Stand-up paddlers from across the U.S. and Florida are gearing up for the first Siesta Key Classic Paddle competition Saturday, April 20, on Siesta Key Beach. One-hundred twenty-five competitors will race each other in the HYPR 12-mile Endurance Challenge paddle race or the 3-mile fun paddle.
The Siesta Paddle Classic is a World Paddle Association-sanctioned event, which HYPR Atlantic Surf and Paddle will host to benefit Surfrider Foundation. Surfrider Foundation aims to protect the ocean and beaches through an activist network.
“We work with many municipalities to make sure water is clean and sanitary for healthy beach conditions,” says Surfrider Foundation Suncoast Chapter Chairman John Kurz.
Paddle boarding is growing rapidly in popularity. Siesta Key Classic Race Director Abe Uccello says it’s because it is simple to do and because people are used to paddles, whether it be with kayaking or canoeing.
“You can see down into the water, and it gives you a sense of security and comfort,” Uccello says.
He has been in the race circuit for six years. In February, Ucello prone paddled (paddling with hands, often in the lying position) 27 miles from Fort Desoto Park, in St. Petersburg, to Lido Key Beach, raising $2,500 for wounded veterans and their families. Ucello wanted to bring the first WPA-sanctioned race to Siesta Key Beach to showcase Sarasota and the No. 1 beach in the country.
“The most important thing about the race is connecting the youth and the community to the Gulf and to this water,” Uccello says. “It’s about the next generation having a sense of stewardship and responsibility toward the thing that brings us an economy, enjoyment and nourishment.”
The top finishers in 3 categories will win a plane ticket to the Hawaiian island of their choice, and any finishing racer will receive a raffle ticket to potentially win an airfare ticket as well.
If you go
Siesta Key Classic
When: 4 to 8 p.m. Friday, April 19, pre-registration at LeLu’s Coffee Lounge, 5252 Ocean Blvd; paddlers launch at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, April 20, at the north end of the public beach.
Cost: $35 entry fee; free to spectators; People can rent a board, paddle and flotation device for $50, which includes the entry fee.