Ready for the Challenge?

It’s the dawning of a new year, a new age and the boys are back again.

In the water, that is.

The time has come to check the equipment, map the strategy, harden the body and point the vehicle east for the 2005 version of the Digicel East End Surf Challenge, set to roar to life on Monday, 24 January on the beach of the East End Heritage Field, with gates opening at 10 a.m.

However, the Heroes Day holiday weekend something for those on land, also. On Friday, 21 January, at the same site, the ‘Total Togetherness’ fete kicks off activities and the momentum generated from this extravaganza is expected to carry right into Heroes Day, when the likes of Jason Smith, Vance Ramgeet, Arek Watler, Billy ‘The Kid’ Ebanks and Jordan McLean will match wits and will to see who is to emerge at the top of the jet ski field.

East End Surf Challenge has grown from humble beginnings in 2000, when a modest crowd of 200-300 witnessed the action to an expected 2,000-3,000 for what has become a major fixture on the annual racing calendar and a red-hot prep for June’s Jet Around Cayman. According to organiser Shane Edwards, the Challenge presents a great opportunity for bonding in this community, which was hit hard by Hurricane Ivan last September. ‘Because of that devastating storm, activities such as the Pirates Week Heritage Day and the Christmas Bonfire were cancelled, so I see this occasion as a choice time for a coming together, thus the reason for the choice of name. And, in addition to the $5,000 in cash and other prizes to compete for, we will recognize persons in the community who made significant contributions in the aftermath of Ivan. I think that’s most fitting on Heroes Day,’ he said.

He is also quick to point out that portions of the proceeds are contributed to a number of community causes: students Michael Letterlough, Craig Barton and Elorine Augustine have received assistance towards their college tuition; the East End Soccer Camp has benefited from a donation as have a couple of individuals with severe medical problems.

In addition to the prizes, there’s natural bragging rights up for grabs as these titans of the surf go at it in the Super Stock (heavier, faster machines) and Modified Class over a pre-set buoy course in 3, 5, 7 and 10 lap duels. Smith, who’s hotter than a firecracker on the 4th of July, won last year’s Super Stock battle and the coveted ‘Nayaman’ award, given to the rider who exhibits the highest overall rating in race results, technical skill, sportsmanship, conduct and team presentation; Watler left all rookies in his wake last year to take the Rookie of the Year honour and all eyes will be on Vance Ramgeet, the defending Jet Around Cayman champion. And who would dare discount some aspiring rider looking to steal their thunder and zoom to the top?

Old foes Kenny Rankin and Shane Edwards are in the field this year, but there is a possibility of an exhibition race, and of course, there will be no love lost there!

Mention East End and riders speak of the heart-pounding, throttle-gunning action of course, but they also talk about the ambiance of this sleepy little seaside village, which remains a bastion of Caymanian culture. Others remark of feeling goosebumps not just bumping watercraft to watercraft, but from hearing the energy of the crowd, which was a water’s edge view of the action some 75-100 yards away.

And whilst on the subjest of energy and action, what would a weekend like this be without the hard-hitting musical vibes and that delicious East End food, cooked up by the best cooks islands-wide?

Not to worry. There’s plenty of both to feast on. Friday’s fest, which costs $10 prepaid and $15 at the gate, packs the knockout punch delivered by Renaissance Disco from Jamaica, Eternal Vibes out of Miami and local DJ Lyn from Coalition Disco. The latter then teams with Renegade Disco to offer a baptism of music featuring the very ‘baddest’ DJ, John the Baptist. Monday’s affair brews up an added treat. Following last year’s success, Flowersw is again sponsoring the 2005 version of the Fish Tea Cookoff. Fans will have their say in the winner as the competition comes to a boil. Everyone entering the gate will be stamped, making them eligible to cast a vote for their favourite, located in individual booths. The Digicel 2005 East End Surf Challenge is sponsored by Flowers Bottled Water, Cyberbiz, Ministry of Sports, Joe Tourist, Cayman Airways, Cayman Screen Print, Island Companies, World Gym, Indies Suites, Vibe 98.9 FM, Pit Bull Energy drink, Appleton and Heineken.

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