Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Classic Kayak Race-Little Tybee Challenge - June 12th

Many East coast towns have a strong connection with the Atlantic, either through fishing, naval or maritime heritage.
If Little Tybee Island is known for anything, and it's not known for much, it is it's great kayaking environment.
Tybee Island is an island for Sea Kayaking.
It's been described as the best kayak race on the east coast, but many have never heard of it, let alone taken part. So what is it that makes The Little Tybee Challenge a 'cult' classic ?

Well, firstly, it starts and finishes in a bar. Aj's Dockside has been hosting the event for almost all of the races 12 years. Racers and non racers alike are out in force for a great community gathering on the water.

In distance, it's a short race, but this can have little bearing on the outcome. In an area with the second largest tidal variant on the US east coast and constant shifting sandbars, and breaking waves, distance is irrelevant. This is a race against nature.

The course takes the racer through the heart of a wilderness barrier island, striking in it's simple beauty. There is nobody roadside to cheer you on, just the cool breeze rustling through the grass.

Racers can and do get lost. With a maze of tight creeks and switch backs, even return racers have taken a wrong turn and lost their lead position. Long, fast surf skis and outrigger canoes fair poorly through Jacks Cut.

One quarter of the race is on the open ocean. The course takes racers through two shoal areas with breaking waves. If the wind is blowing, the surf is up and many a overconfident racer has been 'washed ashore' trying to cut distance on the 'inside'.

The last two miles of the race are against the now strong ebbing tide. Pick the wrong
course here and your winning margin will slowly be whittled away. You can see the finish line (the bar) and almost hear the crowds cheering. You can hear the paddler behind you, slowly climbing onto your wake, as your muscles and pride burn through your soul...or not.

And then it's over, a mere 1 and half hours after it began.
And everybody gets a cool prize, a beer and a bowl of gumbo.
And the Tybee Marine Science Center raises $10,000

Did we say it was a 'classic' ?

Editors Note: There are three races altogether on the morning of June 12th.
1/Across the river, 2/down the river and 3/around the island.
Something for everyone.
Sign up here...

Thanks to Mike Robinson of Saltwood Paddles for the photos.

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