaks, OWS Leo, Don Kiesling (DK) Rudders, PaddleSmart, Hammer Nutrition, Tiki Toss, Nelo Sprint Training and Resource Center, SBR Sports, SolRx Sunscreen, Clearwater Paddleboard Company, Road ID, Tunaskin, Crazy Paddlers, DD3 Surfskis, Watersports West, Jolyn, Kailoa, and Hook Tribe.
Of course the best was saved for last with the David Bell Memorial Traveling Trophy presented to JP Atherholt for continuing the safety initiative and stoke that David Bell shared with his paddling Ohana! The trophy was presented by David's wife, Kristin Bell, along with her son Liam. JP was awarded the trophy along with items donated by Ocean Paddle Company (Michael Canfield, Owner) including a Road ID, Mocke Leg Leash, and Mocke PFD for exhibiting exemplary behaviors during and after the race; behaviors often exhibited to others by David Bell in prior area races.
The organizers of Tocobaga Draft (JC and Lisa Malick) would like to thank everyone that made the event a success and look forward to continuing the tradition in 2018!