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NARRAGANSETT—Spectators pressed their hands above their foreheads, squinting through the bright sun this past Saturday to see family and friends participate in the 2012 Waterman-Eco Challenge. A number of events were on display, from the stand-up paddle board, three-mile race to the Wavejet/lifeguard paddle challenge.
The event was organized as a collaboration between Narragansett Parks and Recreation Department, Narragansett Town Beach Surf Rescue, Wavejet, and Raw Elements USA, Chemical-free sunscreen. Last year’s inaugural event brought Big Wave World Champion and ocean surfing explorer McNamara to Narragansett’s shore to witness the event, and he returned once more this year.
“I love it here,” said McNamara. “The East Coast is so different, but nice. I love the beaches and old buildings.”
The Waterman-Eco Challenge began with the three mile ocean paddle. Participants used a paddle-surf board, standing up straight while rowing with one paddle. The sport, according to McNamara, is burgeoning throughout the country.
“The stand-up paddling sport is growing so fast,” said McNamara. “It is a great way to stay fit and its fun.”
“Unlike traditional surfing, on a stand-up you can see the whole world, which is just amazing,” he added. “It has caught on everywhere, and the places where it hasn’t, it will.”
Paddlers went from Narragansett Town Beach to Monahan’s Dock and back, pushing themselves to complete the race. Jameson Logidice, a lifeguard at Scarborough State Beach, took up the challenge.
“It was choppy, but [the course] wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be,” said Logidice. “As a lifeguard at Scarborough Beach, we paddle all the time. We know the lifeguards at the beach here and they asked us to do it.”
McNamara continued his praise for the sport, and hopes that many who take to the ocean waves can enjoy stand-up paddling.
“Anybody can do it as long as you try in the right conditions,” said McNamara. “First, you work to get your balance and stamina, and then you can go wherever you want. You could go to Block Island.”
Last year, the Narragansett Surf Rescue team also unveiled a new, jet-powered rescue surf board. The technology, aptly named WaveJet, is a jet-propelled surfboard which is both eco-friendly and provides lifeguards the opportunity to reach victims in the water quicker and without using larger, more hazardous equipment such as a jet-ski. Just like last year’s Waterman-Eco Challenge, lifeguards also surfed against the Wavejet to see which was faster.
“You don’t want to use up all of your energy as you go out to get a victim,” said McNamara at the 2011 event. “This technology is brand-new and it is the first time we get to integrate it with lifesaving. This is great to introduce it for the first time at Narragansett beach.”
A day at the beach is always a good time for family and friends. The Waterman-Eco Challenge may only come one day a year, but makes that one beach-day experience that much better.