East End Surf Challenge roundup

Shane Edwards, lead organiser of the annual East End Surf Challenge, has a favorite motto: ‘If at first you don’t succeed, then try, try again.’

When the skies opened up on Heroes Day he spent an anxious 30 minutes, but before the Monday holiday was over, his pet project, the 2005 Digicel East End Surf Challenge, was quite literally a roaring success.

Sitting back and reflecting, Edwards was unmistakably pleased with the way the day went.

‘The event was a huge success based on a number of factors,’ he said. ‘A good example was the turnout which exceeded 3,000 within the gate, and certainly swelled to over 4,000 if you take into account the numbers who watched the action nearby on the adjacent beach.’

That’s certainly a far cry from the 200-300 who gathered with some curiousity in 2000 when the initial jet ski Challenge got off the ground.

And it wasn’t just the large attendance which delighted the organiser; he points out that all districts were represented and that there was a good mix of the sexes and various age groups.

‘Everyone came out to have a good time, to spend a few hours away and forget about the stresses of the past four months in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan. The behavior was exemplary, there were no incidents and the support from the East End community really made me feel gratified,’ he said.

A sample of the comments from the throng attested to his assessment of the Challenge.

‘Boy, I’m impressed by the number of young people here and they’re all having a good time.’

‘Yes man, I always try and make it out to the East (End) whenever possible. Makes me feel like I’m in Cayman again.’

‘I’ve enjoyed myself, my entire family is here and that is saying something to me because it’s an event where I can take them and not be worried about the obscenities over the microphones or people falling over you drunk.’

‘As an older Caymanian, it’s nice to enjoy this nice weather and to see the competition on the water, which is so much a part of our lives. Very nice.’

The event, though successful, was not perfect, Edwards admitted.

‘This year, we had a smaller field of racers. In 2004 there were 18 competitors compared to 11 in 2005, but that can be attributed to the unavailability of high octane fuel for the Super Stock (faster, heavier) machines which is a direct result of the adjustments we had to make following the passage of Ivan. Then, the races got underway late because officials decided to re-structure and come up with a more difficult and creative course to boost the spectators enjoyment of the meet. As a result, riders were unfamiliar with it and took some time to get comfortable with its layout.’

He also revealed that plans for a professional rider to demonstrate the intricacies of the sport were in the works, but fell through. He intends for it to happen in the 2006 Challenge.

As for the competition, the big winners on the day were Vance Ramgeet, Jordan McLean, Leron Dilbert and William ‘Billy the Kid’ Ebanks.

Ramgeet, who is a rather relaxed, laid-back type, apparently undergoes a radical change once he straddles his machine. He may look the more scholarly type with his spectacles and slender frame, but nobody took Clark Kent (Superman) or Peter Parker (Spiderman) seriously either. Ramgeet sealed the deal by capturing the first three events over 3, 5 and 7 laps, making the defending Jet Around Cayman and Brac Challenge champion a cut above the rest, and in the process throwing down the gauntlet to his opponents. He took the overall honours in the process of winning the Super Stock division.

Jordan McLean stepped inside the winners circle for the first time with consistent rides to capture the Modified Class. This time there were no mishaps or mechanical failures as he headed the field.

As for Ebanks, who’s best known as ‘Billy the Kid’, while he followed all day in Ramgeet’s wake, the coveted ‘Nayaman’ Award went his way. Edwards explained that this award is in honour of his late grandfather, Mr. Lester McLean, and generally denotes a tough and determined guy. The award is given on points gained for race results, conduct, technical ability, sportsmanship, and team performance.

‘Billy is simply a hard-nosed guy who will battle you all the way,’ Edwards commented. ‘If you don’t think so, then just consider that after all the pounding on the waves he rode the 10-lap event without a seat, which he lost in a previous race. Still, that couldn’t stop him.’

The rookie award went to Leron Dilbert of Team Chaos who displayed a tremendous amount of natural talent for a new comer to the Jet Ski arena. The future seems bright for the North Side.

Everyone was pleased with the work put in by officials on and off the course, and there were no controversies on race day, a result that sat well with the organiser.

The other competition, the Flowers Fish Tea Cookoff, carried a different kind of heat to it, and is obviously here to stay. Edwards is delighted that this cultural side of things has caught on so well. This year, the fans coming through the gates got to choose the winners simply by being eligible to cast their vote. When the aroma had cleared, North Side’s Charlie Miller and his company, ‘The Originals’ brewed up the tastiest tea, followed by Huswell Rankine and company with the ‘Eye Waves’ taking third.

For the immediate future, Edwards will probably be called upon to organise a few events later in the year and already his thoughts have turned to Digicel 2006 East End Surf Challenge.

Digicel is already on board for next year and so is Flowers. Edwards says that he couldn’t have done it without his Team 2Frenzied crew and additional sponsors Flowers Bottled Water, Joe Tourist, Cayman Airways, Maedac Supply, Cyberbiz, Island Companies, Jacques Scott, Heineken, Cayman Screen Print, Appleton, Ministry of Sports, Island Smart Construction, Vibe 98.9 FM and Mr. Emile Scott.

But all least for now, he can afford the luxury of clasping hands behind his head, leaning back with a smile of satisfaction. After all, the rain left but the sun stayed all day.