Pete Buzzelli rounds a buoy during the paddle board race Saturday at Anchor Bay. He was the winner of the three-mile race and the half-mile sprint for the Castaway Island Paddle Board Race. | Alison McFerrin

Archived Story

Paddle boarding: Sport of the future

Published 3:26pm Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Anchor Bay Marina was filled with paddle boarding enthusiasts Saturday at the first Castaway Island Paddle Board Race.

“I hope they do more of these,” said Ben Morris, second place winner of the one-mile race. “It’s kind of like riding a bike … anybody can do it.”

Three races – a one-mile, a three-mile and a half-mile sprint – drew upwards of two dozen participants and at least as many spectators out to watch the sport that is rising in popularity.

“This is a great, independent sport,” said event coordinator Sharon Johnston with Lake Martin Dock Company, which was one of the event sponsors. “It’s passive, it’s peaceful – you can put your iPod on and get out there and go.”

Maybe Saturday’s race wasn’t quite so passive and peaceful, but Johnston said it was just the way she pictured it when she dreamed it up – quite literally.

“She actually had a dream about having a race,” said John Coley, event emcee and real estate agent with Lake Martin Voice Realty, another sponsoring company. “It was her passion, and then Anchor Bay’s ability, that was able to put it together.”

Johnston said she began planning after her dream in February.

“I told my husband, Larry, that ‘I had a dream about a race. I want to do a race,’” Johnston said. “I just started working on it.”

Johnston said the race came together quickly as other sponsors – Benton’s Clearing and Grading, The Harbor Restaurant and Bar at Lake Martin and Anchor Bay Marina – came on board.

“Anybody can (paddle board),” Johnston said. “It’s not as hard as people think.”

Lake Martin Dock Company sells the boards, and the company’s supplier, Bote Boards, also came to the event, along with a group called Paddle Destin out of Florida.

Destin paddle boat racer Peter Buzzelli won first place in the three-mile race and half-mile sprint.

“I started (paddle boarding) as an exercise thing, and then as the groups got bigger and Paddle Destin got bigger, it’s just the people,” Buzzelli said. “You want to stay with it, and of course the racing competition is just so much fun.”

Coley and Johnston said they intend for the Castaway Island Paddle Board Race to become an annual event. Johnston is starting up the Lake Martin Paddle Board Club.

“We can all get together,” Johnston said. “It’s a lot more fun to paddle with people. It’s more challenging when you have somebody that’s faster than you say ‘OK, we’re going to that buoy right there.’”

Buzzelli said the enthusiasm shown at the race says good things for the future of paddle boarding on Lake Martin.

“In two or three years, the paddle board racing here is going to be huge,” Buzzelli said.