Team Scotiabank, above, celebrates their win over two-time winner Arawak Adventures at the third annual Chaotic Kayak Race. The three-person team beat out 32 other teams to claim the title.
Love City showed up in force late last month to support Team River Runner’s adaptive kayak program for wounded veterans.
More than 100 people packed Oppenheimer Beach on Sunday afternoon, July 28, for the third annual St. John Chaotic Kayak Race, raising $30,000 for TRR’s St. John program.
A total of 32 teams went head to head in six separate heats over three rounds of competition. While Arawak Adventures entered the water as the two-time winner of the event, a new team took home the coveted golden paddle this year.
Scotiabank’s three person team, which was anchored by the bank’s regional vice president Laurence Aqui, won the third annual St. John Chaotic Kayak Race.
“People were pretty serious about the race this year,” said John Schuld, TRR’s St. John program coordinator who organized the event with help from numerous volunteers. “Some of the teams really wanted to win and take that paddle home. I remember when I bought the paddle on eBay, I had no idea anyone would want to win it.”
“Now I hear that Scotiabank is getting someone to build a case so they can display the paddle in the bank,” said Schuld.
For the first time this year, the event also featured a Stand Up Paddle race. A total of 13 men and women showed up with their paddles and completed the short course from the beach around the motor vessel Sadie Sea, moored off shore.
Nat Ford of St. John, who has had impressive SUP races this year, continued to show his is a force to be reckoned with on the SUP board, cruising to victory ahead of the rest of the pack.
“The Stand Up Paddle race was fantastic,” said Schuld. “We’re definitely going to have it next year and we’re going to definitely have separate men’s and women’s categories. It was our first time doing the SUP race and I think it went really well.”
The St. John Chaotic Kayak Race is such a successful event because it taps into residents’ competitive spirits while raising funds for a worthy cause.
TRR was founded by Washington D.C. area kayak enthusiast Joe Mornini who began teaching adaptive kayak skills in the pool at Walter Reed Army Medical Center back in 2002. Today there are TRR chapters at Veterans Affairs centers across the country.
Once wounded veterans master their skills, TRR leads trips across the country from white water adventures to ocean kayak programs. Schuld lived on St. John for several years when he met the first group of wounded veterans to visit the island with TRR back in 2009.
In 2010, TRR was forced to cancel its planned trip to St. John due to lack of funds.
“I wanted to help make sure that never happened again,” said Schuld, who began as a volunteer and now coordinates the St. John and Florida Keys trips for TRR from his Gulf Coast home.
Thanks to others who felt just as Schuld did, TRR has been able to afford to bring a group of wounded veterans and their partner or caregiver to Cinnamon Bay Campground each November for a week of health, healing and adaptive ocean kayak adventure each year since 2010.
And thanks in large part to the St. John Chaotic Kayak Race, TRR’s St. John program is now self-sufficient.
“The trip is definitely on this year,” said Schuld. “We’ll be down in November with a group of wounded veterans.”
Attendees of this year’s Chaotic Kayak race never forgot the reason for the event.
Among the 32 three-person teams, representing most island restaurants and businesses, a few of the wounded veterans who benefitted themselves from the St. John program were at Oppenheimer Beach for the Chaotic Kayak Race on July 28.
Nathan Rimpf, a double amputee who lost his legs in July 2012, raced with team Skinny Legs while Ryan Major, also a double amputee who lost his legs seven years ago, paddled with team Shipwreck Landing. Quadruple amputee Taylor Morris was also on hand cheering on the kayak teams.
“I think it’s really powerful for these guys to feel the love and support of the St. John community,” said Schuld.
In addition to the kayak and SUP action, the day featured food donated by Cafe Livin, beers by Miller High Life and St. John Brewers and music by DJ Adonis.
From the perfect weather to the camaraderie to the amount of money raised, the Third Annual St. John Chaotic Kayak race was a true success, explained Schuld.
“We really lucked out on the weather and the event was amazing,” said Schuld. “It exceeded my expectations.”
For more information about TRR or to donate to the group, check out www.teameriverrunner.org.