Special to St. John Tradewinds Courtesy of Karen Brady
April 1 was a bit chilly by Caribbean standards, and a North Shore swell was kicking the waves up big at Hawksnest beach, disturbing St. John’s normally calm early morning waters.
There was another unusual thing that morning — standing next to event organizer and Queen of the Sharks, Jude Woodcock, was a fidgeting and anxious three-peat 8 Tuff Miles champion Jeremy Zuber, clad in bright pink goggles and blue and white running shorts.
All the usual suspects were there, too, and ready for a new challenge. People like Peter Alter, Chelsea O’Brien, Eric Bauman, Steve Burkholder, Jodie Tanino and newbie Ted Kelliher. Adam Thill was racing, while wife Jane and their new babies were in tow to cheer on dad.
And Hank Slodden was there, ready to unleash his secret weapons on the field of contestants; he knew his side and breaststrokes were no match for those North Shore swells.
What was this new event which attracted only the island die-hards?
Five Beaches. It began with a swim at Hawksnest out to the closest buoy and back, then a run to Jumbie. Again, a swim out to the closest buoy and back, and run to the next beach. This swim-run pattern continued at Trunk and Cinnamon beaches, and ended with a final swim at Maho beach.
There is no entry fee, no water along the way, no t-shirts, and no prizes. The only thing provided were footbaths at two of the beaches. And for those who were among the last to finish, there may have been people there to clap as they crossed the finish line.
No one knew what to expect, or how long it would take, or how it would feel. Was it a contest to see how fast one can take off and put on one’s shoes and socks? Was it a test of nerve, as contestants swam through those treacherous waves which rolled in and crashed on the shores? No one is certain.
One thing is for certain, though — some in this race found themselves ahead of the Zube, even if it was brief! The Zube was scrambling with his pink goggles to catch Jeff Miller, who happens to be a much better swimmer. The two men battled it out all the way, Jeff ahead in the swim, Zube catching him on the run.
In the end, Zube got him by 30 seconds. Of course, not wanting Zube to feel too good about himself, he was reminded that Jeff is nearly 20 years older than him!
In the end, all who participated won, and were treated to Hank Slodden’s delicious homemade ice cream as their reward for surviving St. John’s newest athletic challenge.