First ever Eco-Pro Kayak Challenge held in Ambergris Caye
Thursday, June 28th, 2012
The first ever San Pedro Eco Pro Kayak Race was held over the weekend from Friday June 22nd to Saturday June 23rd. Taking the much coveted $10,000 prize were Jerry Rhaburn and Christopher Guydis of Team Ziprider from Belize City.
The idea of the race was born after organizers of the Lagoon Reef Eco Challenge realized that they were being forced to turn away professional paddlers from kayaking in the annual Lagoon Reef Eco Challenge. Organizer, Elito Arceo stated, “We would love to see our kids continue to participate as they are doing now. The Eco-Pro provides the opportunity for them to take the challenge to the next level, which would be to bring down the professionals.”
With the abundance of beauty in our environment, the committee hopes that this will provide not only another venue for local athletes to focus their talents, but as well provide the platform to showcase to international paddlers and their family and supporters a little bit of what the island has to offer, while promoting conservation of our eco systems.
The Eco Pro challenge incorporates a part of the route of the Lagoon Reef Eco Challenge however it takes it a step further, taking the paddlers entirely around the island and finishing at the Central Park with the annual Lobsterfest block party.
Day one of the race saw paddlers lining up for a 7am start at Central Park. The route took the competitors northbound east of the island to Boca del Rio Park, west through the Boca del Rio River, into the San Pedro Lagoon, then north through the various lagoons to the Belize Mexico border and Rocky Point, then south to Palmero’s Point, where the group camped for the night. Day two started around 8:15am with paddlers leaving Robles Point and making their way as far south as Boca Ciega, the southernmost point of the island, westbound along the creek where the power lines enter the Island, over to Cayo Espanto, into the San Pedro Lagoon, up the Boca del Rio River under the bridge and back to the Central Park.
The new route provided various viewing points for individuals wishing to see the paddlers as they make their way along the front of the island. The Boca del Rio Bridge, for example, provided the ideal viewing point to catch the race and get an up-close view of the competition. The docks off the various resorts also served as good viewing points. Further to that, individuals wishing to follow the race on their bicycles or jogging could do so along the beach.
This year the race saw 12 teams registering to compete in two categories; Professionals and Amateurs. After over twelve combined hours of paddling the winners are as follows:
The People’s Choice
Coco Beach (Eagle Ray)
Belizean Shores – Trasher Shark
St. Ignatius High School
Christopher “Chris” Guydis of Ziprider spoke of his team’s win; “We trained for five days. This is one of the toughest races I have ever paddled. The terrain is pretty rough, you got to run through bush, through mud – it’s a tough race. We paddled it very smart, though. We sit in – wait for the right moment and that’s why we come up on the first place today. Jerry, my brother, he paddled in the front because he is a very fast paddler. When the race started we found out that the rest of guys are not too fast, so we backed down and just ride, ride, ride and win the race.”
While this is the first time the boys competed in a race around the island of San Pedro, Chris paddled from Belize City to San Pedro prior to competing in the Eco Pro and had been paddling in the Ruta Maya for some thirteen years. Both team members are excited at their win and plan on starting to prepare for next year’s race immediately. “Thanks to our sponsor David Gegg, Cruise Solutions, thanks to Black Orchid, all my support crew – without them we couldn’t do it too. We are definitely competing next year,” said a smiling Chris. “Thanks to the committee who planned the race, without them it wouldn’t have been possible. And thanks to San Pedro.”
Preparations are underway for next year’s Eco Pro Challenge, which again will be held in conjunction with the yearly Lobsterfest. So far we are able to confirm that the grand prize will be increased drastically, as high as $50,000; the largest cash prize in the history of sports in Belize. Arceo stated, “We want the locals to practice, practice, practice, because every year they do practice, but like a week before. Even for the Eco Challenge, we want locals to practice, and participate and take it seriously. In any sport you need team work and practice. We know the potential is here, the boys [and girls] out here can do it.”
To help the locals in preparation for next year’s challenges, the Eco Challenge Committee plans to bring top competitors from the La Ruta Maya competition that will be giving kayaking clinics, teaching participants how to paddle and the different techniques. Organizers hope to make the Eco Pro Challenge bigger than anything San Pedro has ever seen, from which all businesses will be able to benefit. The goal is to attract participants from around the world who would in turn bring with them family members and supporters for the two day event and the Lobsterfest.
Organizers are seeking sponsors for next year’s tournament and take the opportunity to acknowledge the following individuals for their sponsorship of this year’s challenge: SEAduced, Coco Beach Resort, Sandy Point Resorts, Belizean Shores Resort, Belizean Coves Estates, Douglas Pendland and all the support groups.
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