Racers Made A Splash At The Annual OABI Race - Opportunity Detroit Blog

Racers Made a Splash at the Annual OABI Race

It rained, it poured, and the OABI racers stayed on their paddleboards.

The weather couldn’t hold these athletes back at the annual Once Around Belle Isle Race this past Saturday.

What started as a gloomy day turned into a fun and challenging course for the racers. Laughing all the way, the competitors made the most of their experience by fighting the wild waves and finishing the race.

Don’t paddle away: We have the inside scoop on the OABI race coverage, along with great shots and exciting interviews of the racers.

A Wild Ride

Racers Made a Splash at the Annual OABI Race - Opportunity Detroit Blog

It was 10:00 a.m. and they were off! Dashing and splashing in the Detroit River, the Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) racers started off with great gusto. Young and old, beginners and experts, 2.5 rec racers and 7-mile challengers all took to the water.

The river was dotted with paddleboards, kayaks, and surfskis alike, taking on the challenge of a rainy day and choppy water. Braving the circumstances, the racers fought to the finish, with big smiles and loud laughs all the way.

We had a moment to catch up with a few racers to talk about their experience:

Erika Hielscher, a racer in the 7-mile OABI said, “This is my first time racing ever on a paddleboard. I found the race through Great Lake Surf, where I get my paddleboarding supplies, and my friend Alyssa who introduced me to it like three weeks ago.

“I loved it,” said Hielscher referring to the race. “It was hard and it was raining but you smile the entire time.”

When I asked her for any advice she’d give to an OABI newbie, she said:

“My advice is that for an event like this, I would train. Hydration is also important. For someone who has never paddled before I would say to never be afraid of it. It’s fantastic, it’s fun, a great tan and a great workout!”

Racers Made a Splash at the Annual OABI Race - Opportunity Detroit Blog

There was a good mix of first-timers and experts at the race. No matter whom you spoke with, there was a common theme of challenge and triumph.

Julie Anderson, a participant in the 2.5 rec-race said, “This was my first time at this race; I’ve done other paddleboard races before. I’m one of the Detroit Surf sponsored tri-athletes. It was a tough race because the waves coming back at us were pretty hard. But I ended up being the first female coming in.”

Crystal Smith, who raced the 7-mile OABI, said, “This is my third OABI. This one was definitely the most challenging as far as the weather. I caught some really rough weather on the other side of the island. We caught some bumps on the way in and that was our saving grace.

I asked her why she returns every year; In other words, what makes OABI so special and unique.

“OABI’s the only event like this where it’s a total beach party,” Smith exclaimed. We love it and we’ll be back next year.”

Brandon Chrzanowski, a first-timer at OABI chimed in after Smith saying, “This is my first 7-mile race. I’ve paddled a couple years ago in a race but for the first time this year I did it on a rental board, which was brutal. But I finished and it was awesome. The rain and the wind and the waves really made it difficult but it makes finishing that much better.”

Racers Made a Splash at the Annual OABI Race - Opportunity Detroit Blog

Kevin Alfredo, a racer in the 7-mile OABI added, “This is my third OABI. It felt really good; there was a lot of rain on the Canadian side but it made it that more challenging and unique so I really enjoyed it as usual. And the Beach Party and everything else afterwards is an added bonus.”

Speaking of the Beach Party: racers and spectators gathered together to grab a beer and a bite from some of Detroit’s coolest food trucks: Cheese Street, Detroit BBG Company and El Charro all provided great food to add to the theme of the event.

Trucks like Drifter Coffee and Treat Dreams served up icy drinks and treats to cool off the beach partiers.

The crowd made sure to stop by the New Belgium Beer Garden, dishing out mixed drinks and craft beer.

Vendor village was hopping with eager athletes browsing the lifestyle clothing. Everything from paddleboards and equipment to Michigan and Detroit apparel was sold through vendors like Detroit City Surf, Moosejaw, Great Lakes and many more.

Racers also had a chance to unwind with Beach Yoga. Synchronizing their breathing with the waves really added to the atmosphere of the event, allowing the racers a chance to catch their breath before the festivities.

All in all: it was a great race. Despite the weather, these OABI athletes had a great time, overcoming any difficulties and making every challenge fun and memorable.

We can’t wait for the next race!

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