By Pete Williams
It’s not often you find a race for $30 that offers an hour-plus-long event, a dry-fit shirt, post-race food and entry to one of America’s finest beaches, which is waiving the usual $8 parking fee.
That’s all part of the package for the ninth-annual Shark Bite Challenge and Paddlefest at Honeymoon Island in Dunedin, which includes two days (April 14-15) of paddle races. If you can paddle it, you’re pretty much in. Not surprisingly, a large stand-up paddleboard (SUP) contingent is expected for Sunday. Anyone registering at the Dunedin Brewery from 6 to 8 p.m. on Saturday night gets a free beer.
The race is organized by Karen Mirlenbrink, owner of the Dunedin Pilates Studio and an accomplished paddler herself. At a time when an increasing number of endurance races charge for parking and offer little in terms of free post-race refreshments, the Shark Bite Challenge & Paddlefest might be the best value in the industry.
Name of Race: Shark Bite Challenge and Paddlefest
History: The Shark Bite Challenge is a fundraiser for the Friends of the Island Parks, a non-profit, citizen support organization that supports the efforts of Caladesi and Honeymoon Island State Parks.
Format: Two-day event kicks off Saturday, April 14 with a nine-mile, 6-man outrigger canoe race. The following day, there’s a 4-mile and an 8-mile kayak, canoe, surfski, OC1, OC2, SUP, and prone paddleboard race.
Schwag: The Shark Bite Challenge works in conjunction with the Island Earth Days festival. With registration, racers receive a dry-fit t-shirt, free parking, and post-race lunch courtesy of Cafe Honeymoon.
Signature Feature: Honeymoon Island and neighboring Caladesi Island are consistently rated among America’s most beautiful beaches.
Projected Turnout: 150-plus
Cost: A bargain at $30 for Sunday. It’s $120 for each six-man OC-6 canoe on Saturday. Those who compete Saturday get $10 off Sunday entry fees.
Note: Competitors must have personal flotation devices (PFDs) on their vessels at all times.
Sign-Up: Via Active.com. Race day registration also available.