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May 27, 2015

Day 2 of Weekend Kayak Challenge

Day One of the eleventh Lagoon/Reef Kayak Eco-Challenge ended at Robles Point, a secluded beach on Northern Ambergris Caye near the border with Mexico and a stone’s throw from the Barrier reef. There participating teams camped out in preparation for the second leg of the forty-two mile race back to San Pedro Town. News Five was along from start to finish and tonight Mike Rudon has the story on the champions of the lagoon, creeks and sea…the paddlers of the Kayak Eco-Challenge 2015. 

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

Bright and early on a beautiful Sunday morning, on a pristine beachfront just off the barrier reef, the participants of the Kayak Challenge prepared for the second gruelling leg of the race. They were competitors on day one, and would be again in a matter of minutes, but for the moment they shared a meal and companionship, exchanging stories and comparing strategies. Some of them have paddled the waves before, and for some it is a first, memorable experience.

 

Rubio Salazar

Rubio Salazar, Team Rendezvous

“First time, first time…I just decided that for the years I live on this island, for over thirty-eight years, I decided that I will try to see what I can do.”

 

Miguel Castillo, Paddler

“It’s hard…we never expect it fu be so long.”

 

Reporter

“But unu wah mek it all the way to the end right?”

 

Miguel Castillo

“We noh wah give up mein.”

 

Samir Mejia

Samir Mejia, Paddler

“Today I wah do it by myself and I wah try reach it by myself. I’ll do it by myself and I’ll try to finish it and I’ll try to prove to all of my friends that I don’t need any partner. I’ll do it by myself and I will make it. Even if I do it dead last I will make it to the finish line.”

 

Jordan Santos, Paddler

“When we touch the water we’ll find out.”

 

David Daniel

David Daniel, Paddler

“You know I hafto push it. I hafto try hype up mi teammate fu push it with mi but the man lee slack up. You know I noh fight with the man or nothing but the two ah we still push it.”

 

And then, after an intensive cleanup of the camping ground, it was time,  and twenty-four teams of the twenty-seven that started lined up. Team Fisheries, Coast Guard and Bulldogs were in first, second and third place by a considerable time margin… but when the horn sounded, it was all guns blazing.

 

The roar of the waves over the reef competed with the shouts of supporters spurring on their favourite teams, as the kayakers paddled past remote luxury resorts and the beautiful beaches of Northern Ambergris. That scenery was for the observers to enjoy, and we did. For those in the ocean-going craft battling the waves and wind, the focus was absolute.

 

Even though all left together, by the time we were halfway to the finish line, the three top teams from day one were out in front. This is Team Fisheries and Coast Guard going at it, neither wanting to get left behind. Closer to the reef Team Bulldogs kept them in sight even as they tried to veer into the calmer seas near the Coast.

 

Most of the paddlers were in high spirits, knowing that they would not finish in the top bunch but determined to finish the race anyway. The youngest team in the race were obviously struggling, but their paddles never faltered.

 

By early afternoon a crowd had gathered at the Central Park, waiting to greet the champions – all of them – whether they arrived first or last. And when the first kayaks rounded the pier heading into the final stretch, nobody was surprised to see the Fisheries and Coast Guard teams fighting for first. In the end, fisheries won by only a kayak length.

 

Carlos Ramirez

Carlos Ramirez, Team Fisheries

“No race is easy. All the races are hard. You need to put your mind and your heart and definitely you need to work out when you come to these races. It was a good challenge, the wind was nice and everyone tried their best to make it.”

 

Alfonso Lind

Alfonso Lind, Team Coast Guard

“Well today, all we had to do was try to hold off the guys that were behind us from yesterday because we know we had them like five minutes and they could have closed that. So we just kept it tight with the guys that were leading and hung in there to the end and we did a sprint…put on a show for the crowd.”

 

And then it was Team Bulldogs in third place, followed close behind by the rest of the weary paddlers. But none received a welcome like Carlos Esquivel, sixteen years old and Miguel Castillo, fourteen. They were greeted like heroes and given the MVP award for paddling a total of thirteen hours and forty-two hours over the two days.

 

It was a spectacular finish to an amazing two-day race which showcased the beauty of the lagoons, creeks, beaches and coral reef which few Belizeans ever see. The Lagoon/Reef Eco-Challenge, in its eleventh year, has earned its place as one of Belize’s best, and we’re assured that it’s going to be even bigger next year. We’ll see you there. Mike Rudon for News Five.

 

According to creator and organizer Elito Arceo, the planning committee is looking to make some major changes to the race in 2016. And that, we are told, includes opening it up to regional and international competitors.  

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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