Going for the gold: Paddlers compete in Red Bull Privateers SUP Race
More 230 competitors on 58 teams participated in the first ever Red Bull Privateers Stand Up Paddle (SUP) Race in the Ten Thousand Islands on Saturday.
In this unique racing event, teams of four paddlers had two and a half hours to navigate through the mangrove mazes of the Ten Thousand Islands to retrieve treasure from 15 hidden treasure chests. The paddlers who collected all 15 gold doubloons and cross the finish line in the shortest amount of time were the winners.
The race format and theme was inspired by Native American tribes, buccaneers and outlaws that called the Ten Thousand Island area of South Florida home in the early 1700s, the most famous of which was Captain “Calico Jack” Rackham. Inspired by Calico Jack’s knowledge of the area and his tales of hidden treasure, there are legends of treasure still buried somewhere in the Ten Thousand Island/Cape Romano area.
In the end, Team Choinski became the inaugural Red Bull Privateers champions. The team's local knowledge of the area and planned strategy put it ahead of its competitors.
“There was some tough competition, but we gave it our all," RJ Choinski, captain of Team Choinski, said. "Once we received the map, we split based on our speed and endurance to target specific treasure chests. To be honest, this was our first stand up paddle race, but definitely won’t be our last. The setting and event course was beautiful, along with the community of paddlers that came out.”
A portion of the entry fees will be donated to the Rookery Bay Estuarine Research Reserve whose mission is to provide a basis for informed stewardship of estuaries in Southwest Florida through research and education.
“The relationship Red Bull has formed with the Rookery Bay Estuarine Research Reserve is very special and has been in the works for over two years," Rob Alfeiri, race director, said. "Before the event, there was even a Rookery Bay Clean Up to help remove debris from the reserve caused by Hurricane Irma."
“That being said," he added, "Red Bull Privateers really is the most unique and fun SUP event format out there that takes place at a historical and beautiful setting of the Ten Thousand Islands.”