February 20, 2018 | By Lori Griffith

Record crowds attended the 3rd Annual Palm Beach County Paddlefest, hosted by Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County at Harbourside Place on Feb. 10.

What began as a small race several years ago, at Currie Park in West Palm Beach, has morphed into a highly competitive race drawing competitors and visitors from throughout Florida.

[caption id="attachment_8644" align="aligncenter" width="540"] Maryanne Boier comes in for the win in the 12-6 SUP Female Division. (Photo: LORI GRIFFITH/SPECIAL TO THE JUPITER COURIER NEWSWEEKLY)[/caption]

Making the race more official

Marine Industries Association operations director Alyssa Freeman said, “We decided to work with Paddleguru and make the race more official with timing chips, race categories for boards and kayaks, etc.

[caption id="attachment_8645" align="aligncenter" width="540"] The first wave of racers begins with the OC-1, OC-2, Surfski and Kayaks. (Photo: LORI GRIFFITH/SPECIAL TO THE JUPITER COURIER NEWSWEEKLY)[/caption]

"We had about 50 racers last year and close to 50 vendors, and sold out of vendor space!" she said.

"The first two years, the event took place in May - and we made the decision to change it to February to attract more racers. And boy, did that work. We had well over 100 racers this year!

"Blueline Surf and Paddle came on as our race sponsor this year, and their support and guidance has been invaluable to the races. Napleton has also stepped up as presenting sponsor two years in a row. We are excited to see what next year brings and to keep growing this event.”

[caption id="attachment_8646" align="aligncenter" width="540"] Ana Garcia is pictured with Adam Whittington, owner of Blueline Surf and Paddle. (Photo: LORI GRIFFITH/SPECIAL TO THE JUPITER COURIER NEWSWEEKLY)[/caption]

Taking top honors

Taking home top honors in the Mens 5 mile race with a finishing time of 00:55:15:11, Steve Miller began racing four year ago at Blueline Surf and Paddle’s Tuesday Night Race League and was immediately hooked.

Miller loves to compete, but said he also paddles for the exercise and loves being part of the strong paddle community in this area.

[caption id="attachment_8647" align="aligncenter" width="540"] John Meskauskas, owner of Flying Fish Board Company, congratulates first and second place winners Kim Barnes and Maddie Miller (Photo: LORI GRIFFITH/SPECIAL TO THE JUPITER COURIER NEWSWEEKLY)[/caption]

“Having the Palm Beach Paddlefest right in our backyard is a blast and seeing so many paddlers young and old is great," he said.

"The course this year was perfect for this venue. It was 5 miles and 2 1/2 laps around two islands in a figure eight. I always like lap courses because it's spectator friendly and they get to see the race happen.

"It also energizes all the racers as they come by and hear the cheers from family and friends. We need more races just like this in great venues and also on the beach going in and out of the surf," he said.

"It was another great day on the water with some incredible people.”

[caption id="attachment_8648" align="aligncenter" width="540"] Billy Swezey takes third place in the Men’s 5 mile race, 14-foot SUP, with a time of 00:56:37:75. (Photo: LORI GRIFFITH/SPECIAL TO THE JUPITER COURIER NEWSWEEKLY)[/caption]

'We did it for exercise and fun'

Rachel Ferguson-Chase finished second in the 5 mile Women’s race on a 14-foot board, with a finishing time of 01:10:25.97.  A little over one minute separated her from first place finisher Elizabeth Miller with a time of 1:09:23.14.

Ferguson-Chase began racing four and one-half years ago when she started dating her now husband Stephen Chase.

[caption id="attachment_8649" align="aligncenter" width="540"] The youngest competitor, 15-year-old Dylan Geiger, finished with a time of 01:05:15:90. (Photo: LORI GRIFFITH/SPECIAL TO THE JUPITER COURIER NEWSWEEKLY)[/caption]

“We did it for exercise and fun. Over the years, we have become part of an amazing community," she said.

"Stephen and I have made so many friends and have multiple sponsors that support us. We have now been married for about 1.5 years and have a baby on the way. Stephen is ramping up his training since this will be the last season he can race so much for a while — and I am slowing down as the pregnancy progresses."

[caption id="attachment_8650" align="aligncenter" width="540"] Brian Pandiscio uses the race as a little pre-training for his upcoming distance paddle from Bimini to Florida - part of "Crossing for a Cure." (Photo: LORI GRIFFITH/SPECIAL TO THE JUPITER COURIER NEWSWEEKLY)[/caption]

Well-run race again this year

"Palm Beach Paddlefest was a fun and well-run race again this year," she said.

"They changed up the course, which made for a welcomed change. We made more passes by Harbourside Place and the spectators were able to be more involved.

"The wind, currents and boat traffic made it interesting. I was feeling good and working with Elizabeth Miller up until the last lap when I started to overheat, got nausea and my heart rate and respirations increased. I had to back off a bit, but was happy to finish and get second to my good friend.”

[caption id="attachment_8651" align="aligncenter" width="540"] Maryanne Boier places first in the 12-foot, 6-inch SUP Female Division with a time of 00:25-36:80. (Photo: LORI GRIFFITH/SPECIAL TO THE JUPITER COURIER NEWSWEEKLY)[/caption]

Placing 3rd in the Women’s 5-mile race

Placing 3rd in the Women’s 5 mile race was Julie Allen — with an impressive finishing time of 01:17:32:88

Allen began racing about five years ago.

“One of my surfing buddies mentioned that I should compete in Blueline’s Summer Race Series because there were not a lot of girls competing and I might win something," she said.

"This is true; by competing leisurely, I won: a paddle, a book, so many shirts, stickers, hats, koozies, keychains, trophies, some money and a few local sponsorships. This was my first time attending an event hosted by Harbourside Place, and I thought it was well-organized.

Everything ran smoothly

"I think more time should be allotted for the awards ceremony, but otherwise, everything ran smoothly and relatively on time," she said.

"As a Blueline instructor and guide, these waterways are my home," according to Allen.

"The guys at Blueline Surf and Paddle spent a lot of time working on this course - and I think they did a great job!

"It’s more technical than our old course (“Powerlines”) and by integrating laps and buoys, it gives the spectators something to watch, while challenging us at every turn.”

Complete race results can be found at [caption id="attachment_8652" align="aligncenter" width="540"] The course took racers in a figure eight around two islands, providing beautiful scenery for racers and a chance for spectators to observe all of the action (Photo: LORI GRIFFITH/SPECIAL TO THE JUPITER COURIER NEWSWEEKLY)[/caption]