Joel (our kayak guide for next week's adventure) was in charge of safety kayaks and getting kayakers to paddle the course along with the swimmers so he asked Andrew and I if we would be interested in volunteering. We eagerly agreed and it was great to be able to get involved in a local event like this.
The first year they had about 25 participants, with the vast majority being from the Loreto area and a handful from California and one from Canada. Very likely, people who have winter homes here.
This year there were 140+ registered with people coming from all over Mexico, many more from California and other parts of the United States.
On Friday a north wind started coming in and we knew from Joel that they were looking at other possible options. Having organized many races ourselves, Andrew and I knew the extra stress that weather can put on the race organizers. But at the supper and briefing meeting the night before, everything went on as usual, the main organizer telling everyone not to worry about the weather until morning.
There is a small island between the mainland and Coronado Island. Last year there was a strong current on the south side of that small island so this year they were telling everyone to swim on the north side of the island.
Saturday morning was again very windy but it was emphasized this was an expert level race and away we all went. It was challenging just getting into the kayak with the large swells of water coming into shore. I couldn't imagine trying to swim in this!
|Waiting for the race to start.|
Well, it was total chaos!!! Not even "organized chaos".
|On the water, waiting for the race to start.|
|I didn't take any photos once the race started and as the waves got bigger!|
As a kayaker, it was pretty much impossible to tell which swimmers wanted a kayak with them and which didn't. Luckily for Andrew, he picked up a swimmer right away who clearly wanted him there and who also spoke English.
I picked a swimmer and was trying to head him south where the route markers were but he didn't speak English and insisted on going to the north. With my extremely small vocabulary of Spanish, it was impossible to explain. I kept by him for a while but then there were three swimmers behind him who were certainly more vocal and, once we got around to the other side of the little island, asked me a couple times where the finish line was. Luckily the language barrier wasn't quite as big this time!
However, it was difficult even for me in the kayak, knowing the beach I was looking for, to actually see it or to see any sort of markers. I pointed in the general direction and hoped like hell I was actually pointing them in the right direction.
By this time, the waves were at least 4-5 feet high. Craziness! Even in a kayak, not to mention swimming! I have a lot of respect for the 100 or so people who actually did take part in the race. They ranged in age from teenagers to 65+ years.
|At the finish line swimmers had to run up onto the beach and ring the bell.|
|This lady and her daughters took part in the race. The family were cheering her into the finish!|
|Ringing the finish line bell.|
As a race organizer, you learn something each and every time. And then you try to improve upon things the following year. There's no doubt the organizers learned many things from this event. A couple big ones would be:
1) Be ready to cancel if you have to. You have no control over the weather. (They did sort of have a plan B idea at Puerto Escondido, a sheltered harbour, but didn't put it into action.)
2) Make a list of who starts the race! It was due to friends not being able to find friends that they knew there were people missing.
There was supposed to be a kayak race back from the island but no one was up for that! In fact, most of the kayaks were left there and Joel and friends went back and got them the next day. The boat ride back to La Picazon was a roller coaster ride adventure in itself. There were a couple times I thought for sure we were going in the water!
Despite the conditions, everyone we spoke to seemed in fairly good spirits. The racers had an incredible challenge! It's the type of event they'll be talking about for years to come!
Here's Andrew's blog post about this same event.