It was early in 2000 that Shane ‘Nobee’ Edwards had a dream. In it he saw thousands of people gathered by the beach cheering loudly as riders straddled their jet skis and fought their way to the front.
It was then that he decided that if he organised it right they would come.
The man who supplies the energy which has enabled the East End Surf Challenge to become real, ironically credits one of his biggest rivals, Kenny Rankin, as the source of his inspiration.
‘My first competitive experience on jet skis was in the 1999 Jet Around Cayman (a June classic which is Rankin’s baby). I certainly enjoyed the heat of battle, and when Kenny organised Surf Jam early the following year, I jumped at the opportunity to compete.’
The venue was East End, at the Heritage Field. Edwards won that day, beating Rankin, and has been a consistent competitor over the years going head-to-head with the top local jet ski riders.
However, a seed of an idea began to germinate on that day in 2000, as Edwards saw the sense of excitement and anticipation generated by a well-planned event.
‘These were the early days of jet ski competition in Cayman,’ Edwards recalls. ‘People were drawn to the event mainly because I was in the competition and being from the district of East End, I guess that was natural.
‘But it was from that day I saw the potential for something big in East End, which I love and I wanted to bring to the community.’
The natural ambience of the sleepy little village was quite ideal. An added plus was the course, which is rather unique in the Cayman context.
‘The waters off the Heritage Field offers a great combination of circuit and offshore racing and it’s difficult to find that combination anywhere in Cayman.’
‘Riders will race around a series of buoys before heading out the channel where they take on the bigger surf before heading inside the reef again to resume the racing through a series of buoys.’
That gives the spectators a close-up view of the action, which roars on close to the beach and adds to the adrenaline rush.
Obviously Edwards has done a good job in the marketing aspect, as the initial crowds have seemed to increase over the years.
He remains grateful for the co-operation and assistance of the Port Authority and the Marine Unit of the Royal Cayman Islands Police.
‘You have to understand that there is a 5mph limit imposed on craft or events which are held less than 200 yards offshore. Obviously our guys travel a whole lot faster than that,’ he smiles.
Another stroke of luck has come Edwards’ way. Government instituted a public holiday back in 2005 – Heroes Day – to be celebrated on the last Monday in January.
‘This was ideal. While the Challenge was popular and growing, there was some reticence from certain sectors since Sundays are normally reserved for sacred activities, so the Monday holiday was exactly what was needed.’
Organizing the Challenge is quite a task, Edwards says. Besides the many man-hours there is invaluable assistance from his team members, and without the aid of sponsors, the event simply would not be a success, he explains.
‘Actually, we’re hoping to get more people to come on board and sponsor the event,’ he says.
‘I’m certainly grateful for those who are with us, and eventually I’m hoping that Government will offer some assistance with the development of the sport as it is in my opinion the top sporting event in the Cayman Islands.’
He’s immensely proud that the spirit of unity and brotherhood which begins with the Total Togetherness Concert tonight before race day prevails throughout the weekend, which is jam-packed with activities.
Tonight’s concert features Selecta Renegade, Smoke from Renaissance Disco, DJ Von and Atom Force.
Tomorrow and Sunday, the activities consist of the Capt. Leroy Watson Regatta, held in the memory of the late East End Master Mariner.
‘Throughout the years we haven’t had any incidents associated with the Surf Challenge and I’m very happy that it draws people from all ends of the Island to enjoy East End.’
For 2009, he’s hopeful for a good turn out of riders.
Monday’s action begins at noon. Racers will compete in two classes: modified and super stock over a series of three races held for 5, 7 and 10 laps.
Riders have a 45 minute break between races to allow for rest, mechanical adjustment and strategy planning.
A race marshal has the final say as to results and disputes and marine police and medical personnel are on stand-by should assistance be required.
There will be cash and prizes for the top winners in both classes as well as awards to the Rookie of the Year and a special Nayaman award is given to the rider who displays the best sportsmanship and whose team exhibits the best team spirit, co-operation, competitiveness and effort.
East End Surf Challenge sponsors include: Massive, Morritts, Coconut Car Rentals, Winner’s Circle Sports, Automotive Art, cay.compass.com. Hot 104 FM, Plants & Things Nursery, Derms Equipment, Cayman Concrete Pumping and Flowers Bottled Water, which sponsors the Flowers Fish Tea Cookoff on race day. Tickets are available exclusively at Winner’s Circle Sports.